We Ask The Experts: OnTheDash’s Jeff Stein Chronicles The Four TAG Heuer Carrera 160th Anniversary Editions
To celebrate the brand’s 160th anniversary, TAG Heuer has focused on the collection that stands at the heart of its catalog, the Carrera. Today, we take a look back at four limited edition models of this iconic watch released by TAG Heuer in 2020.
TAG Heuer's Carrera chronographs have enjoyed enduring appeal, being sold in 50 of TAG Heuer’s 160 years of existence. Introduced first by Heuer in 1963, produced into the 1980s, revived by TAG Heuer in 1996, and reshaped every five years since then, today’s line-up of Carreras offers models that are well-suited for this celebration. Today, we look at the four limited-edition Carrera chronographs introduced so far in 2020, all of which are designated as “160 Years” models. With two months remaining in the year, we can only hope to see additional models to celebrate this milestone.
In the first half of 2020, TAG Heuer introduced the first two Carrera chronographs that would celebrate the special anniversary, the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition and the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition. While both these chronographs reside in TAG Heuer’s 39mm “glassbox” case and powered by its in-house Heuer 02 movement, the two watches celebrate in very different styles.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition
Ed Heuer & Co. introduced the Carrera in 1963, with the first two models having either a silver (white) dial or a black dial. For the first model to celebrate the 160 years of the brand, TAG Heuer paid tribute to one of the very first Carreras, which had a silver starburst dial. The elegant style of the first Carreras was driven by minimalism, with the focus on clean lines and legibility to offer racers a useful tool. The dial was stripped of decoration and complicated scales, while the thick, angular lugs conveyed the strength and durability demanded by the racer.
Introduced at LVMH Watch Week in January, the silver starburst dial of the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition is virtually a one-to-one recreation of the original Carrera dial. Similarly, the “glassbox” case and crystal mimic the geometry of these first models, and at 39mm, the watch feels like one of the very first Carreras. The same way that many vintage enthusiasts would place the first silver-dialed Carreras in their permanent collections, the Silver Limited Edition was a fitting way to mark TAG Heuer’s special anniversary.
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition
If the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition delivers the elegance of one of the very first Carreras, TAG Heuer took a very different approach and captured a very different vibe with the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition. The 1960s was a decade of tumultuous change, socially, politically, and design-wise, and by the time we reached the early 1970s, Heuer chronographs took a radically different form.
The 1972 Heuer Montreal was a massive lump of steel, measuring 42.5mm across the case, with many of the dials incorporating dizzying combinations of colors and design elements. Rings, stripes, scales, and hash-marks, with too many colors to count, the Montreal may have been the most “Seventies” of all the vintage Heuers.
Released in June, the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition was inspired by the white version of the Heuer Montreal, with deep blue for the three registers and the circular track around the dial and bright yellow for racing stripes in the minute recorder and lume used for the hands and dial. Also, red and blue hash marks indicate the seconds and ¼ seconds on the inner bezel so that the number of color codes used on the dial approximates those of the 1972 Heuer Montreal.
If the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition is the watch to put in the showcase to remember the anniversary, the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition is the watch to wear to the blow-out anniversary party. The fact that the case used for the very first Carreras in 1963 can handle the wildness of the Montreal in 1972 is a tribute to the timeless style of the early Carreras.
TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Dato 160 Years Limited Editions
After introducing the Carrera 160 Years Silver and Montreal Limited Edition chronographs, TAG Heuer turned its attention to its standard (non-limited edition) Carrera catalog. In June, TAG Heuer introduced its Carrera Sport models, measuring 44mm across the dial with a tachymeter bezel. And these were followed in September by a 42mm model of the Carrera with no bezel, called simply the Carrera Chronograph.
With the arrival of the 44mm Sport Carrera, TAG Heuer had a large, modern case that would allow a different group of enthusiasts to join the 160 Years anniversary celebration. Enthusiasts who might dismiss the 39mm “glassbox” case as too small or old looking could make no such claims against the thoroughly modern Sport Carrera.
Finally, this past month, TAG Heuer introduced two Limited Editions of the Sport Carrera, with dials in white or blue, both incorporating an array of design elements from the brand’s heritage portfolio. The watch is called the “Dato” as a tribute to the 1965 Carrera 45 Dato, the first Heuer chronograph to incorporate a date disc. As on the 1965 model, the date window occupies the most prominent piece of real estate, at the top of the dial, just below the 12 o’clock marker.
The white-dialed model has contrasting black registers, evoking the “Panda” version of the Carrera, circa 1970, while the blue-dialed model pays tribute to the palette of the Monaco and Skipper chronographs from this same period. On both models, red is used for the date disc, the racing stripes on the minute recorder, and the chronograph second hand.
And, if any of today’s enthusiasts are not keen on the minimalism that motivated Jack Heuer back in 1963, these two Carrera Sport Dato models offer maximalism that combines favorite colors, finishes, and features from the heritage catalog. It’s the “Best Of” the 1960s and ‘70s, in a size that appeals to today’s chronograph enthusiasts.
Four Ways to Celebrate
For the 50th Anniversary of the Monaco, in 2019, TAG Heuer used the square dial of the Monaco chronograph as a “billboard,” creating five different models to capture the style of each decade.
In 2020, for the 160th anniversary of the brand, TAG Heuer is taking a parallel approach, offering enthusiasts a choice of Carreras that ranges from mild to wild. It started with the Silver Limited Edition to capture the understated elegance of the first Carrera and ends (for now) with the Sport Dato models that celebrate the excesses of the Heuer catalog in the 1970s. And offering today’s enthusiasts an array of style choices is the perfect way to celebrate 160 years of the brand!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell, TAG Heuer, and Watchonista)