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The Heuer Carrera, named after the gruelling Carrera Panamericana race in Mexico City, was first introduced in 1964 and soon became a very popular model within the Heuer line up. Along with the Heuer’s Monaco and Autavia, the Carrera was the first watch to house their Calibre 11, itself the first ever self winding chronograph. Amidst the quartz crisis the Carrera range disappeared from the catalogue in 1985. Once the mechanical watch industry had recovered Tag Heuer re-introduced an incredibly close proximity to the original Heuer Carrera in 1996. There are now over 40 models available in this range. Here are just a few ways in which Tag Heuer successfully use this classy yet sporty flexible design:
The Carrera has also been used for some of the most exciting watches to be introduced by any manufacturer in the last few years:
The Mikrograph Flying 100. So called because it has the ability to display recorded times down to a 100th second. This is a showcase for incredible innovation and technical ability:
Image courtesy of tagheuer.com
The Mikrotimer Flying 1000. So called because it is, yes you’ve guessed it, the first ever mechanical wrist watch to ever be able to display recorded times down to 1000th of a second! The peerless innovation and technical wonderment required the invention of an escapement that runs at a mind blowing 3.6 million vph or, even more impressively sounding still, 500 times every second. This is no look-at-us concept that has no real world value due to reliability and accuracy issues. Tag Heuer have announced that this watch will be available (to those of us rich enough) once they have created a system that allows for a greater than 90 seconds power reserve for the stopwatch:
Image courtesy of tagheuer.com
Tag Heuer also decided to beef up the design ever so slightly in 2005 when they introduced another incredibly innovative and aesthetically distinctive timepiece, The Grande Carrera with the RS (Rotating System) display. Please look out for my review on this range from Tag Heuer soon.
The Grande Carrera case will be the guardian of yet another piece technical brilliance announced this year: The Pendulum:
Image courtesy of tagheuer.com
Now behold the latest, and probably greatest (value wise), use of the long lived and much celebrated Carrera: The new 1887 with the new in-house Cal.1887.
The Calibre 1887 is Tag Heuer’s fifth ever in-house movement. The rest were all conceived when they were simply called Heuer. It was released to the public at the end of 2009. There is no arguing that this movement is 100% in-house and Swiss made. However, the movement was originally designed by Seiko, as the 6S37, and Tag Heuer have bought the rights to produce it in Switzerland. This resulted in Tag Heuer receiving some negative press when this was first announced. However, I do not personally understand the issue. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel.
It should be pointed out now that Seiko create some incredibly innovative and beautifully finished high end movements. This is not so well known in many markets other than Japan. Their global respect is slowly gathering momentum with the introduction to multiple world markets of the amazing Spring Drive watches and their high end Grand Seiko line.
The technical specifications of the 1887 movement include:
• 320 components
• 37 jewels
• 28,800 vph
• 50 hours power reserve
• Column wheel chronograph
• Quick change date feature
Tag Heuer have quoted that in 2010, their first full year of production, they made about 15000 calibre 1887s. In 2011 they hope to ramp this up to about 50000. Despite Tag Heuer claiming that they will only use the movement in a select few models this will make them the second largest manufacture of in house mechanical movements in Switzerland!
Almost all of the components are made in Switzerland and most of them are made by either Tag Heuer or Cortech, who are owned by Tag Heuer. The plates, bridges and oscillating weight are fabricated and part assembled at one site, in Cornol near Jura, before being shipped to a second site in La Chaux du Fonds for final assembly (both manual and automated) and testing.
Tag Heuer have been very astute with the design of their 1887 model. First of all they have decided to create a very classy, almost dress watch, aesthetic. For me this is a clever way of announcing their new in-house movement because it will reflect the type of demographic who will be interested in the originations of the movement itself. Tag Heuer are one of the leading brands when it comes to sports watches but I do not think that using a bold over-designed diver’s oriented outline would represent the importance of this new courageous stage in their eminent history.
Secondly they have used some intelligent design details that have resulted in one of the classiest chronographs on the market. For a start there is no tachymetre on the chapter ring or bezel. This allows for a cleaner design with simple markers that highlight readings down a quarter of a second. This further permits the use of a very slim and neat looking bezel.
For the dial Tag Heuer have gone for refined symmetry by using slim hands, equally slim applied hour markers, a date window incorporated into the lower subdial and, cleverest of all, a seconds subdial that simply has markers at the top and bottom.
