In a companion posting for Hodinkee, we have discussed the Carrera Heuer 02 by Fragment Design / Hiroshi Fujiwara, in the context of other re-editions of the Heuer Carrera. In this posting, I will cover the basics of the Fragment Carrera and also provide some impressions of my first few days wearing the watch.
The Elevator Version
In the Carrera by Fragment Design, streetwear legend Hiroshi Fujiwara combines three brilliant elements to produce what may be the most important new Carrera since 1969. We begin with the Carrera Reference 2447 NT, from 1968, house it in a 38 millimeter “glassbox” case, and power it with the Heuer 02 in-house movement. Fujiwara then enhances the watch, adding energy to a 50 year-old design and positioning it to carry the Carrera name for many years ahead. In December 2018, the Fragment Carrera was offered as a limited edition of 500 watches, at a price of $8,100, and sold out quickly in most major markets.
The Inspiration – Carrera Reference 2447 NT
Heuer introduced the Carrera in 1963, with the two-register Carrera 45 (Reference 3647) powered by the Valjoux 92 movement and the three-register Carrera 12 (Reference 2447) powered by the Valjoux 72 movement. The very first Carreras used relatively simple dials, either white dials with white registers or black dials with black registers, and there were no scales being printed on the dials. Defining features of the first Carreras included an inner flange (tension ring) between the dial and the crystal, an over-sized crown and pushers, and strong, angular lugs, with an internal facet between the top surface of the lug and the inside edge of the case (where the strap attaches).
By around 1965, Heuer began to add tachymeter, decimal minutes and pulsations scales to both the Carrera 45 and the Carrera 12, with these scales always printed on the white dials.
In 1968, Heuer offered a new model of the Carrera, with a black dial and black registers, but with a tachymeter scale printed on the dial. The three register model was the Reference 2447 NT and the two register model was the Reference 3647 NT. The tachymeter scale was printed in bright white, marked from 50 to 200 units per hour. Consistent with the elements of the first execution Carreras, the dials had thin applied markers, with small lume dots at the outside end, and the hands matched, being simple index style hands, with luminous inserts. The Reference 2447 NT and 3647 NT are exceedingly rare models, with only a handful of these watches seen in the collectors community in recent years.
In 1970, with the introduction of the second execution versions of the Carrera, the Carrera was offered with contrasting registers, meaning that white dials were offered with black registers and the black dials were offered with white registers. Soon, the tachymeter scale was added to these models, being printed in black on the white (panda) dials or in white on the black (reverse panda) dials.
The Movement – Heuer 02
The Heuer 02 movement is historically significant for TAG Heuer, as the brand’s first in-house movement to offer the traditional 3-6-9 chronograph layout (sometimes called “tri-compax”). The chronograph hour recorder is at 9 o’clock, the chronograph minute recorder is at 3 o’clock, and the running seconds is at 6 o’clock. With this layout, TAG Heuer has the ability to mimic the manual-winding movements from Heuer’s historic catalog (for example, the Valjoux 72), as well as the automatic movements from the 1970s (for example, the Caliber 12).
TAG Heuer introduced the Heuer 02 in 2017, as the movement for the new Autavia, but the Heuer 02 has a long history, with several twists and turns along the way. TAG Heuer first mentioned the movement in 2013, when it was being developed with the code name “Calibre 1888”. This code name made good sense, as the movement would be the successor to TAG Heuer’s first in-house movement, the Calibre 1887 (which had been introduced in 2010).
The new movement made a brief appearance in early 2014, then renamed the “Calibre 1969” and powering the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1969 Automatic Chronograph (CAR2A50). This Carrera used a black PVD coated titanium carbide case, with 18 karat rose gold accents, and was limited to a series of 500 watches.
At Baselworld 2014, the movement returned as the “CH80”, so named because it was then intended to power not only the Heuers, but a variety of Swiss chronographs, and had an 80-hour power reserve. The CH80 was shown in prototypes for a new Carrera, with these prototypes having contrasting registers, black-on-white or white-on-black.
Within a few months, however, use of the CH80 movement was put on hold, so Carreras continued to be powered by the Calibre 1887 movement (which was soon renamed the Heuer 01 movement). In March 2017, the Heuer 02 movement finally made its debut in a production model, powering the TAG Heuer Autavia.
