In early January 2023, TAG Heuer marked the 60th Anniversary of its Carrera chronograph with the release of a Limited Edition model in “Panda” style. This new “60th Anniversary” Carrera represented a near one-to-one copy of one of the collectors’ favorite models — the Carrera Reference 2447 SN, from the late 1960s. The newest Carrera was very well received by both vintage and modern chronograph enthusiasts, and left collectors wondering how TAG Heuer would build on the success of this model, in the remainder of the anniversary year. Yes, with 11 months remaining in the anniversary year, this “Panda” Carrera would be a tough act to follow.
With the opening of Watches and Wonders 2023 today in Geneva, TAG Heuer has answered this challenge in a convincing fashion. TAG Heuer has released five new models of the Carrera chronograph, but more than just new color schemes and decoration, these new models incorporate dramatic new developments in the Carrera collection.
First, a quick overview of the five new Carrera chronographs introduced earlier today:
- Two 39 millimeter chronographs that use a “Glassbox” style case, one model is a “reverse Panda” (black with silver registers), with the date at 12 o’clock and a running seconds register at 6 o’clock (reference CBS2110) and the other is blue, with the date and running seconds hand both located at 6 o’clock (reference CBS2112)
- Two 42 millimeter chronographs that use a traditional style case, one model with a black dial (reference CBN201C) and one model with a blue dial (reference CBN201D); both these models feature orange / red gradient tracks around the outer edge of the dial, capturing a racing style
- A 42 millimeter Tourbillon chronograph that uses a Glassbox style case, with a blue dial and registers and gray rings around the chronograph registers (reference CBS5010)
Together, these five chronographs represent the following new developments for the Carrera chronograph collection:
- the second “generation” of the 39 millimeter Glassbox Carrera
- an entirely new 42 millimeter Glassbox case to house the new Carrera Tourbillon
- two new “Racing” models of the 42 millimeter Carrera
- two new movements, powering the 39 millimeter Glassbox chronographs (TH 20-00) and the Tourbillon Carrera (TH 20-09)
- all these new models being included in TAG Heuer’s core catalog, rather than being limited or special editions
While we expect to examine most of these watches in full detail in subsequent postings, in today’s “Introduction”, we will provide some background information relating to these five watches, to help put them into proper perspective. This posting also includes the first “live” photos of all the models (other than the 42 millimeter Tourbillon, which was not available in my local TAG Heuer Boutique).
Second Generation Glassbox Carrera
Launched by TAG Heuer in 2015, the “Glassbox” was new style of domed sapphire crystal, with the geometry of the crystal mimicking the look of the original plastic crystals used on the Heuer Carrera chronographs in the 1960s. The sapphire is the “glass” and the dome forms the “box”. From 2015 through January 2023, TAG Heuer has offered 10 Carrera chronographs that incorporated the Glassbox case, as follows:
- Calibre 18 Telemeter (2015) / not limited
- Skipperrera by Hodinkee (2017) / 125 watches
- Blue Dreamer by Revolution / The Rake (2017) / 100 watches
- Fragment Design (2018) / 500 watches
- 160th Anniversary — Silver (2020) / 1,860 watches
- 160th Anniversary — Montreal (2020) / 1,860 watches
- Dato by Hodinkee (2021) / 150 watches
- Teal Dial (2021) / 500 watches
- Red Dial (2022) / 600 watches
- 60th Anniversary (2023) / 600 watches
Here is a posting on TAG Heuer’s online magazine, The Edge, that covers the first eight Glassbox models — And Then There Were Eight – TAG Heuer’s Glassbox Carrera Chronographs.
Today’s introduction of two new 39 millimeter “Glassbox” Carrera chronographs marks the transition from the first generation of the Glassbox Carrera to the second generation. This new generation of Glassbox Carrera chronographs differs dramatically from the first generation models, with some being changes in the construction of the watch itself and also a significant change in the position that the new Glassbox Carreras will occupy in the TAG Heuer catalog.
The “tale of the tape” on the second generation Glassbox Carrera is as follows — across the dial is 39 millimeters; thickness of the case is 13.9 millimeters; lug-to-lug is 46 millimeters; and the measurement between the lugs is 20.5 millimeters. People have asked about the size of the crystal and it’s fair to say that the new case is bezel-less, meaning that the diameter of the crystal is almost the entire 39 millimeters that we measure across the dial.
It’s All about the Crystal
While the shape of the first generation Glassbox crystal may have followed the geometry of the crystals used on the original Carreras in the 1960s, there was a significant issue with the resulting crystal-case combination. Looking straight at the dial, the Glassbox crystal created distortion toward the outer edge that made it impossible to view the inner bezel (flange). Hold it at one angle and you could see the top of the inner bezel; use another angle to see the bottom of the inner bezel; but there was no position that allowed the wearer to see clearly the entirety of the inner bezel. Some have described the Glassbox crystal as producing a “milky” halo around the edge of the dial and inner bezel.
