SAVOIR FAIRE Reading Between the Lines

The Evolution of the TAG Heuer Twin-Time

6 min

Anticipating the release of the new generation TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands Collection, we’re voyaging in time (and around the world) with TAG Heuer’s iconic dual timezone timepieces from the 1950s to today.

Anticipating the release of the new generation TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands Collection, we’re voyaging in time (and around the world) with TAG Heuer’s iconic dual timezone timepieces from the 1950s to today.

Once upon a time

As the evolution of transportation and technology took on speed, citizens of the world became interested in being in several places at once. Or rather in telling time in several places at once. In 1931, independent Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier, a true horological genius, improved upon his father’s earlier design of a world time complication. His “heures universelles” allowed the wearer to tell the time in 24 different time zones simultaneously, via a rotating 24-hour ring with names of major cities around the world. In 1937, Patek Philippe commissioned Cottier to produce the first World Time wristwatch; and Cottier subsequently went on to supply this style of wristwatch to brands like Rolex and Vacheron Constantin.

In the 1940s and 50s this trend grew, with enhanced interest in developing “GMT” (Greenwich Mean Time) watches. A GMT timepiece, in simple terms, is one with a 24-hour format, wherein an additional, or third hand indicates the time in a second time zone. In 1955, for example, Rolex released its GMT Master, designed specifically for Pan Am pilots who needed to tell time in two places at once, as they crossed from one time zone to another. In that same year, Heuer introduced the Twin-Time, its own unique take on the dual zone timepiece.

The quest for readability

This Heuer innovation was not merely the brand’s repurposed vision of a two-time zone watch. Rather, it was a mark of a particular design quest: ‘readability’. As the legibility legend goes, this obsession started in the late 1950s when Jack Heuer dropped from first to third place in a Swiss rally because he was unable to read the dashboard timer. From then on, Jack decided to focus on and improve upon the legibility of the company’s timekeeping instruments. That moment, compounded by Jack’s keen interest in mid-century modern and Bauhaus design (he particularly admired the work of German architect Mies van der Rohe), began Heuer’s campaign for true easy-to-read timekeeping. This focus is detectable throughout the brand’s continuously developing dashboard instrumentation for aviation and automobiles.

Another major marker in the timeline of this quest? The Heuer Carrera, first introduced in 1963. A beautiful – and easily readable – timepiece, the Heuer Carrera explores purity of form with a crystal clear design language, the dial bearing only three lines of text: Carrera – Heuer – Swiss Made. Along with the Heuer Twin-Time, the Heuer Carrera remains a milestone on this journey towards absolute legibility in service of utility, though not without a generous helping of style and elegance.

Things shifted in the late 60s and 70s, and the Twin-Time disappeared as Heuer watches veered away from simple utilitarian objects, but bounced back again — as fashion and style tend to do. While the company offered several GMT models in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t until 1996 that the narrative of the Twin-Time picked back up. After an 11-year hiatus, the TAG Heuer Carrera returned, this time in a high-fidelity replica of the 1964 Heuer model; a lean, legible and elegant timepiece. In the 2000s, the Three Hands Carrera returned, this time with a GMT model called the Twin-Time, paying homage to the original from 1955.

Now’s the time

The new generation TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands collection revisits the original design legacy of the Carrera, presenting a new take on the company’s timeless, sporty and elegant three-hand, dual timezone watch. Embodying TAG Heuer’s historical and ongoing fascination with readability, this collection of 13 different models — each one striking in its own way — reimagines a rich watchmaking heritage with a generous touch of contemporary style. It’s a refined, 21st-century take on the classic Heuer Carrera, designed for the globetrotters of today.

To learn more about the new collection, visit TAG Heuer’s website.