While TAG Heuer have made a number of fantastic watches over the 153 year history of the brand, the model that captures the spirit of the brand best is the Carrera- the classic motor-racing inspired Chronograph first launched in 1963.
Taking its name from the Spanish word for “Race”, the watch has been linked with Motorsports from the very beginning. The Carrera Panamericana was a race held between 1950-1954 on the newly Panamericana highways in Mexico. Run over 6 days, the event was born in the same spirit as the Targa Florio and Mille Miglia races in Italy.
Even before the launch of the first Carrera model in 1963, Heuer had already produced a 404 series watch to commemorate the 1953 Carrera Panamericana, with this example (below) recently discovered by Jasper Bitter at www.classicheuer.de.
While this Heuer 404 predates the Carrera by 10 years, it is evidence that early on Heuer began to drawn inspiration from the romance, speed and danger of the race.
The design of the original 1963 Carrera was inspired by the instrument panel of a racing car, where the key was legibility and clarity. Being designed for motor racing meant that the watch had to be a Chronograph (that is, include a stopwatch feature) and also include a tachymeter scale, allowing speed to be calculated. Jack Heuer tells the story of his inspiration:
“I first heard about the Carrera from Pedro Rodriguez at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, where I was the Official Timekeeper. He and his brother Ricardo were two of the fastest, smartest and bravest endurance drivers of all time. To hear them talk of the Carrera, which our brand’s longtime friend Juan-Manuel Fangio had won in 1953, but which had been stopped in the 1955 after a number of fatalities, made my imagination soar. Just the sound of the name itself – elegant, dynamic, easily pronounced in all languages and charged with emotion. I knew then that my new chronograph was the perfect tribute to this legend.”
The second generation Carrera was launched in 1969 and heralded the arrival of the world’s first automatic Chronograph movement- the Chronomatic. This second generation Carrera continued through the 1970s, but as that decade came to an end, so to did the ascent of the Carrera.
As the world turned to quartz-powered watches, the Carrera had lost its relevance and was gradually phased out. By the time that Heuer became TAG Heuer, the Carrera was gone altogether.
It was more than a decade later that the Carrera was re-launched by TAG Heuer, initially as a one-off limited edition designed to highlight the heritage of the brand. The success of that re-edition and the heritage-themed watches that followed led to the launch in 2004 of a new, contemporary Carrera- the first new design in almost 20 years. No longer simply looking backwards, the Carrera was now a key part of TAG Heuer’s future.
2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Carrera and to mark this milestone Calibre 11 is proud to present this dedicated site. We’ve identified ten generations of Carrera over the last 50 years, not a classification that is official or complete, but to illustrate the key model changes over the 50 years.
This site could not have been compiled without the open community spirit of Heuer and TAG Heuer collectors who are always willing to share information, photos and more. Many thanks to all the collectors and enthusiast who make sites like this possible and worthwhile.
We hope you enjoy the story of the Carrera and that this site will help you understand why the watch captures the spirit of TAG Heuer- for 50 years and forever.