The start of the new millennium saw a major change at TAG Heuer, with the company bought by French luxury conglomerate LVMH, who quickly installed a new CEO: Jean-Christophe Babin. The new management team took two steps that had a profound impact on the product range- firstly, they moved the Carrera and Monaco away from being limited edition watches to part of the permanent range, and secondly, the decision was made to offer Jack Heuer the position of Honorary Chairman at TAG Heuer.
It was during this decade that a Carrera wore the TAG Heuer logo for the first time, as well as seeing the launch of the first truly new Carrera design since the early 1980s (and even that design that was borrowed from Lemania). The Carrera moved from being a retro novelty to being the centrepiece of the TAG Heuer range, a strategy that continues today.
We start the decade with a series of heritage-themed models and end with a new range of 41mm Carrera Chronographs that continue today.
While the 1996 re-edition range was faithful to the original 1963 Carrera, the new designs added to the “Classics Collection” in 2000 were not based on any historic model. There were two variants: a 3-hand watch (above) and a GMT version. No longer powered by the Lemania 1873 movement, these newer models had ETA Automatic Calibres.
These models were the first sign that TAG Heuer was considering whether the Carrera could be more than just a one-off retro limited edition, as it invested in new designs.
One of the early decisions made by Babin and his team was to invest in marketing the TAG Heuer brand alone, rather than co-branding (“Heuer” for the Classics and “TAG Heuer” for the new designs). This is why the Autavia launched in 2003 is a TAG Heuer, while the Monza of 2000 (pre-LVMH) is a Heuer.
While the 1964 Re-edition was a huge success, the reality is that the watch was small by prevailing standards. This was addressed in 2002 when TAG Heuer launched a heritage-inspired Carrera collection which borrowed the design of the original, but in a 3mm larger case. The new watches were branded TAG Heuer and fitted with a Calibre 17 automatic movement.
This new design was also used for the 40th Anniversary Carrera (below), the watch that would provide the inspiration for the design of Jack Heuer’s 80th birthday Carrera in 2012.
In 2004 the most significant Carrera series of the modern era was launched. This was TAG Heuer’s modern interpretation of how a modern Carrera could work- not a retro design, but a contemporary design informed by the past.
The new series (CV20XX) boasted a 41mm case with the classic Carrera lugs and Chronograph-pusher design. The most significant change was the addition of a fixed external bezel, which was a first for the Carrera.
The dial design was dictated by the use of the Calibre 16 movement (the ETA/ Valjoux 7750- again, the first time that Heuer/ TAG Heuer had fitted this movement to a Carrera, even though the movement traces its origins back to the 1970s), meaning a 12-6-9 layout with the date at 3 o’clock.
It was also during the 2000s that TAG Heuer began to launch concept watches, an idea appropriated from the car industry. One of the first concept watches was the Carrera Calibre 360, which not only signaled how the Carrera could be adapted to a modern design, but also flagging TAG Heuer’s ambitions as a manufacture.
Launched at Baselworld 2008, the Calibre 1 is the first manual-wind Carrera since the 1996 re-editions.
A beautiful, modern design, the Calibre 1 movement is a Unitas 6498-1 movement, originally designed for pocket watches.
This is the model that returned the Carrera to the mainstream. A fresh Carrera design that drew its inspiration from the First Generation model, the CV2010 is still available today.
This was the watch that brought the Carrera back to the centre of the TAG Heuer range.
The spectacular Calibre 360 was TAG Heuer’s first foray back into the world of designing and building innovative moments. The White Gold version shown above has a beautiful white dial with electric blue highlights and skeleton hands.
The world’s first mechanical chronograph with 1/ 100th second precision.
All Photos courtesy of TAG Heuer, except:
– Carrera 40th Anniversary: Alex P. Selamat