Recently, TAG Heuer faced a sort of internal crisis. To be very quick about the story, a new calibre had been introduced last year at Baselworld with a brand new Carrera watch, then the introduction was postponed and ultimately cancelled. The manufacturer faced layoffs, the collection had to be repositioned, the CEO resigned and a new CEO (the well-known Jean-Claude Biver) arrived at the helm of the brand – long, complicated, sad but true story. However, we’re here to talk watches and for Baselworld 2015, the brand decided to move away from these hard times and introduced a watch that we loved at first sight – until some kind of disillusion came. Here are our thoughts about the new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter from Baselworld 2015.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter is basically one of the best looking TAG Heuer watches from the last years. It looks superb, it feels very nice on the wrist, the dial is perfect and so is the reduced diameter. Simply, from a design and proportions point of view, we felt in love with it. Our columnist Mario had that same approach when he wrote about it a few weeks before Baselworld. It was a tasty ‘back-to-basics’, with a vintage look, cool details and the right amount of heritage to please the hardcore collectors. In fact, the brand even had the good idea to stamp the vintage ‘Heuer’ logo on the dial – and for once, we totally approve it.
The dial presents a truly faithful look, inspired by the 1960s vintage Heuer Carreras – like the reference 7753, with a panda layout and an outer scale. It comes with a warm silver-coloured main plate with a sunburst pattern (in fact the colour is not totally silver and has some light gold reflections) – with dark grey sub-dials with a concentric pattern. Like plenty of vintage chronographs, it only has two sub-registers – a so-called bi-compax layout – and features a telemeter scale on the edges of the dial. The dial of the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter is domed and comes with nice polished applied indexes. The date at 6 o’clock just shows the modern construction of the watch – but we forgive TAG Heuer for this.
The case is also full of interest, as it comes with the classical Carrera design – meaning flat casebands (no break between the lugs and the sides of the case) and those specific faceted lugs. The main point of pleasure with the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter is its size. OK, if you’re a proper aficionado, you’ll certainly argue that vintage Heuer Carreras were sized at 36mm. However, this ‘modern-vintage’ edition keeps it small with a very reasonable – if not outdated – 39mm case. Together with the ‘Glassbox’ – a highly domed sapphire crystal that looks like vintage plexiglass crystals – it looks and feels like a vintage watch – with modern production standards and thus a qualitative feeling once strapped on the wrist.
Together with (again) a vintage-inspired perforated leather racing strap, the Heuer signed crown and the rounded-pushers, we can hardly find some weaknesses in this new addition. Aesthetically speaking, it’s a winner. Now if we’re talking about mechanics, let’s say that this TAG Heuer Carrera doesn’t come with the finest but something classical, simple and robust. Inside ticks the Calibre 18, basically a self-winding Sellita SW300 base with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph-module DD 2223 on the top. What we have here is thus a robust and reliable ETA 2892 clone with an also robust and efficient chronograph module. It ticks at a modern 28.800bph, boasts 42 hours of power reserve and features a quick-date and a stop-seconds mechanism. It is finished with a custom rotor and circular graining on the main-plate and bridges.
Why a disillusion? The question of the price…
After all, what we said in this hands-on review, you’d probably expect us to say that this TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter is THE winner. Intrinsically, there’s nothing wrong with it. The look is great, the feeling on the wrist is great, the vintage details are great. The movement is not the most interesting ever seen, however an understandable choice for a watch that should be priced in the 1.500 Euros – 4.000 Euros range. However that is not the case here!
As said, the new CEO, Jean-Claude Biver (also President of watches for the LVMH group – and thus at the head of Zenith, Hublot, Bulgari and Louis Vuitton watches) claimed to have a new focus for TAG Heuer, where the watches would be more reasonably priced and focused on younger markets. However, this new Carrera with its simple movement comes with 4.900 Euro price tag, a price that we think is too high for what you’ll get and not in line with the claimed strategy. Once again, this is regardless the very cool look and nice details of this watch.
As the new TAG Heuer’s motto says, #DontCrackUnderPressure – of the market and of the marketing… Well tried M. Biver, see you next year.