Fresh off festivities for the half-century milestone of its revolutionary Monaco, this year TAG Heuer is commemorating yet another major jubilee: its 160th birthday. No mean feat in an age of increasingly fickle consumers. Founded in Saint-Imier in the mid-1800s by a young Edouard Heuer (the TAG in its moniker was only introduced in 1985 when Heuer was bought over by the Techniques d’Avant Garde group), in the years since the Swiss marque has carved a place for itself in the history of watchmaking with its maverick vision and position at the cutting edge of industry innovation.
Beloved by race car drivers, aviators, soldiers, athletes, and enthusiasts alike, the luxury house has enjoyed a longstanding association with the world of competitive sports, its legacy strewn with numerous high-profile sponsorships with, at one point or another, the Ferrari Formula One team, Manchester United, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and more. Wherefore it should come as no surprise that the storied brand has decided to fête this landmark anniversary in classic TAG Heuer fashion, but with a sporting touch — namely, a series of special edition models that at once celebrates and updates the iconic, racing-style Carrera.
The brainchild of scion Jack Heuer, the great-grandson of Edouard and a relentless innovator, the chronograph draws on the thrilling and treacherous Carrera Panamericana, a border-to-border road rally across Mexico reputed to be the world’s deadliest at the time (it was called off after five years due to safety concerns). Jack Heuer learnt of the hair-raising contest in 1962 from F1 drivers and brothers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez, and was so enthralled by their tales that he dedicated a watch to the race. A year later, the first Heuer Carreras left the factory.
Sleek, unfussy, and devoid of all extraneous elements, the Carrera was designed with legibility in mind — ideal for drivers who need to discern the time at a glance during races — although its enduring appeal extends far beyond the realm of autosports. One of the earliest variants, Reference 2447S, serves as the inspiration behind today’s Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition, albeit with a few modern tweaks. Features such as the sunray-brushed silver dial, polished case, dual pushers, and three azurage counters remain, plus the vintage TAG-less Heuer emblem, but the latest interpretation in stainless steel offers a diameter of 39mm, a domed sapphire crystal, and faceted hands coated in SuperLuminova®, while the permanent second indicator is now located at 6 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock, and a black alligator strap replaces the perforated band of its predecessor.
Moreover, and perhaps most significantly, the chronograph (fittingly limited to 1,860 examples) is equipped with the automatic Heuer 02 manufacture movement as opposed to the original, manual winding Valjoux 72. Incorporating 168 components, including a column wheel and a vertical clutch for enhanced precision and stability, the Heuer 02 calibre operates at 4Hz and carries a reserve of 80 hours, almost double the industry norm. Meanwhile, an openworked oscillating weight engraved with “160 Years Of Avant-Garde” confirms the timepiece as an anniversary edition. Understated yet unmistakable, the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition assuredly ticks all the right boxes.
And that’s just the beginning. A big birthday calls for an even bigger celebration, and TAG Heuer doesn’t disappoint. Set to release not one, not two, but a whole lineup of commemorative watches in 2020, the horological heavyweight recently unveiled the sophomore instalment in its anniversary series, and it’s a knockout. Available in a limited run of 1,000 pieces, the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition fuses the DNA of two TAG Heuer greats to create an eye-catching, extroverted edition that will easily turn heads.
This new timepiece takes its design cues from a string of ’70s automatic racing chronographs called “Montreal”, renowned for its polychromatic palette and cushion-shaped 42mm case, while also tapping on the contemporary Carrera collection in terms of shape, movement, and overall feel. Here, the familiar 39mm Carrera steel case is employed, along with its signature triplet of snailed subdials, glassbox sapphire crystal, bevelled lugs, and unilateral crown and pushers, but the dial is recognisably and heavily inspired by the 1972 Heuer Montreal Reference 110503W.
A matte white opaline dial is enlivened by bursts of deep blue on the registers and along the rim, and bright yellow SuperLuminova® accents on the counter at 3 o’clock, hour and minute hands, and tips of the applied baton indices. A further pop of cheerful colour is added via a red lacquered central seconds hand, as well as a two-toned track circling the white flange that is, curiously, hued in blue for the first 15 minutes and red for the next 45.
The Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition is similarly powered by the in-house Heuer 02 calibre, which can be admired through the sapphire crystal caseback, and comes matched with a blue alligator leather strap secured by a polished steel folding clasp. Its bold appearance might not be for the faint of heart, but it is definitely worth the risk.