STORIES A Matter of Time Podcast, Season 1, Part 1: The Carrera origin story

Part 1

5 min

From the fabled race that inspired its name to its earliest references, discover how the TAG Heuer Carrera evolved to become one of the most sought-after watch collections ever. This is A Matter of Time, a new podcast by TAG Heuer.

Behind every iconic watch there’s a timeless story. Welcome to A Matter of Time, a new podcast by TAG Heuer. Hosted by Nicholas Biebuyck, Heritage Director at TAG Heuer, we dig into our archives to bring you untold stories of our timepieces and how they have influenced watchmaking, sport, and popular culture through time. In the first season, we explore the enduring legacy of the TAG Heuer Carrera, which turns 60 this year. Tune into this time machine and discover the watch collection that captured the imagination of racing drivers, movie stars, musicians, and watch collectors. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to A Matter of Time wherever you get your podcasts.

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Nicholas Biebuyck, Heritage Director

One iconic timepiece. Many timeless stories.

From its name to its design to its legacy, everything about the TAG Heuer Carrera is steeped in history. That’s why, in the first four episodes of A Matter of Time Season 1, Nicholas takes us on an exhilarating journey – from the dusty streets of Mexico in the 1950s to the plush advertising agencies of Madison Avenue in the swinging sixties. He explores the years that led to the birth of the Carrera and the golden decade that followed its launch. Let’s start right at the beginning, shall we?

Episode 1 - 1950s: The pre-Carrera years 

In the first episode, Nicholas takes us all the way back to the 1950s. To the pre-Carrera years and the story of the legendary Mexican race that inspired the Carrera. 

Snippet from Episode 1: Heuer had been producing a series of sports watches, throughout the 1940s and the 1950s, that would lay the foundations for what would become the Carrera. Perhaps the most archetypal of these are three references that made up the bulk of the catalog in the 1950s. The reference 2444, the reference 3336 and the reference 2447, a number that will carry over for the first generation of Carrera. These three watches were marketed towards those in high-demand environments – scientists, racing drivers, aviators. They were chronographs with a waterproof case, sturdy pushers, and a very clear and legible dial. Codes that would carry over into the Carrera collection when it would debut.

  • La Carrera Panamericana, Mexico

Episode 2 - 1963: The birth of the iconic Carrera

In this episode, we speed down the famous Sebring raceway in Florida in 1962, revisit Jack Heuer’s eureka moment, and meet the first Carrera references launched in 1963.

Snippet from Episode 2: In 1963, we witnessed the arrival of the Carrera. The very earliest watches had a number of slight detail variations that a certain small group of collectors obsess over. We see this semi-matte so-called ‘eggshell finish’, which is a really unusual and distinctive finish when it’s seen in person. Slightly longer hour marks on the dial. Slightly more slender hour and minute hands, and an unsigned crown rather than the Heuer signed crown that we see on later Carreras. It might seem strange to many people to look at these very small differences from the standard production piece, compared to the early production batch. But it’s exactly the sort of nerdy, distinctive details that many enthusiasts of vintage chronographs love.

Episode 3 - 1960s: Dato Carreras and the power of advertising

In this episode, we meet the first Carrera with a date complication and the Mad Men of Madison Avenue who sold this Heuer innovation to the world.

Snippet from Episode 3: How do you convince a client to buy a manual wind chronograph? Of course, many people have timing needs and it’s useful in their daily lives. But for others, you needed something extra. Heuer’s solution to this problem was to add a date complication to its chronograph models. This would result in the Reference 3147. Launched in 1965, the watch was a new innovation for the industry. And for that, we needed pioneering communication. Jack Heuer, having set up an office in Manhattan in the late 1950s, was well aware of what the landscape looked like when it came to the Mad Men of Madison Avenue and their new approach to advertising and communications. 

  • Heuer Carrera reference 1153, circa 1969

Episode 4 - 1969: The dream team behind the Chronomatic

In episode 4, we explore how Jack Heuer and Willy Breitling, two powerhouses of the Swiss watchmaking industry in the ‘60s, pulled together the players, the finances, and the suppliers to create a groundbreaking automatic movement.

Snippet from Episode 4: From the mid 1960s, it was clear that there was a drop in sales and exports for manual wind chronographs. As automatic timepieces became increasingly dominant, and the convenience had won over consumers, it was obvious that something had to be done to allow the chronograph to power itself. Given the cost of developing this new movement, a number of industry players had to work together. With Jack Heuer and Willy Breitling acting as vice president and president of the Swiss Chronograph Organization, they were the ones with their finger on the pulse. They knew exactly what was going on and how to make the move ahead.

Discover Part 2 of A Matter of Time here, where we’ll continue to explore the Carrera’s evolution, from the golden era of racing in the ‘70s to present day.