The 1980s were a tumultuous time for the entire Swiss watch industry, and Heuer was no different. Jack Heuer was forced to “sell” the company to a consortium of investors (that included Piaget and Nouvelle Lemania) in 1982 and end his family’s direct ownership of Heuer. Jack Heuer left his company and would spend the next 20 years building a career in the electronics industry.
The second major change came in 1985 when Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania sold Heuer to an Investment house led by Akram Ojjeh called Techniques d’Avant Garde (“TAG”). Ojjeh had built his fortune financing and intermediating trade deals (most notably arms) between France and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. He created TAG to invest in high-tech industries, such as aviation and Formula 1 racing. TAG owned 50% of the McLaren Formula 1 team (and is still a major shareholder today) and financed the World Championship Porsche-designed TAG engines of the 1980s.
But while TAG’s investment was great news for TAG Heuer (as it was now named), it spelled the end of the Carrera. The new strategy of TAG Heuer was to focus on developing low-cost lines, such as the Formula 1 series and dive-watch inspired designs with the “Six Features (for example, the 1000, 2000, 4000 and 6000 series).
But we did get one Carrera series in the 1980s- and that watch came about because of the consortium that acquired Heuer from Jack Heuer back in 1982.
The Lemania Carrera was available in two versions. The stainless steel model (above) has a beautifully finished case, with the sunburst pattern inspired by the Barrel Carreras of the 1970s. As with most Lemania-powered watches of the era, the dial is a flat black with green lume strips with bright Orange detailing.
While an attractive watch in its own right, its challenging to find any elements of this design link back to the rest of the Carrera family.
At the heart of this watch is the famous Lemania 5100 movement, which was only used by Heuer during the period when Nouvelle Lemania was a part owner of Heuer- it was a sensible strategy from Lemania, which has separated from SSIH (today part of the Swatch Group) in 1981 and was keen to make sure it had as many customers as possible for their low-cost 5100.
The Lemania Carrera was also available in a matte black PVD finish. While looking wonderful when new, the early efforts at applying a coating via the PVD method tended to crack as the watch aged, meaning that there are few pristine examples today.
The military grade Black PVD Carrera has a large cushion-style case and a beautifully arranged dial, featuring a 24-hour counter.
The arrow-tipped central hand is a trademark of the Lemania 5100 whether its a Heuer, Omega or other brands which used this movement in the early 1980s.
Like the sound of a Lemania-powered Carrera, but not sure about the stealth-look? Good news, as there is also a stainless steel version.
A beautifully finished case with the jubilee-style bracelet borrowed from the Heuer dive watches of the era.
Yes, given that there were only two “proper” Carreras during the 1980s (check out the Extended Family page for the missing brother), we can’t even make up a full podium for this decade.
All Photos courtesy of Paul Gavin, except as noted:
– McLaren-TAG: Wikipedia Creative Commons
– Lemania 5100: Abel Court