While collectors might be able to live with this distortion on some chronographs, the original Carrera from 1963 was designed for optimum legibility and some collectors found the distortion produced by the Glassbox crystal to be a disqualifying feature of the Glassbox Carrera. Others might find the Glassbox crystal satisfactory for a whimsical chronograph (like the Skipper or Blue Dreamer), but not for more “serious” chronographs.
The crystal on the new 39 millimeter Glassbox Carreras is unlike any that TAG Heuer has used on any previous models. Rather than clouding or distorting the view of the dial / inner bezel, the crystal has been reengineered to enhance the view of the dial and inner bezel from every angle.
Perhaps this approach of the crystal serving as a high resolution lens was popularized by Audemars Piguet with its Code 11.59, but with the new 39 millimeter Glassbox Carreras TAG Heuer shows how important the crystal can be in offering a dramatic view of the dial and inner bezel, as well as the hands and other elements of the watch. Consider how the technology of chronographs has changed over the last 60 years – movements, dials, hands, cases, etc. — and perhaps it is the crystal that has changed most dramatically. Ressence is another innovative brand that has shown the appeal of a crystal that wraps around the entire top surface of the case.
. . . and the Curves
Of course, in designing the second generation Glassbox Carrera, TAG Heuer did considerably more than create a new crystal. With the larger diameter of the crystal required to wrap around the inner bezel / tachymeter scale, the top surface of the case (outer bezel) is much thinner than on previous models. The style of the inner bezel (flange) is entirely new, with a concave shape where the hashmarks are placed that provides considerable depth between the dial and the crystal. The tachymeter scale lies outside this inner bezel, on a surface that appears to follow a convex curve.
The theme of curves continues with both the markers on the dial and the case itself, with the faceted lugs used on the Carrera since 1963 meeting the top surface of the case in a soft curve.
. . . and the Colors
TAG Heuer’s choice of colors and other design elements for the two “launch models” of the second generation Glassbox Carrera make good sense.
Having offered a “Panda” as the last model of the first generation Glassbox Carrera, there is a sense of completion in offering a “Reverse Panda” as the first model of the second generation. The Reverse Panda was one of the legendary Carrera chronographs from the 1960s, and the patina on the registers and lume embrace the heritage of the model.
The blue version of the new 39 millimeter Glassbox Carrera also draws on the brand’s heritage portfolio, as several models of the vintage Carreras incorporated this “deep blue” tone. Having offered teal and red models in the first generation of Glassbox Carreras, the blue version demonstrates that richly colored dials will be at home in the second generation cases.
. . . in the Core Collection
Another shortcoming of the first generation Glassbox Carrera chronographs was the limited availability of most of the models. Other than the first model from 2015, all the Glassbox Carrera chronographs were Limited Edition models, with production ranging from small (with 100 to 150 units of the Hodinkee Skipper and Dato and the Revolution Blue Dreamer), to medium (with 500 to 600 units for the Fragment Design, Teal dial, Red dial and 60th Anniversary models) to large (with 1,860 for each of the 160th Anniversary Silver and Montreal models).
With the second generation Glassbox Carrera chronographs, TAG Heuer will make many enthusiasts happy by having the watches as standard production models, to be included in the core catalog. So it won’t be a question of who you know at your local Boutique or Hodinkee or Revolution, or whether you can grab one through TAGHeuer.com; enthusiasts will be able to walk into a TAG Heuer Boutique and buy these watches. Sure, we might expect some sort of wait for the early production models, but rather than paying a premium on the secondary market, the patient collector should be able to buy one of these watches from TAG Heuer at the suggested retail price.
Each of these 39 millimeter Glassbox Carreras will priced at $6,450.
A More Traditional Looking Tourbillon
Having its origins in the 18th century, the tourbillon is a mechanism that constantly rotates the balance wheel, hairspring and escapement to counter the effect of gravity on these components of the movement. While the usefulness of the tourbillon mechanism on a modern wristwatch has been debated, the tourbillon feature has been seen as a symbol of fine watchmaking, with tourbillon chronographs typically selling at multiples of the price of a standard chronograph. (For an interesting article about the history and usefulness of the tourbillon in a wristwatch, see the Hodinkee posting Does The Tourbillon Have Any Real Benefits In A Wristwatch?)
