arrera. Launched in 1963, TAG Heuer’s iconic watch took its name from the Carrera Panamericana, a road race first held in 1950 that crossed Mexico from north to south over more than 3,000 kilometres. Drivers reached speeds in excess of 150 km/h. There were numerous accidents, many fatal, and in 1955 the race was cancelled permanently. However, these five editions were enough to make the Carrera Panamericana the stuff of legends in the automotive world. Jack Heuer, a racing enthusiast, rushed to register the Heuer Carrera name. The rally was no more but the Carrera name would live on.
Jack Heuer was determined to give the Carrera a dial that was easy to read, and this ethos guided the team led by Carole Forestier-Kasapi, TAG Heuer’s Movements Director, when working on the 60th anniversary models. Alongside improved legibility and some changes to design, the biggest refresh is the automatic movement with bidirectional winding that now powers the TAG Heuer Carrera. We sat down with the woman who conceptualised this new calibre, Carole Forestier-Kasapi.
- Carole Forestier-Kasapi, Movements Director at TAG Heuer
Europa Star: It’s not unusual for brands to reissue a vintage model for an anniversary. TAG Heuer could have done the same for the 60th anniversary of the Heuer Carrera. Why didn’t you?
Carole Forestier-Kasapi: The TAG Heuer Carrera 60th Anniversary Edition that we released in January is a reissue of the 1963 Carrera. This was our way of paying tribute to the heritage model. The new versions shown at Watches and Wonders are, let’s say, reinterpretations of the original TAG Heuer Carrera. These evolutions are a good thing. There’s certainly an appeal to reissuing earlier models but it’s important not to become stuck in the past. TAG Heuer is a brand that doesn’t stand still and choosing to refresh this model reflects that. There are many benefits to this evolution. It’s modern and carries the watch into the twenty-first century; it preserves the spirit of the Heuer Carrera while introducing something new. It’s a very different exercise to reissuing a historic model, and an enriching one, too.
The Heuer Carrera was originally a tool watch that emphasised functionality and readability. Today’s customers choose it as a matter of taste rather than for professional use. How do you evolve an icon?
You have to remember that when Jack Heuer created the Heuer Carrera, he did so with racing drivers in mind. He came up with some truly avant-garde ideas to make the dial easy to read. We have taken this legibility to a higher level on the models shown at Watches and Wonders, by creating a 3D effect. This fits with the Carrera’s history. When you show this much respect for a watch’s raison d’être, you are certain to get it right. Jack Heuer gave every element of his design a purpose, as he explains in his autobiography. At TAG Heuer we carry on the tradition of what I call functional design, which is important because it gives things meaning. It’s one of the characteristics of our brand.
- For the 60th anniversary of the Heuer Carrera, the collector favourite ‘glassbox’ design inspired the creation of two new 39mm chronographs. The sapphire crystal is shaped liked the domed hesalite crystals found on Heuer Carrera models from the 1970s. They are equipped with the new TH20-00 movement, an evolution of TAG Heuer’s in-house automatic chronograph calibre Heuer 02.
Can you explain how you have improved legibility?
Whereas previously the dial was flat, it now has a concave profile. The tachymeter scale is on the outer sloping edge and, because of the glassbox form of the crystal, it’s visible from all angles, including when viewed from the side. This adds a particularly modern feel. The hour circle is inside the curve which, compared with a flat dial, means the hand can be read with greater precision.
There are two versions: a blue dial and a reverse panda. Why do you think panda dials are so popular right now?
This model is inspired by a watch that was a legend in its day: the 2447 NST from 1978. Panda dials accentuate the chronograph function by playing on the contrast between the dial and the chronograph counters. Panda dials feature throughout the brand’s history. When the TAG Heuer Monaco debuted in the late 1960s, for example, it paired a blue dial with square white counters. It was perceived as being completely off-the-wall: most watches were round, and here was Jack Heuer launching a square watch. It was one of the first automatic chronographs on the market. It had a blue dial when dials were beige or grey or white. These were bold choices when you look at it from the perspective of that time. Chronographs were the “in thing” and interest was growing among a wider public. A complication with automatic winding had huge appeal for customers. Most of the chronographs from that period were manually wound. A panda watch is iconic.
The new Glassbox Carrera lineup also includes a 42mm chronograph equipped with in-house tourbillon movement TH20-09.
The Heuer 02 automatic calibre has been replaced by a new version, the TH20-00 with bidirectional winding. Is this in response to customer requests for faster winding or is it something you wanted?
A bidirectional movement does wind faster but that wasn’t our main incentive. The winding speed of the Heuer 02, which led to the TH20-00, is already more than sufficient. First and foremost we wanted this new calibre to deliver quality and durability. We also took the opportunity to redesign the skeletonised rotor in the form of the TAG Heuer shield.
How does this development improve precision?
The movement’s automatic winding has been improved and upgraded in terms of quality. It winds faster and more naturally to reach its full 80-hour power reserve more quickly.
What can you tell us about the tourbillon model?
It stands out for its TAG Heuer signature blue dial that we’ve complemented with a palette of elegant, timeless colours. The orange central hand and orange tachymeter scale are a vibrant touch. It’s the perfect interpretation of the TAG Heuer tourbillon. It’s equipped with the TH20-09 movement, a version of the TH20-00 with the addition of a flying tourbillon complication.
- TAG Heuer also introduces the next generation of 42mm Carrera chronographs with a signature blue or black dial and sporty orange gradient detailing reminiscent of classic race car speedometers.
All the watches with the in-house Heuer TH20-00 movement come with a five-year warranty. How do you increase durability?
It’s a demonstration of the brand’s expertise. Previously, watches were sold with a two-year warranty, whereas the movement development and approval process includes ageing tests that correspond to five years of use. And we make sure we go well beyond those five years. Durability depends on how the various elements are designed and also how they are lubricated. You must use the right oil, in the right amount, in the right place. Lubrication is extremely complex.
When you look at this new TAG Heuer Carrera, how does it make you feel?
I feel the brand is raising its game. It’s going in the right direction and that makes me proud.
Can we expect to see the TAG Heuer Carrera with other complications – a minute repeater, maybe – in the next few years?
A minute repeater? I’m not sure, for the simple reason that there has never been a chiming watch at TAG Heuer. I don’t see it becoming a signature complication for the brand but we do have a base calibre that can take complications. We have the will and we have the means. Let’s enjoy this new TAG Heuer Carrera and we’ll talk about complications at Watches and Wonders!
- The refreshed TAG Heuer Carrera Date comes with a vibrant new dial colour palette.