hen the first Carrera Panamericana race was staged in 1950, it spanned over 3,000 kilometres from the northern to the southern Mexican borders. Drivers competed at an average speed of over 150 km/h. Unsurprisingly, the race quickly came to be considered the ultimate test of car and driver. But inevitably too, the race saw much drama and multiple crashes. Consequently, it was only run on five occasions before being cancelled after the 1954 edition.
- The launch of the Carrera featured in 1963 in Europa Star © Archives Europa Star
That was enough to create a mystique around the race in the motorsport world. Almost a decade after that final race, drivers would still tell stories of “the Carrera”. It was the parents of two Mexican brothers, Pedro and Ricardo Rodríquez, who at Sebring in 1962 inspired Jack with tales of the Carrera Panamericana’s danger and challenges, the drama of the route and the sweetness of victory. “Carrera, Carrera, Carrera” echoed in his mind as Jack raced to register the name Heuer Carrera – a name that had so many synergies with the Heuer brand… So much so that it became the perfect name for his next chronograph.
The Heuer Carrera’s iconic design
Throughout its 60 years, Heuer and TAG Heuer have been blessed with some memorable Heuer Carrera designs that have become the icons of the range. The Heuer Carrera is one of Jack Heuer’s proudest creations – a watch that uses a bold, confident design and was inspired by the understanding that in racing, and everywhere, legibility is crucial. These traits have been central to the TAG Heuer Carrera’s DNA since the very first model.
In 1963, Jack Heuer launched a manual-winding chronograph that featured a new acrylic crystal with tension ring. He saw an opportunity to clear up the dial of the chronograph by moving the 1/5th seconds scale to the flange, outside of the hour markers. A cleaner dial paired with the innovative tension ring enhanced legibility from all angles.
These original pieces are highly coveted because of some of their unique features. The original case back and movement of the reference 2447 (and the reference 3647) features Ed Heuer & Co, the company’s original name before the acquisition of Leonidas. Neither reference features the T designation for tritium, as radium was still being used for its luminescent properties. The silver dial featured a semi-matte finish, commonly known as “eggshell”, which was soon replaced by the more common “soleil” finish.
As in these first pieces, Jack Heuer has used contrasting colours to further enhance legibility. Early Heuer Carreras could be recognised by their white on black, or black on white designs with colour accents. The 1968 Heuer Carrera combined all these enhancements into a new dial design with wider dial markers. Looking through the archives one sees this very clearly in the panda design of the reference 2447 SN. It is this iconic model that TAG Heuer is celebrating with the 60th Anniversary piece in January 2023 (see more details below).
The Heuer Carrera is inherently linked to motorsport through its naming and design inspiration, but also through famous drivers. The most recognisable team to wear the Heuer Carrera was of course the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 team of the 1970s. Beyond Ferrari, other drivers were drawn to the Heuer Carrera, including such notable names as Mario Andretti, Derek Bell, James Hunt and Colin Chapman.
And it wasn’t just drivers who fell in love with the piece. The Heuer Carrera resonates with famous faces across music, film and beyond. One of the most iconic is probably the image of Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the studio – Mick Jagger with the reference 1153 on his wrist.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary timepiece
In more recent years, the TAG Heuer Carrera collection has also featured some of TAG Heuer’s most impressive innovations, including the Caliber 1887 in 2010, followed by the Caliber Heuer 01, which powered some of the brand’s boldest timepieces, the TAG Heuer Carrera Pendulum of 2010, which used magnets to regulate the movement, or more recently in 2018, the TAG Heuer Carrera Tête de Vipère Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer and in 2019, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02T Nanograph featuring the isograph carbon hairspring.
The TAG Heuer Carrera family also introduced sought-after limited editions such as the TAG Heuer Carrera x Fragment Design of 2018, celebrated designs to mark the brand’s 160th anniversary in 2020, and the global brand partnership that brought two icons together – the Porsche 911 Carrera and the TAG Heuer Carrera – in the form of inspiring co-creations since 2021.
- The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary is the first in a series of releases planned to mark the 60th anniversary of the Carrera. The brand’s design and engineering teams chose to return to one of the most collectible of all vintage Carreras, the reference 2447 SN of the late 1960s.
In 2023, for the watch’s 60th anniversary, the new releases will continue to embody the TAG Heuer Carrera values. The first model of the milestone year was revealed in January at LVMH Watch Week: the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary. The 600-piece edition with ‘panda’ dial is a faithful reinterpretation of the iconic reference 2447 SN of the late 1960s, a masterpiece of understated yet high-functioning design.
The colourways are lifted directly from vintage to new, including the black stripes down the central hands and hour markers, the double stops at 12, and of course the black counters with high-contrast white markings. The vintage Heuer logo is in place, too, with the name Carrera above it on a silver sunray-brushed dial. In a game of spot the difference, some observers will note that the 60-minute and 12-hour counters are reversed, as well as the fact that the “T” that designated radioactive tritium on the original watch has been replaced with contemporary Super-LumiNova.
- On the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary, a sapphire crystal case back reveals Heuer 02, the brand’s 80-hour in-house automatic chronograph calibre.
Surrounding the dial is a 39mm polished steel case, topped by a raised ‘glass box’ in sapphire crystal, which, along with the vintage pushers, beige lume and slimline tension ring around the dial’s outer edge, gives the watch much of its retro look. Turn the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary over and its modern credentials become clearer. A sapphire crystal case back reveals the Heuer 02, TAG Heuer’s 80-hour in-house automatic chronograph calibre.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 60th Anniversary is only the first in a series of releases planned to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Carrera. A selection of new references is being presented at Watches and Wonders – for more on this, read our interview with Carole Forestier-Kasapi in this very issue!