The Construction – The “Glassbox” Carreras
In early 2015, TAG Heuer introduced the Carrera Calibre 18 Telemeter. While this was a fairly conventional looking Carrera, it incorporated the second feature that would be critical in allowing TAG Heuer to offer more authentic looking vintage-styled watches and chronographs – the “glassbox” construction.
Glassbox is a construction that offers the durability of a modern sapphire crystal, however, the crystal is shaped like the domed, plastic crystals of the 1960s. The “glassbox” case of the Carrera Calibre 18 Telemeter measured 38.3 millimeters across the dial, so both the size of the case and its construction mimic the vintage Carreras from the 1960s.
Putting It All Together – The Carrera by Fragment Design / Hiroshi Fujiwara
So what would you get when you take the Reference 2447 NT Carrera from 1968, drop it into a 38 millimeter “glassbox” case, and power it with the Heuer 02 movement? The answer – you have all the ingredients to make a fine looking chronograph that will be true to the first Carreras.
But what do you get when you put these three ingredients in the mixing bowl, hand it over to Hiroshi Fujiwara (the designer known as the “Godfather of Streetwear”) and let him “season to taste”? The answer – an utterly fantastic watch that should provide the foundation for a whole new generation of Carreras!!
Let me explain.
Meet Hiroshi Fujiwara – The Godfather of Streetwear.
As with my posting on Hodinkee, we are now approaching the most difficult section of this posting — introducing Hiroshi Fujiwara to the watch enthusiasts who are likely to be reading this posting, with most of them never having heard of Hiroshi.
We’ll start with streetwear, or more specifically “luxury streetwear”. Drawing on cultures such as surfing, skating, punk rock and hip hop, the streetwear segment of the fashion market has enjoyed huge success in recent years. Leading brands include Supreme, Stussy, A Bathing Ape and Off White. The market is defined by extreme exclusivity (meaning limited editions that are sold at premium prices), quick sell-outs when new products are “dropped”, and a very active secondary market (known as “resale sites”), where the goods are bought and sold, after the initial drop. While sneakers and t-shirts are at the core of the luxury streetwear market, jeans, bags and other accessories are important. Collaborations are a defining feature of the market, with the new streetwear brands often collaborating with the well-established luxury brands (for example, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Timberland / Champion have collaborated with many streetwear brands). To get a sense of the resale sites, have a look at Grailed or StockX.
The ultimate example of luxury streetwear? A red clay brick costs about 50 cents here in Georgia. Supreme puts its logo on a red clay brick, and sells it as a limited edition for $30 per brick. The limited edition Supreme bricks sell out quickly, so if you want one, you’ll need to check one of the resale sites. The current price on Gariled — $150 to $250. But be careful, you have to assume that there are counterfeits out there.
Hiroshi Fujiwara is one of the leading designers of luxury streetwear. Born in 1964, and having lived in Tokyo, London and New York, Fujiwara is credited with bringing street culture to Japan. Fujiwara has designed sneakers for Nike and Converse; jeans for Levis; bags for Louis Vuitton; headphones for Beats, and even guitars for Eric Clapton. His design shop is Fragment Design, which is comprised of Fujiwara and two colleagues. Rather than designing “from scratch”, Fujiwara typically begins with a beautiful object, and changes the accents to make it even more beautiful. He employs a minimalist style, often removing elements that may be extraneous or distracting, and then strengthening the defining elements of the design.
Hiroshi Fujiwara has designed several watches, most recently collaborating with Bamford on a version of the Zenith El Primero.
Hiroshi Fujiwara Meets the Carrera
In his collaboration with TAG Heuer, Fujiwara immersed himself in the brand’s museum and archives and selected the Carrera Reference 2447 NT as his starting point. Defining features of this model are the black registers on the black dial (that’s the “N”), with the bright white tachymeter scale around the outside of the dial (that’s the “T”).
Starting from the Carrera Reference 2447 NT, Fujiwara made several changes in the design of the watch. First, the size of the registers has increased from the relatively small size that was standard in the 1960s to the “Big Subs” look favored by today’s collectors. The original Carreras from the 1960s used applied metal markers for the hours, but on the Fragment Carrera these applied markers yield to tiny lume plots, with these plots using an amber tone that matches the lume of the hands. The Carrera name and Heuer shield are larger than on the original models from the 1960s. While TAG Heuer has recently used some domed dials on its Carreras, the dial of the Fragment Carrera is flat, from edge to edge.
