Heuer Carrera 1964 Re-edition

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   20 December 2010   |   16 Comments  

It’s easy to get caught up in the hyperbole of writing about watches- reading most press releases you’d get the impression that every new model hand crafted in the Swiss Valleys was a ground-breaking chapter in that brands history. A technical and artistic revolution, all contained in a wristwatch.

But even with this warning in mind, let me put forward this view: the re-edition of the 1964 Heuer Carrera from 1996 is the single most important TAG Heuer (i.e. post 1985) ever released.

Try and imagine today’s range not only without the Carrera, but without the Monaco and without the special editions like the Silverstone. Imagine a range today that ignored the “old” Heuer heritage, from the innovation of the Mikrograph in 1916 to the images of Steve McQueen in Le Mans. Because if it wasn’t for success of this Carrera re-edition, then it’s easy to imagine that TAG Heuer would have once again turned its back on the past and instead focused solely on the avant garde.

As well as being a truly significant watch, the Carrera re-edition also comes with a great story. A watch that not only set a new direction for the brand, but also a watch that helped sell a company.

History of the Carrera

The seminal article on the history of the Heuer Carrera is this 2002 review by Chuck Maddox and Matthias Liebe-Kleymann, who describe in great detail how the Carrera evolved from its introduction in 1964 through to its “final” Heuer days in the mid-1980s and then its re-birth in 1996.

It was this article that inspired me to start writing this website, because I found that I went back again and again to re-read the “story” of the Carrera.

The other great source of information on the Carrera is the more technical reference table at OntheDash.

Read both of these links and you’ll know everything there is to know about the vintage Heuer Carrera.

The particular watch that the Carrera re-edition is based on is this Carrera 2447D, the best example of which below (from OTD) is co-branded with Fisher, but ignore the Fisher text and you can see how precise TAG were with the modern version.

The Search for Heritage

The Carrera was initially dropped around 1986, with stock continuing into 1987. The watch just didn’t fit the new direction- the “six features” and emphasis on the avant garde.

But ten years later, the Carrera was back- this time as a pure slice of nostalgia as you can see from the catalog scans below. So what changed?

The story that I have heard about the Carrera re-edition starts with the planned initial public offering (“IPO“) of TAG Heuer in the mid-1990s. Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) sold 40% of TH to private equity firm Doughty Hanson in 1995 and along with the management team, the parties were looking to tap into the growing market for luxury brands going public.

But there was a problem- apparently some of the advisers to the company became concerned about potential investors marking down the company because of the perception that TH was really just a marketing company- after all, they didn’t make movements- and they didn’t seem to have a real heritage story to help sell the romance of investors buying into a luxury brand.

And so to address this it was decided to re-launch the Carrera at Monza in late 1995/ early 1996. The company even invited back Jack Heuer to attend the launch of the Carrera, something Jack generously agreed to, despite the hurt of the forced sale of Heuer in 1982 still lingering. The renewed interest in Heuer’s heritage also extended to the book “Mastering Time” which the company commissioned to look back on the history of Heuer and integrate the new TAG Heuer into this story. The book was first published in mid-1996, only a few months after the Carrera re-edition was launched.

Whether this new-found focus on heritage helped or not is hard to say- but TH did indeed list on both the New York and Swiss stock exchanges in September 1996. The float was almost 20-times over-subscribed, but ominously, no new capital for future growth was raised- it was simply the existing shareholders getting out. As we now know, LVMH came along three years later to acquire the company and finally inject some funds into growing the business once again.

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