Fifty seven years since its creation in 1963, the Carrera is about to get a major makeover under TAG Heuer’s new chief executive Stephane Bianci. It is the perfect watch for today’s customers, combining a sporty aesthetic with clean lines and the sort of history that gets collectors’s pulses rising. Ahead of the full unveiling of the 2020 collection, WatchPro invited Jake Scatchard, son of Vintageheuer.com founder Jonathan to guide us through the life story of this racing chronograph.
The historical Carrera chronograph was born through Jack Heuer’s thirst for simplicity. Following the Second World War, the landscape for chronographs was dominated by those deployed in military circles.
Manufactured with spiral scales and artillery telemeters, Jack thought these cluttered dials were difficult to read. Experimentation with new inventions helped Jack pursue a clean and clear design for his own chronograph.
By incorporating divisions in the outer crystal ring, he was able to maximise space on the dial and improve legibility. Rendering an outer bezel redundant, the Carrera adorned an innovative display which found value in dial clarity. The abundance of space on the dial allowed ample room for tachymeter or decimal scales if required.
The name ‘Carrera’ marked Heuer’s early infusion with motorsports. Meaning ‘competition at the highest level’, the name was inspired by the ‘Carrera Panamericana’, the most notorious and challenging race of the 1950s.
Like the watch itself, the ‘Carrera’ name was simple and easily recognizable. ‘Carrera’ was later adopted by Porsche and given to their most successful and iconic automobile to date. This only further strengthened the bridge between Jack Heuer’s two passions: watches and motorsport.
Upon the release of the Carrera, the Heuer brand had been revitalised under its new CEO. A refreshing break from styles of the time, Heuer’s newest chronograph was a huge success. The brand became known worldwide in the 1960s for exclusively producing chronographs, with the Autavia (1962), the Carrera (1963) and the Camaro (1969) marking the most innovative decade in Heuer’s 160-year lifetime.
The iconic model would soon move daringly into new territory. Until Jack Heuer’s departure from the company in 1982, the Carrera would adorn a flamboyant range of colours and bolder case designs. Despite the Carrera’s near 20-year tenure as Heuer’s most beloved timepiece, its name would soon depart from the brand alongside its creator following Techniques d’Avant Garde’s (‘TAG’) takeover of Heuer in 1985.
Following a 15-year hiatus from the TAG Heuer catalogue, the new millennium saw the release of a small collection of ‘re-issue’ models to pay homage to the first generation Carrera. The success of this re-issue series, especially in today’s vintage market, proves that some designs remain timeless and forever cult. The demand for first generation Carreras has driven prices for the rarest examples in excess of £25,000 in recent years. Thus, the Carrera stands comfortably beside such giants as the Omega Speedmaster, Breitling Navitimer and Rolex Daytona as one of the greatest chronographs ever made.
In 2020, the pioneering design rears its head once more. Celebrating the brand’s 160 years of history, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition was announced in January. Limited to just 1860 pieces, this tribute to the legendary Carrera 2447S is due to be released this summer.