In January 2016, TAG Heuer shocked the watch industry by introducing what was by far the most “affordable” Swiss-made chronograph to include a tourbillon mechanism. The Carrera Heuer-02T was priced at $15,950, at a time when the price of a Swiss-made chronograph with a tourbillon generally started at around $80,000. TAG Heuer achieved this breakthrough by modifying its existing CH-80 movement to incorporate the tourbillon, with the movements being produced in quantity at the company’s Chevenez movement workshop. Here is a posting on Monochrome, covering this first tourbillon to be offered by TAG Heuer.
Since 2016, TAG Heuer has offered almost 50 versions of the Carrera chronograph incorporating the Heuer-02T movement, however, all of them have been housed in 45 millimeter cases and most of them have radical-looking skeleton dials. Additionally, while the Carrera tourbillons were originally positioned as the most “affordable” tourbillon chronographs, as subsequent models were made of gold or “iced” with diamonds, many enthusiasts lost sight of the “entry-level” models.
So there has been no watch in the TAG Heuer catalog for the enthusiast who wants the traditional style of the Carrera, with the additional tourbillon feature.
With the new 42 millimeter Glassbox Tourbillon Carrera, TAG Heuer is offering the tourbillon feature in a more traditional looking Carrera. The blue dial is solid, with the most notable decoration being the silver rings around the chronograph registers and the cut-out at 6 o’clock to display the tourbillon. We can expect that the traditional style of this new chronograph, with its popular 42 millimeter size, will make the tourbillon a realistic option for many Carrera enthusiasts.
Notably, this Tourbillon model will be housed in a case that is entirely new for TAG Heuer. TAG Heuer has offered the 39 millimeter Glassbox Carrera since 2015 and the more traditional style 42 millimeter Carrera since 2020, and this new case represents a combination of these two lines, to produce the new 42 millimeter Glassbox case. Looking ahead, we can imagine that TAG Heuer will have at least three cases in its core Carrera chronograph collection — the 39 millimeter Glassbox, the 42 millimeter Glassbox and the 42 millimeter traditional-style case.
The 42 millimeter Glassbox Tourbillon Carrera will be priced at $24,050.
Two New Movements
With its releases today, TAG Heuer has updated its “go-to” in-house movements for the Carrera, with the new TH20-00 replacing the Heuer 02 movement and the new TH20-09 movement replacing the Heuer-02T movement. The press release from TAG Heuer suggests that the major advantages of the new movements will be that they offer bidirectional winding (rather than unidirectional winding), along with increased winding efficiency and running accuracy. The new movements will also offer a higher level of finishing and come with a five-year warranty.
As a practical matter, persons wearing chronographs powered by the new movements will notice that they are considerably quieter than the predecessor models, as the rotor will no longer spin for extended periods.
The 42 Millimeter “Racing” Carreras
TAG Heuer introduced its 42 millimeter version of the Carrera chronograph in September 2020, and the 42 millimeter models have been a cornerstone of the Carrera collection since that time. Most of the models cover the territory between sporty and dressy, with dials in black, white, deep blue and gray. In a collaboration with Porsche, in October 2022, TAG Heuer offered Limited Editions of the 42 millimeter Carrera, with these models evoking the red and blue colors of these special Porsches.
Other special or limited editions of the 42 millimeter Carrera have included an 18 karat gold model, introduced in November 2022 a few days before Jack Heuer’s 90th birthday, and a Limited Edition “Panda” model (also introduced in November 2022) sold exclusively through Watches of Switzerland.
The two 42 millimeter chronographs introduced today — one with a blue dial and one with a black dial — continue the racing motif always associated with the Carrera chronographs.
A gradient orange ring runs around the edge of the dial, turning from orange to red, as a racing engine would approach the redline. The prominent chronograph seconds hand and subdial hands are bright red, and the 10-20-30 numerals on the flange are in a bright orange.
Each of these 42 millimeter Racing Carreras will be included in the TAG Heuer catalog, as part of the core Carrera collection, with a price of $5,750.
A Momentous Start to Year 61
Just as the 60th Anniversary Carrera Limited Edition Carrera marked an appropriate way to look back at the heritage of the TAG Heuer brand, the five Carrera Chronographs introduced earlier today provide a strong foundation as the brand kicks of Year 61. With a new generation 39 millimeter Glassbox design, a new style of Tourbillon chronograph, a new 42 millimeter Glassbox case, two new movements and two new 42 millimeter “Racing” chronographs, Year 61 of the Carrera chronograph has gotten off to a tremendous start, and we can expect the celebration to continue through 2023 and into future years.
Sincere thanks to my friends at Atlanta’s TAG Heuer Boutique for making the 39 millimeter Glassbox Carrera chronographs and the 42 millimeter “Racing” Carrera chronographs available for “live” photography. Readers may contact sales associates at the Boutique by calling 404-750-1430 or even better by visiting them at Lenox Mall, 3393 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Georgia 30326.