August 2009, and I was feeling pretty good about my website, We had been up and running for six years, traffic was strong and even though the word “influencer” was not yet part of the vocabulary, in the little corner of the internet occupied by vintage Heuer enthusiasts, OnTheDash definitely had some influence. I had spotted a new blog called “Hodinkee”, which had interesting postings about vintage watches, and I had mentioned a couple of the Hodinkee postings on our vintage Heuer discussion forum. It seemed that I had the same taste in vintage watches as whoever was publishing this Hodinkee blog.

Then one day I received an email message from a guy named “Ben Clymer”, identifying himself as the “Executive Editor” of Hodinkee.  He thanked me for sending some traffic over to Hodinkee and asked me to do him a favor. It seems that his time spent browsing OnTheDash had “sparked a bit of a fire in [him] for vintage Heuer”, and he was hoping that I could help him find the right watch. His most-wanted list of vintage Heuer chronographs was short and sweet – he loved the Carrera 45 Datos and just about all the Camaros. Weird guy, this Ben Clymer! Back then, everyone seemed to be chasing the early Autavias and big blue Monacos, and the Carreras if they had three registers or were 18 karat gold, but definitely not these lopsided Carrera 45 Datos or odd-looking Camaros.  Kind of sad that this struggling young blogger wanted a vintage Heuer, but was stuck a little low on the food chain, hoping to find something on a budget.

Eleven years and six months later, all this has changed. Rather than poor Ben Clymer looking for a bargain basement Carrera 45 Dato or Camaro, one hour from now the Hodinkee Shop will be offering a limited edition Carrera Dato in collaboration with TAG Heuer.  Hodinkee and TAG Heuer will be offering 250 of these watches, at $7,250 a pop, representing exactly $1,812,500 worth of watches. Damn, Mr. Clymer and his colleagues at Hodinkee have had a pretty good run! A couple of recessions; a couple of recoveries; a few trillion dollars printed (and some of it distributed to prospective watch buyers); and now we’ll see Hodinkee collaborate with TAG Heuer to sell a new version of the Carrera 45 Dato. What a great country; what a great 11 years!

And having gone from the buy side to the sell side, exactly what is this Hodinkee x TAG Heuer Carrera Dato that has come out of the fire that was sparked by OnTheDash 11 years ago? in summary, it’s a watch that shows us why Hodinkee has been so successful. Take one of the beloved models from the Heuer back catalog (in this instance, the Carrera 45 Dato from 1968), move it to a size and style of case (39 millimeters) that will appeal to both vintage enthusiasts and to folks who buy modern watches, stuff in the fantastic Heuer 02 movement to give it the horsepower it needs, and voila!  A watch that is likely to have sold out in about the time it takes for that chronograph minute hand to make two trips around the recorder, or maybe even less time.

Let’s have a look at the origins of this newest TAG Heuer Carrera.

The 2020 Carreras

In terms of the development of the TAG Heuer catalog, 2020 was the “Year of the Carrera”. With Frederic Arnault (CEO) and Guy Bove (Creative Director) firmly taking the reins at TAG Heuer, we saw three significant steps in the development of the Carrera collection. First, in Spring 2020, TAG Heuer kicked off the celebration of the 160th anniversary of the brand with two new Carreras, each housed in the 39 millimeter “glass box” case and powered by the Heuer 02 movement. The “Silver” model was as close as possible to a one-to-one recreation of an early Carrera from the 1960s (Reference 2447), with a silver starburst dial; the “Montreal” model took the colors and style elements from a 1970s Montreal and incorporated them into this same case. [Photo below from Time and Tide Watches, IN-DEPTH: The two TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Limited Editions; used with permission]

Then in July 2020, we saw a more significant step, with the introduction of the “Sport” series of Carrera chronographs, that would be added to the catalog as standard-production models. The Sport Carrera used an entirely new case, measuring 44 millimeters, with a fixed tachymeter bezel. Dials were black, blue and green, with a version of the black dial having rose gold accents. Finally, in September 2020, we saw the third act of the play, with another new model of the Carrera that would be added to the catalog, this one sized down to 42 millimeters, with the deletion of the bezel. Dials were black, blue and anthracite, along with a silver version incorporating rose gold accents.

