Why We Can’t Resist the TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper
Collectors of every stripe will fall for the siren song of this quirky-looking, niche tool watch.
Here’s your yearly reminder that the “TAG” in TAG Heuer stands for “Techniques Avant-Garde.” The La Chaux-de-Fonds-based watchmaker has created some of the most original and instantly recognizable timepieces in all of watch-land. You know the watches we’re talking about: the squared-off case of the Monaco, the sculpted links of the S/el (‘80s kids are picking up what we're putting down ), and the cool color combinations of the Formula 1.
However, though lesser known than its more famous siblings, one of the most visually arresting (not to mention historically interesting) members of the TAG Heuer family is the Skipper.
Discontinued 40 years ago, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the brand’s latest, upgraded iteration of this classic yacht watch before its official release earlier today. And, spoiler alert, it totally rocks!
Since sailors are known for their colorful stories, let’s start with a story…
The legend of the Skipper began well before Heuer merged with TAG in 1985. That’s because, though elite sailors depended on the timers and stopwatches on their boats, especially during competitions, for most of its history, Heuer didn’t offer a wristwatch for the racers. That is until 1964 when Heuer entered an arrangement with Aquastar, a maker of diving and sailing watches, for the co-branded Aquastar “Regate” chronograph.
Then, in 1967, the America’s Cup was held in Rhode Island, and the US-owned Intrepid returned to represent the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) and defend its title. This 40-foot (12-meter) vessel was considered one of the best in the NYYC’s fleet, and according to the legend, Douglas Grewer, Heuer’s US Country Manager at the time, was heavily into yachting and asked Jack Heuer to supply the Intrepid with timekeeping equipment.
Thus, with a little help from Heuer, the Intrepid’s crew won the America’s Cup that year. And to celebrate the victory, the brand created an entirely new chronograph model: The Skipper.
Captain, My Captain
Of course, Heuer chronographs are legendary in the world of sports timing, so it only made sense that the Skipper took the best from its brothers and sisters.
For example, the brand borrowed the case design of the Carrera chronograph but designed a sub-counter specially made for regatta racing (you need a timer to countdown during the “pre-start” part of the event).
Additionally, the Skipper’s distinctive “swinging Sixties” colorway took its inspiration directly from the Intrepid and featured a blue metallic dial and two sub-counters; one of which was mint-green while the other was divided into three 5-minute intervals with mint-green, green, and orange segments. And while these color combinations feel like they could have been torn from the pages of a “How to Look Preppy” handbook, the mint-green was meant to match the tint of the Intrepid’s antireflective deck paint.
Interestingly, despite the Skipper being in production until 1983, only 300 were made using the Carrera architecture (other versions were made using the Autavia case), making Carrera-based Skippers a unicorn among collectors.
The good news is that the Skipper is back. The better news is that this iteration pays tribute to the original Carrera silhouette. And the very best news is that the new TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper takes design cues directly from the recently relaunched “glassbox” Carrera.
The “glassbox” is gorgeous. Because it extends to the very edge of the stainless steel case, it almost looks like the sea disappearing over the horizon. Meanwhile, all the functions of the bezel are under the crystal and surround a clever flange dial and a well-balanced counter that are very legible, which is what you need when the salty ocean spray is all around you.
In fact, the closest thing we have to a quibble is the date window at 6 o’clock. It not distracting, exactly, but we would be interested to see what the watch would look like without it.
The 2023 Skipper also shares the Carrera’s sublimely sized 39mm diameter case as well as the latest TH20-06 movement with bi-directional winding, an 80-hour power reserve, and (of course) a high-end, resistant textile strap. Everything about this watch feels authentically maritime.
Finally, while the 2023 TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper is a great-looking, robust chronograph for life on the land as well, it’s slated to join the brand’s core collection, serving as the “flagship” for a whole series of nautical models that will mark TAG Heuer’s return to the world of yachts and yachting.