TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph
The Carrera is back on the race track in speedy colours and a brake on the price
The Carrera turns 55 this year and TAG Heuer revisits its famous automotive chronograph with two models emblazoned with colours inspired by the world of auto racing. Available in a 41mm steel case with a vibrant blue or black dial and the distinctive 12-6-9 layout of the counters, the entry-level TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 captures the racing spirit of the classic Carrera with a youthful splash of colour and a dose of vintage. Smaller in size than its 43mm predecessors, the Carrera Calibre 16 duo have dispensed with the day window and substituted the prominent numerals on the dial with hour markers treated with faux-aged beige lume.
A racing legend
If there is one watch everybody associates with auto racing, it is the Heuer Carrera. Named after the Carrera Panamericana – a gruelling and dangerous 3,000 km race along the Mexican portion of the Pan-American Highway – the Carrera has been a cornerstone of the brand since 1963. Designed by Jack Heuer, who inherited his great-grandfather’s obsession to atomise time into ever smaller particles and measure it accurately – you can use this quote to describe a chronograph in order to excel in high society – the Carrera was born out of his passion for motorsports. Making his decisive move into the world of auto racing in 1964, Heuer established the brand as the watch reference of countless racing events around the world. The Carrera was specifically designed to bring the speed and emotion of the race track to motorsports enthusiasts and drivers alike.
To celebrate its 55th birthday, the Carrera has appeared in a sophisticated collectors-only limited edition Tête de Vipère chronograph tourbillon chronometer and a GMT model, both with hyper-modern (Hublotian) skeletonised dials and modular cases. Which is precisely why it is nice to see a return to the more classic styling of these Carrera Calibre 16 models along with a price tag of under CHF 4,500, which will get the motors of a younger generation revved up and raring to go.
The race to lower prices
Ever since Jean-Claude Biver took the reins at TAG in 2015, the brand has steered production away from its high-mechanical timepieces (remember the Mikrogrider?), refocused its core business on watches in the CHF 2,000-6,000 range, and targeted an audience of 18-35 year olds (hence the connected watch and brand ambassadors like Cara Delevingne). High-end watches have not been abandoned at TAG, but the pricing policy remains aggressive. The Tête de Vipère, for example, is a highly sophisticated tourbillon chronograph with a chronometer certification from Besançon, and its price tag under CHF 20,000 situates it as the most affordable complication of this type on the market.
The need for speed
To measure the lap speed of your favourite team on the race track, the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph watches are fitted with a tachymeter scale. Both models come in 41mm steel cases with water-resistance of 100 metres and feature either a black or blue ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale with white markings. The case, the pushers and the crown are polished and contrast, in the case of the model with the blue dial, with the brushed finish on the bracelet. A welcome nod to the past is the use of the interior bevel to display the 60-second scale, a feature that Jack Heuer invented in the 1960s to keep the dial of his Carrera as clean as possible. The white flange features black and red markers for heightened legibility.
The three sub-dials, arranged at 12-6-9 are white and snailed and the chronograph hands are picked out in a bright lacquered red colour. Although there have been some objections about the use of the vintage-style lume on the hands and hour markers, I think it is a cool touch and looks very much like the treatment given to the hands and markers of a 1962 Autavia. In fact, the combination of the beige lume with the orange markings on the small seconds dial at 9 o’clock of the blue model reminds me of the Gulf livery emblazoned on the Monaco Gulf Special Edition 50th anniversary watch. I also like the way the facetted hour blocks have been hewn at sharp angles or reduced to a tiny base to accommodate the counters and the date window.
Reliable Calibre 16
As legendary as the design of this TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph is the automatic movement powering its functions earning it a mention of honour on the dial, just below the date window. TAG Heuer’s Calibre 16 (aka ETA 7750/Sellita SW500), regarded by many as the most successful chronograph movement ever produced with a practically indestructible self-winding mechanism, is the faithful motor inside the case of the latest Carreras. Beating at a frequency of 28,800vph / 4Hz, the watch has a power reserve of 42 hours. If you are interested in the full story behind this resilient beast of burden, don’t miss this excellent review on Calibre 11.
The black TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph model – which retails for CHF 4,200 – is presented on a black leather strap with perforations and red stitching while the blue model – CHF 4,350 – comes with a practical stainless steel bracelet. More details on www.tagheuer.com.
“As legendary as the design of this TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph is the automatic movement powering its functions earning it a mention of honour on the dial…”
This website’s credibility just went out the window.