Carrera – a name that evokes emotion
As a native of northern England, the word ‘Carrera’ sounds incredibly exotic. Containing three syllables, it rolls off the tongue. The Spanish word has multiple meanings, including ‘road’, ‘race’, ‘course’ and ‘career’. Today, the name is synonymous with speed and legendary chronographs and brims with Latin passion and excitement. The origin of the Carrera name proves a fascinating story.
Inspired by the world of motorsport
In 1962, while attending the 12 Hours Race at Sebring in Florida, Jack Heuer chatted to the parents of two young racing drivers from Mexico, Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez. The parents expressed their relief that their offspring were too young to have competed in the Carrera Panamericana Mexico held a few years earlier. Widely considered the most dangerous race in the world, the ‘border to border’ road race, covered approximately 3000km and ran from 1950 to 1954. Following the infamous 1955 Le Mans disaster, when 83 spectators were killed, the Panamericana Mexico was cancelled.
It was the word, ‘Carrera’ that piqued Jack Heuer’s interest. Indeed, he reportedly described the word as ‘sexy’. On his return to Switzerland, Jack registered the name ‘Heuer Carrera’ and the following year the inaugural Carrera Chronograph, the reference 2447, was released.
Jack Heuer, and Formula One drivers, Clay Regazzoni and Joe Siffert
Heuer Carrera, Ref. 1158CHN
Reference 1158CHN - life in the pit lane
In the early 70s, Heuer (the former name for TAG Heuer) was not only a leading manufacturer of wristwatches and stopwatches, it was also at the forefront of electronic timing. Developed by Heuer’s Electronics Division, the Centrigraph was a cutting-edge timing system used by the Ferrari racing team.
Heuer and Ferrari negotiated a deal where the Centigraph system was supplied to the Italian race team in exchange for prominent Heuer branding on Ferrari’s cars, ‘on the front below the windshield’. Each Ferrari driver was also issued with an 18K gold automatic Carrera Chronograph. Known as the reference 1158CHN, the first two digits indicated the watch was fitted with the famous Calibre 11. This groundbreaking movement, the first self-winding chronograph, had first seen service within the inaugural Heuer Monaco of 1969 and was still cutting-edge when used within the reference 1158CHN. Very quickly, the luxurious chronograph became the talk of the paddock.
The reference 1158CHN was housed in a barrel-shaped case, measuring 38mm in diameter. Two chronograph pushers were positioned on the right flank of the case while the crown was located at 9 o’clock. The crown’s unusual location on the left flank of the case was a function of the Calibre 11’s architecture, a characteristic it shared with early examples of the Monaco.
Endowed with a gold dial with black registers, the reference 1158CHN’s chosen colourway was perfectly on-trend at a time when wing collars and flares were all the rage. A date display was located at 6 o’clock. It incorporatws white numerals sat atop a black disc, adding a dose of elegant contrast. The dial was framed by a tachymeter scale presented on the adjacent flange. Some examples were worn on a black synthetic leather strap, while others came on an ultra-luxurious gold bracelet crafted by the specialist firm, Gay Frères.
Initially, the reference 1158CHN was the preserve of Ferrari drivers and the team’s personnel. However, the chronograph was soon coveted by other members of the F1 fraternity, including legendary drivers. Aware of the model’s desirability, Jack Heuer often presented winning drivers with their very own reference 1158CHN. The list of illustrious owners include Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda and Joe Siffert.
Jack Heuer’s favourite watch
Jack Heuer was very much part of the F1 scene, a world were success and tragedy co-existed. Perhaps it was for this reason that he grew fond of the reference 1158CHN, the watch of champions. Indeed, it is often said that the 1158CHN remains Jack’s favourite watch. Certainly, the model provided inspiration for the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Jack Heuer Birthday Gold Limited Edition. Produced to mark the 88th birthday of the former CEO of Heuer, the watch was endowed with some notable qualities.
Limited to just 188 pieces, this watch was endued with a chaste white dial. It upheld the clean, uncluttered layout synonymous with the reference 2447 and every iteration of the Carrera thereafter. Housed in a contemporary 42mm case, made of 18K 5N rose gold and powered by the modern-day Calibre Heuer 02, TAG Heuer’s in-house movement, the watch managed to look both classical and contemporary at the same time.