With this, TAG Heuer had completed its working of the Carrera collection. The 39 millimeter “glass box” case was designed for re-issues of the classic models from the 1960s, with the name “Heuer” across the top of the dial.  The 42 and 44 millimeter Carreras were the first of what are likely to be a new generation of TAG Heuer Carreras.

TAG Heuer then closed out the 160th celebration with three limited editions of the Carrera. There were two limited editions of the 44 millimeter “Sport” case — one with a white dial with contrasting black registers and one with a blue dial with contrasting white registers. As the grand finale of the “Year of the Carrera”, in November 2020, TAG Heuer cast the new 42 millimeter Carrera in 18 karat gold, to celebrate Jack Heuer’s 88th birthday.

Add it all up, and 2020 was the “Year of the Carrera”, with the first eight models of the entirely new line-up of standard-production Carreras, and five limited edition models.

Now, Hodinkee Creates the Plus One for 2020

This morning (February 23, 2021), Hodinkee and TAG Heuer have introduced a re-issue of what has become the most admired execution of the Carrera 45 Dato from the 1960s – the second execution Reference 3147N (black dial with white register). The new watch will be housed in the 39 millimeter “glass box” case and will be powered by the Heuer 02 movement. While TAG Heuer has used this same case / movement combination in other vintage-inspired re-issues, the choice of the Reference 3147N (second execution) as the starting point for the new watch and the Hodinkee collaboration suggest that this will be a hit with today’s enthusiasts.

The (Original) Carrera 45 Dato

In 1966, Heuer introduced its first chronograph to use a window and disk for the date display. The first version of the Carrera 45 Dato (Reference 3147) had the date at the top of the dial (12 o’clock), with the 45-minute chronograph recorder on the right (3 o’clock) and the running seconds on the left (9 o’clock). These chronographs were available with either black or white dials. In each version, the recorders were the same color as the dial. While this layout created left / right symmetry, there was the disadvantage that when the chronograph was not running (and the chronograph hands were sitting at zero), the chronograph second hand obstructed the view of the date window.

Heuer addressed this issue in the second execution of the Carrera 45 Dato, first shown in the 1968 catalog.  The date window was moved to the left side of the dial (9 o’clock), the chronograph recorder remained at the right side of the dial (3 o’clock), and the running seconds recorder was deleted. Heuer offered this second execution of the Carrera 45 Dato in two color combinations, a white dial with a white chronograph recorder and a black dial with a contrasting white chronograph recorder.

While both these dials are assymetrical, with the date window on the left and the chronograph recorder on the right, the version with the black dial offered a more dramatic look, with the white recorder appearing to be oversized. In a world of “Pandas” and “Reverse Pandas”, some collectors refer to this version of the Carrera as the “Cyclops” (as that’s much easier to say than “One-Eyed Reverse Panda”).  The “Cyclops” is one of the more scarce of the vintage Heuer chronographs, with the white-dialed version of the Carrera 45 Dato being easier to find.

On all four versions of the Carrera 45 Dato chronograph, the inner bezel (tension ring) was white, with the fifths of seconds marked in black.  The Carrera 45 Dato chronographs were powered by the Landeron 189 movement.

The advertisement shown below (from 1969/70) suggests that the Carrera 45 Dato is “ideal for the businessman who needs a chronograph but can never remember the date”, but the chronograph was also marketed for track and filed, racing and a variety of sports.

The Choice for Racers

With the dial of the second execution Carrera 45 Dato stripped down to its essential elements, legibility was improved and the watch used the same rugged, stainless steel case as the other Carreras in the catalog.

With “Heuer Carrera” at the top of the dial, and the date window and chronograph minutes recorder across the center of the dial, the second execution of the Carrera 45 Dato offered a good layout for customers who wanted to put a logo across the bottom of the dial. The Carrera 45 Dato was the choice for both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Shelby Cobra, with the open space at the bottom of the dial offering a natural location for their logos. The “Wings and Wheel” logo appeared on both the white and black version of the Carrera 45 Dato, while Shelby used only the black version of the chronograph.

The Choice for Hodinkee

In 2017, Hodinkee collaborated with TAG Heuer on a limited edition of the Skipper, starting with the “Skipperrera” (shown below on the right) and adding elements from the Carrera 45 Dato, specifically, the date window at 3 o’clock.  The watch used the “glass box” case and was powered by the Heuer Caliber 18 movement (based on the Sellita SW300 with a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module).

