In sports timing, few chronographs have compelling stories like the Heuer Carrera Chronograph. It was created sixty years ago and responded to changing tastes over time with numerous variations. The original Heuer Carrera Reference 2447 from 1963 looks as young as if it was born yesterday. Conceived by Jack Heuer and “designed for legible, accurate reading under any conditions,” produced by the company that made “nothing but stopwatches,” Carrera chronographs have since become iconic and responsible for how we look at and judge chronographs now. And Carrera is a great name, no matter what language you speak, so let us remember how Reference 2447, which was in the Heuer and TAG Heuer catalogues since the 1960s, got its historical identity – and status. It all started with the race Carrera Panamericana.
Background – The 60th anniversary of the legend
The Carrera Panamericana in the 1950s was an open road, 3507 km car race organised by the Mexican government between 1950-1954 to celebrate the completion of the Mexican section of the Pan-American Highway. It was a tough competition, with only a third of the competing crews crossing the finish line, and it was a deadly one – not as bad as the Le Mans tragedy of 1955, but still with a lot of people dead (27) and injured over the five years. The expense to the government maintaining the race was high and coupled with safety concerns, the decision was made to end it. Jack Heuer was never there but heard the story of the Carrera Panamericana when he attended the 12 Hours of Sebring Race in March of 1962 by invitation from the Sports Car Club of America. Heuer supplied stopwatches and timing equipment to the Sebring endurance race, so Jack Heuer, who was at that time in charge of the US branch of Heuer’s business, was a very welcome guest. Taken by the story of the dangerous race and more so by the word “carrera”, Jack Heuer registered the name upon his return to Switzerland the same year. Then he set about creating a Carrera chronograph: “I first heard about the Carrera from Pedro Rodriguez at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, where I was the Official Timekeeper. He and his brother Ricardo were two of the fastest, smartest and bravest endurance drivers of all time. To hear them talk of the Carrera, which our brand’s longtime friend Juan Manuel Fangio had won in 1953, but which had been stopped in 1955 after a number of fatalities, made my imagination soar. Just the sound of the name itself – elegant, dynamic, easily pronounced in all languages and charged with emotion. I knew then that my new chronograph was the perfect tribute to this legend.”
The Heuer Carrera Chronograph was conceived as a watch for race car drivers and developed to be rugged and reliable with perfect legibility, the latter almost an obsession with Jack Heuer. It was his idea to eliminate the unnecessary and keep the essential. He insisted on a clean and uncluttered dial with baton hour markers, and Singer became the dial supplier. He suggested painting the steel tension ring that holds the watch crystal (and adds water-resistance to the case) in 1/5-second increments. The case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. presented a case with long, sharply faceted and polished lugs; Heuer approved it on exclusive terms, and it became the typical Carrera case. The winding crown was large, knurled for easy use with gloved hands, and the chronograph push buttons were significant, too. The chronograph hand-wound movement came from Valjoux and was signed Ed. Heuer on the bridge, but it is not the unseen that made the Carrera an iconic piece and one of the most recognisable of the brand’s watches. It was a clever design, made possible by Jack Heuer recognising the trends, being involved in the development stages, and choosing suitable suppliers.
The first Carrera chronograph references, in 36mm diamond-polished cases, with single-colour dials with recessed smaller dials that created a three-dimensional effect along with the outer crystal ring, were presented in 1963 at the Basel fair. Just a year after the idea for the watch was born, and to this day, they continue to impress. It is no wonder that in the past decades we witnessed re-editions and faithful interpretations of a classic, like the 1996 TAG Heuer Carrera 1964 re-edition (ref. CS3110, 36mm, Lemania 1873 movement) and a few anniversary models released to worldwide praise.
There was a curious case of a 40th-anniversary Carrera edition introduced in 2004 (TAG Heuer, since 1999, was already part of the LVMH group). An honest mistake, as Carrera appeared in the corporate catalogue only in 1964, while there is no doubt Heuer Carreras have existed since 1963. The watch was called Jack Heuer Carrera, reference CV2117, and it came in a 39mm stainless steel case with domed sapphire crystal, a silvery-grey base dial and two dark-grey sub-dials at 3 and 9, and a date window at 6 o’clock. It was equipped with a calibre 17- ETA2894 movement, concealed under the solid caseback. The caseback was decorated: Carrera 1964-2004, 40 Years of Legend, Jack Heuer Limited Edition, signed. The central chronograph hand was painted red, highlighting the racing spirit, and the perforated black leather strap added to this feeling. The unfortunate 1964 mishap does not make this Jack Heuer Limited Edition (1964 pieces) chronograph any less attractive, especially with Jack Heuer often attesting that Carrera was his favourite among all the Heuer collections.
In 2013, TAG Heuer celebrated 50 years of Carrera by launching an array of models, including the Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph Jack Heuer Edition and Heuer Carrera Calibre 17 Jack Heuer 80 years Edition. Jack Heuer, at that time the Honorary Chairman of TAG Heuer, contributed to the design of both pieces. Those were contemporary looking timepieces in line with what the company felt was appropriate at that time. And times were changing. In 2015 we welcomed the Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph Telemeter. Although it was not labelled as an anniversary or special edition, it signalled a new direction. Then TAG Heuer presented a stunning watch in 2020 – the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition. Both watches are closely linked to the latest release, please take a look, and you will have no trouble making the connection.
The Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary Edition
The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary Edition is a return to the late 1960s, a watch inspired by the Carrera reference 2447SN (silver dial, noir registers), representing the second series in the family with panda and reverse panda dials. The first Carrera chronographs had one-colour-only silver or black dials; the two-tone addition to the catalogue created an even broader “variety of modern chronographs for every purpose“. The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary edition, like the Carreras from the 1960s, “is styled for everyday living“. This quote from a 60-year-old Heuer catalogue plays down the excitement of actually owning this watch because everyday living is a bore for the majority of humans, with data to support the claim. This Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary edition may add some spark to life.
The watch is presented in a 39mm stainless steel case (polished) with a retro-looking raised profile sapphire crystal with the right amount of distortion, adding to the dramatic vintage feel. The old-style polished pushers, the tension ring with 1/5-second markings on the periphery of the silver sunray-brushed dial, the hour indexes with a characteristic black stripe in the middle for better readability, the double-index at 12, the beige luminescent index-dots and hour and minute hands to indicate time in the dark all seem like a carbon copy of the original.
The sub-dials are black and hollow, with a circular “azure” finish; at 3 o’clock, you find a minute chronograph counter, the hour counter is at 9, and at 6, you have the small seconds sub-dial. All the sub-dials feature silver hands and markings; the central second hand is black lacquered.
The Heuer logo above the centre, with “Carrera” on top, and the old “Swiss” instead of the modern “Swiss Made” statement, placed on the sub-dial at six, complete the near-perfect spitting image. The missing elements? The T for Tritium (radioactive, no longer used), the counters are reversed and redesigned, and the indexes are nine, like in the later 2447SN versions, not twelve, as in the first ones. The add-ons? Turn the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary over, and the transparent caseback proudly showcases calibre Heuer 02, a manufactured automatic movement with 80 hours of power reserve, decorated. The column wheel, responsible for the smooth operation of the chronograph, and the Carrera 60th Anniversary rotor are black; the bridges bear the Geneva Stripes and the Heuer logo.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary Edition comes on a perforated black calfskin leather racing strap with a pin buckle. The caseback is engraved with the individual number (it is a 600-piece limited edition), and the 100-meter water resistance status is mentioned. The price is set at EUR 6,600, and the watch is available in January 2023.
For more, please visit www.tagheuer.com.