Fujiwara completes the design with his thunderbolts logo at the top of the dial (above the “Carrera”) and the name “Fragment” at the bottom of the dial, between 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock.
To My Eye. The moment I saw the Fragment Carrera, I knew that I wanted to add it to my collection. Black-white-beige is my favorite color combination for vintage chronographs, as in vintage Autavias, and the black-on-black Carreras from the 1960s are also favorites. To my eye, the “tweaks” added by Fujiwara are excellent updates of the original Carreras from the 1960s, giving the watch a new energy. Increasing the size of the three registers gives the watch a stronger look, and using the small lume dots in place of the applied metal markers provides more real estate for the beautiful black paint, while also deleting an element that can distract from the power of the pure black-on-black dial.
While the traditional tri-compax chronograph from the 1960s has the hour recorder at 6 o’clock and the minute recorder at 3 o’clock, with the running seconds at 9 o’clock, it’s easy enough getting used to having the hour recorder to 9 o’clock. Having the hour recorder on the left and the minute recorder on the right gives the Heuer 02 chronographs an “instrument” look, with the two chronograph recorders across the center of the dial. If we were starting from scratch, with Heuer’s first three register chronographs (circa 1940), this might be the preferred layout.
The Fragment offers excellent legibility. In good light, there is excellent contrast between the polished time-of-day hands and the black of the dial, and the bright white hands on the chronograph seconds hand and three registers add some “pop”. You never have to “look for” the hands. In the dark, the beige SuperLuminova on the hands and dial provide just enough light so that you can read the time, without needing to twist your wrist, in an attempt to catch some available light.
Some modern re-editions of the classic chronographs have come up short, in terms of the fit and finish of the watch. Components may seem flimsy and printing may lack the quality that see on the original watches. There are no such issues on the Fragment Carrera. The components appear to be top-quality, the printing is clean and strong, and the watch has the tight feel of a very well-made watch (as it should, at the price of $8,100).
On My Wrist. My primary concern when I heard about the Fragment Carrera was how the watch would wear, on the wrist. TAG Heuer’s 2017 Autavia, which is also powered by the Heuer 02 movement, does not wear like its vintage predecessors from the 1960s. At 42.5 millimeters across the dial, and with a thickness of 15.8 millimeters, the 2017 Autavia has a very different feel on the wrist. There’s nothing wrong with “different”, as such, but many hard-core vintage enthusiasts have a hard time jumping to a watch this size.
By contrast, the Fragment Carrera wears like a vintage Carrera from the 1960s. The Fragment Carrera measures 38.3 millimeters across the dial, with a thickness of 14.5 millimeters. The geometry of the case-back and lugs work well on the wrist, and with the right strap, this watch will fit under just about any cuff in the closet.
The Fragment Carrera is shipped with a black, leather Bund-like (manchette) strap, with an alligator grain finish, along with a black / gray NATO strap. I switched my Fragment Carrera over to a more conventional style leather strap, for purposes of consistency in the photos included in this posting, and to give the watch a better chance of fitting under the traditional-sized cuffs on my dress shirts. (I promise, Hiroshi, that I will switch back to the original Bund strap if I find myself wearing this Carrera to fly a plane or with my black Fragment Design Converse All-Stars and t-shirt.)
In Operation. The Heuer 02 has an excellent feel to it. Winding is smooth, but with enough feeback that you can tell that you are winding the movement. The crown is a bit small (5.8 mm), compared with either the vintage predecessors or TAG Heuer’s modern Carreras, but not to the point of being inconvenient. When setting the time, the crown provides a good feel and it is easy to align the minute hand to the chosen hash-mark, for those who like the minute hand to be in synch with the running second hand. Operation of the chronograph also offers a solid feel, with just the right amount of force for the start / stop / reset.
As with the predecessor Calibre 1887 movements, and the Heuer 02 movements in my two 2017 Autavias, the Fragment Carrera has been a strong runner, gaining fewer than five seconds per day. I didn’t check the power reserve, but my Heuer 02 movements residing in the 2017 Autavias have delivered the full 80 hours, and this one certainly has the feel of a runner.