Commenting on Hodinkee’s choice of the Carrera 45 Dato as the starting point for its second collaboration with TAG Heuer, Cara Barrett, Special Projects Manager at Hodinkee, suggested that the “Dato” was a natural choice.  “Given the success of the Limited Edition Skipper, there is a real passion for vintage icons of Heuer production. With its date window, cyclops sub-dial, and clean black dial, it is a watch that just works. We think it’s a classic, and we love classics.”  Indeed the “tease” video released by Hodinkee this past Friday (February 19) made it appear as though the new Carrera Dato Limited Edition was a natural development from the Skipper Limited Edition.

An important change from the Hodinkee Skipper LE to the new Carrera Dato LE comes with the movement.  The new model uses TAG Heuer’s in-house Heuer 02 movement in place of the previous Calibre 18 movement, an upgrade that enthusiasts will enjoy.

The Hodinkee Treatment

In the world of modern chronographs that are related to vintage models, we see a variety of approaches. At one end of the spectrum, we see new watches that are one-to-one copies of their vintage predecessors, subject only to changes required to incorporate a modern movement. At the other end of the spectrum, we see watches that are said to be “inspired by” the vintage model, but in fact bear little or no resemblance to the earlier models.

On this scale between the “mild” (being the one-to-one copies) and the “wild” (being the watches that are only vaguely inspired by the vintage models), the Hodinkee x TAG Heuer Carrera Dato would be positioned on the mild side. Apart from changes to incorporate the Heuer 02 movement, the most significant changes in the look of the watch are switching the minute recorder from 45 minute capacity to 30 minute capacity and changing the inner bezel (tension ring) from white to black.  Bennett comments that the Hodinkee team respected the original Carrera 45 Dato, but wanted to create watch that would appeal to both vintage and modern enthusiasts.  Barrett points out that “to recreate the unique dial layout of the original ‘Dato 45’, TAG Heuer removed the Calibre Heuer’s 02 typical six and nine-o’clock sub-dials and developed a brand new date disc with a fresh font.”

To suggest that the new Hodinkee x TAG Heuer take on the Carrera Dato sticks close to the look of the original Heuer predecessor is not to criticize Hodinkee for any lack of creativity.  Rather the fact that Hodinkee incorporated such minimal modifications to create what will be a hit in 2021 is to praise the original Carrera 45 Dato for having a design that looks as bold today as it must have in 1968. The Carrera 45 Dato was not the first chronograph to incorporate a date window; it was not the only chronograph from the 1960s to put the date on the left side of the dial. But the same way that the Heuer Skipperrera was the first chronograph to utilize the bold, color blocking style of the 1960s, the Heuer Carrera 45 Dato with the black dial and white chronograph recorder must have been one of the more forward-looking chronographs of the 1960s.  Whoever was designing the Heuer chronographs in 1968 might be surprised to see the success of the re-issues in 2021.

So back to my story, from 2009, of the young blogger asking for some help in finding a Carrera 45 Dato. In the intervening years, we have seen the staff of Hodinkee exploring the catalogs of various brands and working with the brands to bring some important models back into production. We saw this in 2017 when Hodinkee collaborated with TAG Heuer on the recreation of the Skipperrera, and we see it today, with the rebirth of the Carrera 45 Dato. Yep, it’s been a good run for Ben Clymer and his colleagues at Hodinkee, and today the vintage Heuer enthusiasts should thank them for continuing to fuel the passion for vintage Heuer chronographs.

Specifications – TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Dato 45’ Hodinkee Limited Edition (Ref. CBK221D.FC6479.

Case —stainless steel; polished finish; 39 millimeter diameter, 14.7 millimeter thickness, 46.5 millimeters lug-to-lug; sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment, water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar)

Dial and Hands — Black dial; white chronograph recorders (at 3 o’clock); applied indexes and hands filled with white SuperLuminova; date display at 9 o’clock.

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.

Strap — Black alligator strap.

Availability / Price —Limited to 250 watches, with 125 to be sold through Hodinkee and 125 through TAG Heuer; available February 23, 2021; priced at $7,250.

Jeff Stein
February 23, 2021