Of course, some may argue that this may be detrimental to reading the seconds accurately but, in all honesty, I didn’t find this an issue at all. After all, there is a bold and incredibly legible chronograph seconds hand if you do need to tally a few seconds.
The 1887 is available with various dial colours of black or silver. There is also a dial variant for the black. The second is shown below but personally I prefer the one I was leant with the simple flat matt dial.
The dimensions of the 1887 suit me perfectly and I also think they suit the watch perfectly as well. There is no getting away from it: I am vertically challenged and weigh about 9 stone sopping wet through. This may be a surprise to those of you who know me virtually but my large personality is really not reflected in my physical dimensions. Therefore, I prefer a watch no greater than 44mm.
To give watches that psychological reassurance of strength and reliability through heft I do, therefore, prefer tall watches. The 1887 has a diameter of 41mm. This is perfect for an elegant watch with dressing up aspirations. The lugs extend substantially from the case which gives the optical illusion of a larger case. The height is an almost imposing 16mm.
Furthermore, the dial takes up as much real estate of the overall diameter as is just about physically possible which aids this deception. This gives the 1887 a schizophrenic disposition. It is at once beautifully graceful when viewed full frontal and sporty when observed on the wrist.
The 1887 is equally at home whilst accompanying formal or casual attire. It really is one of those watches you could wear in all situations and it would not seem out of place. In fact it would be totally suitable.
My personal interaction with this new movement leaves me with a sense that this is truly a high end movement, despite its original design philosophy as a tractor movement. The mainspring winds up smoothly with a nice tactile feedback. The pushers are easy to operate with just the correct amount of resistance. The date changes at midnight (sounds obvious but doesn’t often happen with mechanical movements). Finally, the automatic cal.1887 movement is not COSC certified but the example I had the pleasure of exploring performed well within the COSC regulations. Reliability will have to be measured over time but when have you ever heard of an unreliable Seiko designed movement?
Tag Heuer have made the wise decision to show off their new in-house movement through the inclusion of a sapphire glass exhibition case back. As a self confessed horolophile (I have even made up this word up for my infliction) I applaud manufactures when they show off their new movements in this manner. The arguments of slightly increased price and reduced water resistance are irrelevant in my opinion. The extra cost versus being able to see the wonderfully detailed movement is negligible. It’s like buying a home by the sea and not having any windows because they cost more per square meter than bricks and mortar. Tag Heuer, along with others, have proven that 100m water resistance is perfectly feasible with a sapphire case back. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who would need more than 100m water resistance for a watch such as this, and I know a few amateur divers. Also, I do believe that the Water Resistance on the 1887 is limited by the non-screw in crown and not the caseback. This decision to have a simple push in crown is perfectly acceptable because it facilitates ease of use without compromising the real world water resistance levels.
The 1887 is phenomenal value for money given its in-house movement and usual Tag Heuer refinement and build quality. However, a couple of elements of the watch possibly indicate a working-to-a-budget mentality. The inclusion of a well built deployant clasp is suitable but the leather strap isn’t quite as well made. It creaks against itself and the case to the point of being annoying. I’m sure this will wear in but I have seen much nicer straps on less well appointed and less deserving watches. The other criticism I have is with respect to the lack of lume. The image I took below was with a 4 seconds exposure after placing the watch in direct sunlight. Normally looking at photos of other watches taken in this manner would be akin to having LASER eye surgery. The lume just about does its job but I would have expected more from a flagship model from one of the leading watch manufacturers.
In conclusion: I absolutely love the 1887. I’ve slowly been converted to a big fan of Tag Heuer in the last few years. It started with the innovative and technically brilliant V4, was further amplified by the incredible Mikrotimer, Mikrograph and the Pendulum and has just been augmented by the 1887. Their R and D endeavours have been equalled by their quality control levels and Tag Heuer are now more of a high end watch manufacturer than a producer high street plastic quartz watches for the masses, which they arguably were in the mid-1980s. I actively search out Tag Heuer’s press briefings during BaselWorld week and I’m never left wanting.
The 1887 is the perfect countenance for Tag Heuer’s new in-house movement. It is elegant and classy and yet strong and sporty. The latter tend to typify Tag Heuer’s design philosophy so I’m so pleased to see them reel the design time in and opt for understated and yet utilitarian chic for this new chapter in their distinguished history.
All words and pictures by Richard Atkins and Tag Heuer (unless otherwise stated). This article may not be reproduced in full or part without the permission of the author.
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