For Jack Heuer, the main reason for the instant success of the Carrera chronograph after its introduction in 1963 was, as he put it, “Right design, right time!” Seeing such a breakthrough and aware of the economic impact it could have, the CEO of the eponymous brand from 1962 to 1982, lost no time in using the same formula to create a host of other models, which are much sought after by collectors today. Three words define this pioneer of sports chronographs: sobriety, efficiency and innovation. This timepiece is also reminiscent of the pervasive modernism of the 1960s and the rev-counter of racing cars from back then, a hobby of this avant-garde CEO. In fact, as of 1969, every Carrera was equipped with a revolutionary in-house automatic movement with a micro-rotor. It was named the Chronomatic or Calibre 11. It heralded a new era in horology and put Heuer in pole position!
The maison thus became the first brand to sponsor a racing driver, namely Jo Siffert. In its 50 years of existence, it has established its reputation as the number one partner for Formula 1 teams as well as an international leader of high-precision chronographs.
High-frequency motorisation for this icon of the circuits
Fifty years later, on the occasion of its anniversary, a Carrera pulsates for the first time with a 36,000-vibrations-per-hour movement. However, the origin of the movement is the subject of some debate as it was the LMVH group that let TAG Heuer use the El Primero as a basis. This platform, in turn, is obviously derived from the Flyback Stratos driven by the 405 module. A particular characteristic of the flyback function is that the chronograph can be reset with a single pusher.
The choice of adapting this – most famous – movement to a 43-millimetre case when it was initially intended for 36 or 39 millimetre cases has fed endless debates amongst aficionados about the aesthetic impact the two subdials at 9 and 3 o’clock would have. It was the same story with the oscillating mass drawn from the Calibre 16, which can be seen through the scratch-resistant sapphire glass on the back. Some wished it had been more "defined”. Do you have to be cruel to be kind? Aficionados can rest assured: the Carrera codes are still there, assertive and just as permeated with modernity as ever. The dial is three-dimensional but also in two parts, like the old Heuer chronographs. The hand-applied indexes at the edge of the anthracite sunburst dial are used by two polished, luminescent and shortened hands to tell time.
From the outside, the chronograph does bear some resemblance to the Mikrograph. One can then choose between the retro and urban style of the steel models or the resolutely contemporary Racing model designed for the circuit.
A Calibre 36, three variations, five possibilities
To give credit where credit is due, the Racing model emphasises modern style in the materials used for production.
And high-tech is also accentuated in thecase, which is made of ultra-light, highly resistant, grade-2 titanium. A titanium carbide coating recalls the matte colour of the current GT coupes to add the final touch to the case. The dial features polished and hand-applied “black gold” Arabic numbers and a tachymeter scale.
The perforated black leather strap is both comfortable and smooth and enhances the intense racing look already conveyed by the case. Also worth mentioning is the “piston” style push-pieces, which combine a frankly sporting spirit with the luxury of ornamentation. It's exactly the same with the other two versions: their polished steel cases contrast with a black/anthracite or white/anthracite dial. These colour and material effects mix and match ad infinitum with leather straps or steel bracelets, the perfect accompaniment to celebrate this 50th anniversary, somewhere between Maranello and the Nürburgring.