Two Thunderbolts — Jean-Claude Biver and Hiroshi Fujiwara
Writing in Revolution, when the Fragment Carrera was announced, Wei Koh discusses the brilliant careers of Jean-Claude Biver and Hiroshi Fujiwara, and how they collaborated on the Fragment Carrera. Koh describes how each of these men not only changed a particular industry, Swiss watches and streetwear, but how that each had a game-changing impact on contemporary consumer culture. Yes, it’s one thing to sell a lot of sneakers or t-shirts or watches, but something quite different to change the way people think about these items.
Of course, it was Biver who broke the hearts of the vintage Heuer enthusiasts, in 2014, when he announced that use of the CH80 would be delayed. With that, we realized that any true homage to the 1960s tri-compax Carreras would be delayed indefinitely. How ironic that in 2018, just before his departure from day-to-day management of TAG Heuer, Biver would send his friend Hiroshi Fujiwara into the TAG Heuer Museum, and then give him free-reign in the workshops and design studios, to create a new Carrera.
As we assess Jean-Claude Biver’s legacy at TAG Heuer, vintage enthusiasts will thank him for re-launching the Autavia in 2017, and we expect that TAG Heuer will expand the Autavia model line significantly in 2019 and beyond. And we also thank him for this crazy, out-of-the-box move of engaging Hiroshi Fujiwara, to design what may turn out to be the most important Carrera to have been introduced since the late 1960s. We understand the roles of your “distruptors”, but a disruptor who can produce a brilliant tribute to the first Carrera takes the role to an entirely different level.
As we see the thunderbolts on the dial and case-back of the Carrera, some may see the logo of his Fragment Design brand. Perhaps others will see the thunderbolts as a coincidental tribute to Jean-Claude Biver, the man who brought tremendous noise and boundless energy to the Swiss watch industry, for the past 40 years.
Thank you, Hiroshi, for showing us the thunderbolts, for energizing the design of a watch that has gone from Jack Heuer in 1963 to Jean-Claude Biver in 2018, and now appears to be poised for a bright future. Thank you for what is ultimately a perfect tribute to the career of Jean-Claude Biver.
Specifications – Carrera Heuer 02 by Fragment Design / Hiroshi Fujiwara (Reference CBK221A)
Limited Edition – 500 watches, offered through TAG Heuer Boutiques, and www.TAGHeuer.com.
Movement — TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02; built with column wheel and vertical clutch; frequency 28,800 bph (4 Hz); thickness is 6.9 millimeters and a diameter of 31 millimeters (13-3/4 ligne); power reserve at least 80 hours; offers hacking to synch the watch to a reference time.
Case — Polished stainless-steel case; measures 38.3 millimeters across the dial, with thickness of 14.5 millimeters; domed “glassbox” sapphire crystal with double anti-reflective treatment; water-resistant to 100 metres (10 bar)
Dial — Black opalin dial with tachymeter scale, printed in white (50 to 200 scale). Silver flange with 60 second / minute scale, marked in 1/4 segments (corresponding to 4 Hz frequency). Black chronograph hour and minute registers (at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock) and running seconds indicator (at 6 o’clock), with azurage (concentric circles). White lacquered hands on the three registers, and the chronograph second hand. Beige SuperLuminova indexes, at 5-10-15-etc. Time-of-day hands are rhodium-plated, polished, facetted with beige SuperLuminova inserts.
Strap — Black leather Bund-style strap (with alligator grain) and additional black and grey NATO strap
Price — $8,100 (USD)
References / Resources / Additional Reading
Hodinkee Posting (January 3, 2019) — In-Depth: The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02 By Fragment Design Hiroshi Fujiwara
OnTheDash Gallery — Carrera Reference 2447 NT
Posting — The Business of Fashion — Hiroshi Fujiwara: Be a Disturber, Not a Designer
The Book — Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment, by Sarah Lerfel, July 15, 2014 — available on Amazon
Podcast — The Business of HYPE With jeffstaple, Episode 1: Hiroshi Fujiwara of fragment design
Video — The Most Important Man in Streetwear? | WTH is HIROSHI FUJIWARA
Video — Apple Store Soho presents Meet The Designer : Hiroshi Fujiwara