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph (CBN2044.FC8313)
A 70s inspired reverse panda dial
The avant-garde brand has now released a new Carrera, inspired by the 70s and, in particular, the aforementioned reference 1158CHN. The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph black & yellow gold taps into the zeitgeist of the 70s, an era when John Player Special cars clipped apexes with aplomb and regularly sped to the chequered flag, securing numerous victories.
The Lotus powered black and gold cars, the so-called ‘JPS’ cars, competed in F1 from 1972 – 1986. Notable JPS team drivers included Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson, both recipients of a reference 1158CHN. TAG Heuer ambassador, Ayrton Senna drove the Lotus 98T in 1986, the last time JPS-liveried F1 cars would race in anger.
TAG Heuer has equipped this new model with a ‘reverse panda dial’, a term used to describe the aesthetic alter ego of the reference 1158CHN. The gold dial and black registers of the 70s model have been swapped in favour of a black dial with gold registers. The two subdials, a 30-minute register at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour register at 9 o’clock feature snailed centres and are framed with smooth circular tracks. All very symmetrical and seemingly bi-compax in layout, just like the reference 1158CHN. However, look again and you will see there is a small seconds display positioned in the lower portion of the dial. Discreet and understated, it doesn’t clutter the dialscape, but it still remains eminently legible. It’s a subtle detail that successfully contributes to the dial’s notably harmonious appearance.
The hour and minute hands gracing the black sunray brushed dial are lined with Super-LumiNova (SLN), while the applied indexes are stepped and feature an accompanying rectangular section of SLN, positioned adjacent. The date window subscribes to the 1158N design. Positioned at 6 o’clock, it consists of white numerals presented upon a black disc, all framed with a golden border. The colour of the date disc matches the dial as horological etiquette dictates. A minute track is presented on a flange encircling the dial, proving useful when reading-off the prevailing time or counting elapsed seconds.
18K 3N solid yellow gold
While white gold and platinum are noble metals, nothing says opulence quite like 18K 3N solid yellow gold. Measuring 42mm in diameter, the scale of the new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph black & yellow gold befits modern tastes. The case encompasses polished and fine brushed finishes, a pairing that proves both challenging and time-consuming to achieve. Throughout the composition, curving lines, straight edges and intricate facets flirt with light, delivering a sumptuous blend of brilliance and shade. One glance at this model and it proves obvious that TAG Heuer respects the value of this precious metal, treating it respectfully by employing thoughtful design throughout.
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph (CBN2044.FC8313)
160 years of watchmaking know-how
To the rear of the watch, this modern-day chronograph features a pane of sapphire crystal affording sight of the Calibre Heuer 02. This in-house movement, produced at TAG Heuer’s Chevenez facility, is state of the art. A ‘fully integrated’ calibre, it was designed from the outset to be a chronograph, rather than being adapted from a time-only base movement. The combination of a vertical coupling and a column wheel is considered the optimum pairing among purists. Unlike some chronographs, when the pusher at 2 o’clock is pressed, the central chronograph seconds hand commences its journey without any hesitation or wobbling. Moreover, the pushpiece feel is smooth and silky, a characteristic highly prized by chronograph aficionados.
While the Calibre Heuer 02 is modern, it draws upon TAG Heuer’s expertise, amassed over the last 160 years.
It all started with a name
Words mean different things in different languages. Some names never migrate from native shores while other names travel, resonating with a global audience. When Jack William Heuer, a son of Bern, Switzerland heard the Spanish word Carrera, it sounded glamorous. The name clearly fuelled his imagination and the following year, he masterminded the reference 2447. It is a name that has since travelled far and wide.
Today, the name Carrera is familiar to brand devotees, watch collectors and petrolheads alike. It’s been a long journey for the Carrera and it is not over yet. On the contrary, the model continues to attract new admirers to its ranks.
This latest model, the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph unites the avant-garde company’s expertise with yellow gold to form a glorious expression of luxury watchmaking.
Angus Davies Co-founder of EscapementMagazine.com