SAVOIR FAIRE The Carrera Goes Full Red

3 min

Jeff Stein Watch collector and creator of the website

Let’s look back to see how - over the years - the brand has used the color red to convey the excitement of racing, before unveiling the details of the TAG Heuer Carrera Red Dial Limited Edition.

TAG Heuer Carrera Red Dial Limited Edition (CBK221G.FC6479), 2022

Once upon a time, chronographs were “black and white.”  For Heuer and many other Swiss watch brands, from the time that the chronograph moved from the pocket to the wrist (circa 1920) into the 1960s, the dials were either black or white (or in some instances, they combined black and white, with contrasting dials and registers).  There were some white-dialed chronographs that had red or blue scales printed on their dials (typically for tachymeter or pulsations), but these were only accents on the white dials.

Introducing Red

For Heuer, the use of bright colors accelerated in the late 1960s.  Since its origin in 1962, the Autavia had used only black dials, but by 1969 Heuer added a bright red chronograph second hand and red hash marks adjacent to the hour markers.  Heuer’s use of red accents became even more prominent in 1969, when Heuer introduced the Monaco chronograph, with either midnight blue or charcoal gray dials.  The Monaco’s main time-of-day hands had wide red inserts, along with triangular red tips.  The Autavia was updated circa 1972 to incorporate similar red accents on the hands and dials.

Redder and Redder

With the arrival of the 1970s, Heuer embarked on the transition from using red as an accent on black dials to producing full red dials.  In 1971, Heuer introduced two “economy” models – the Easy Rider and Temporada – with dials that were balanced with red and white areas, and red continued to be a common color for accents (for example, on the Montreal and Skipper models).

In 1974, Heuer introduced the Silverstone, a new model chronograph that would capture the style and energy of the 1970s.  The Silverstone was produced in three colors, with dials in blue, fume (smoke) and red.  The Silverstone marked the first time that Heuer would offer a watch with a solid red dial, with the deep red tone of the dial made all the more prominent by the Silverstone’s use of a matching inner bezel.  While the Silverstone would mark Heuer’s first use of a full-red dial for a chronograph, it would also be the last use of such a dial by Heuer or TAG Heuer, for the next 45 years.

Red Returns -- 2019

In 2019, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Monaco, TAG Heuer produced a series of five different Monaco chronographs, with each of model representing a specific decade.  To represent the decade 1979 to 1989, TAG Heuer produced a Monaco with a deep red dial and gray registers.  The first Autavia with a red dial would come in January 2020, when TAG Heuer introduced a Special Edition with a deep red dial in a bronze case, to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Rat.

  • TAG Heuer Carrera Red Dial Limited Edition (CBK221G.FC6479), 2022

Red is for Racing

With Heuer having used red accents on its chronographs for over 50 years, and full-red dials on a handful of models (including the Autavia, Monaco and Silverstone), we ask the question – “What about the Carrera?”  The Carrera was introduced in 1963, as a chronograph for racers, and we would expect that the collection would have been the ideal subject for the excitement and drama captured by red tones.

Red was the national color of race cars from Italy, used by Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati in the 1950s and 60s.  The red line on a tachometer marks the maximum speed of the racing engine.  Red is also the color for danger — we see the red flag following an accident on the track and racing has also endured tragedies associated with the loss of blood on the track.

Still, Heuer produced over 100 versions of the Carrera from 1963 to 1985 and, while used as an accent, the color red was not prominent on any of them.

The TAG Heuer Carrera Red Dial Limited Edition

Now, almost 60 years after the creation of the first Carrera, TAG Heuer has introduced the first Carrera to have a red dial.  At last, there is a Carrera that uses red to capture the energy of racing, the excitement of a racer reaching their limits and, of course, the danger inherent in motorsports.  The red dial of the new Carrera is complemented by the warm tone of the luminous material used on the dial and hands.

This newest Carrera uses TAG Heuer’s “glassbox” case, a 39 millimeter case with a modern sapphire crystal that offers the geometry and appeal of the vintage plastic crystals used for the first Carreras from the 1960s. The movement is the Heuer 02, offering durability to meet the demands of the track, with red lettering on the rotor and a red column wheel.

The Carrera has always been the TAG Heuer chronograph that captures the energy and romance of racing.  With its deep red dial and warm lume, the new Carrera Red “Special Edition” takes that position to a new level, all the way to the red line.

Jeff Stein Watch collector and creator of the website