It’s been said that sometimes one must look back to move forward, a sentiment that TAG Heuer has obviously taken to heart with the latest and possibly most stunning incarnation of their ultimate driver’s watch, the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph. Indeed, slowing down to occasionally glimpse at the rear-view mirror is something that TAG Heuer does and does well, and this year the watchmaker once again owns the vintage corner by channeling one of Jack Heuer’s personal favorites.
TAG Heuer has had a long history with motor racing, and because of this has become synonymous with racing chronographs, the most well-known of which is arguably the Carrera. Back in 1970 when the brand was still known as Heuer, the watchmaker released its first yellow gold automatic Carrera with reference 1158 CHN, and yes, this is the model that became a personal favorite of founder Jack Heuer and is the model that TAG Heuer references today.
Coming in at 42mm, the new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph shares its overall design with the standard Carrera Chronograph family. The difference here, however, is the use of 18K 3N yellow gold. Alas, with the rise of alternative materials like rose gold, white gold, and platinum in recent years the industry has tended to shy away from the precious metal. And let’s not even talk about the popularity of hi-tech materials like carbon and ceramics, the once go-to “luxury material” has been looking a bit tarnished recently. There is no denying, however, the timeless connection of a diver’s chronograph with a black and gold palette, especially the way TAG Heuer has executed it here.
True, we’ve seen this color combination in other chronographs before, but TAG Heuer has arguably the best claim to the black and gold combination because, aside from taking inspiration from the Heuer Carrera 1158 CHN, one of the brand’s most famous ambassadors, Ayrton Senna drove a 98T Lotus at the beginning of his career and it sported the classic “John Player Special” two-tone livery made legendary by Lotus Formula 1 cars in 70s and 80s.
The watchmaker builds on this unique and specific legacy with the same slim sloping bezel, gently brushed case sides, stout pump pushers, and distinctive sharply faceted lugs, all of which are present and accounted for here. The use of 18K 3N yellow gold, however, brings a brighter, more dynamic character to the proceedings, and only enhances the connection to the Carrera’s of the 1960s even more.
Sharply contrasting against the yellow gold case is a rich black sunray brushed dial, while two “azure” and gilded gold chronograph subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock, an inverted version of the famed Heuer reference 1158 CHN, add punch to the dial. Further, the indexes and hands plated in polished 18K 3N yellow gold enhance the dial’s legibility and elegance, while a discreet permanent second indicator and date window at 6 o’clock complete the tricompax layout.
Turn the watch around and the 21st century suddenly comes crashing back with a sapphire display caseback that showcases all the modern trappings of the in-house Heuer 02 movement. Indeed, the calibre has become the backbone of the brand’s higher-end models and offers very modern performance numbers including an impressive 80-hour power reserve while oscillating at 28,800 vibrations per hour.
Naturally, the finishing of the Heuer 02 is second to none and is consistent with its stainless-steel siblings with Côtes de Genève across the bridges, as well as a racing wheel inspired blacked-out skeleton rotor. This and the exposed gold column wheel simply complement the overall black and gold colorway of this new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph.
“The black and gold design proves just as attractive a combination today as it was in the 1970s. It expresses all the excitement, glamour, and thrills of racing in decades past and carries on Jack Heuer’s vision faithfully into a resolutely modern piece that exudes confidence, character, elegance, and sophistication.” — TAG Heuer
The new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph is matched with a large-scale black alligator strap with a gold pin buckle and shows that yellow gold, especially when executed properly, has major classic appeal, and still has a lot of gas in the tank.