Heuer Carrera Re-edition - 1

Heuer Carrera 1964 Re-edition

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 brand’s history. A technical and artistic revolution, all contained in a wristwatch.

Heuer Carrera CS3110

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.

Heuer Carrera CS3110

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

Heuer Carrera Re-edition - 14The 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

Heuer Carrera Re-edition - 15

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.

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110Whether 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.

Design

Heuer Carrera Re-edition - 16The Carrera re-edition was launched with three models in the range- the Gold Carrera (CS3140), the black-dial Carrera (CS3111) and the watch you see below- the white Carrera (CS3110). The Carrera is probably the only Heuer design that I would call pretty- yes, there are other striking, beautiful designs- but pretty? Only this one.

The Carrera re-edition was true to the original Heuer Carrera 2447D in almost every aspect from the 36mm stainless steel case, to the pushers and crown and the dial and sub-dial design. The only real difference is that the original had the text “Carrera” on the dial. Ask collectors today which re-edition TAG Heuer they like the most and its usually universal that the Carrera re-edition is the best. Why? Because it’s the most true to the original.

In Chuck’s article, reference is made to the original having a white dial compared to the silver of the re-edition- I’d love to see the two watches side-by-side, because to me they look to be the same colour.

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110Note in the photo below the darker silver ring around the outside of the dial- and then take a look at the original Fisher Carrera towards the top of the page- TAG Heuer truly did get the details right on this one.

However, what did surprise me when I looked at these macro shots was the quality of the printed dial. Of course, it looks fine when viewed in life-size, but the Macro shots show some “bleeding” around the edges of the black text- not up to the standards of today’s dials.

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110The only downside I find with the design is the size. Yes, 36mm is true to the original, but it just feels too small by modern standards, although the smaller size does give it a certain elegance.

As the Carrera line made its way into the 2000s, TAG increased the size of the re-edition style Carrera to 39mm, which feels like the right size for the modern version of the Carrera.

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110

The Movement

All of the Carrera re-edition models are powered by the same movement- the manual-wind Lemania 1873. As the photo from Chuck’s article shows, the movement was beautifully finished in an era when the clear caseback were just an idea waiting to happen.

There is a real romance about manual-wind movements that gets lost in today’s obsession with cutting edge automatic movements. Sadly, there are very few around today- ETA phased out the manual-wind version of the 7750 some years ago, leaving only the old Unitas movements (as used in the Carrera 1) in the ETA range.

Heuer Carrera Re-edition CS3110

The Re-edition Range

The success of the Carrera re-edition meant that the re-edition series became more than just a one-off for TAG Heuer. On the back of the success of the Carrera, TAG Heuer expanded the Carrera re-edition range and introduced the Monaco re-edition in 1997. Other models such as the Monza (below) followed in 2000.

Heuer Carrera and Heuer Monza Re-edition

Heuer Carrera and Heuer Monza Re-editionEach of these proved to be a success, and TAG began to focus its entire marketing strategy around its heritage range. Every new concept watch since the early 2000s has been based on either a Monaco or a Carrera design. These models have become the two iconic watches in the range and the real heart of TAG Heuer- not just as re-editions but with contemporary versions such as the Grand Carrera and the Monaco Twenty Four.

And I’d argue that this re-shaping of the TAG Heuer range and the appreciation for Heuer all started because of this Carrera re-edition and its success. It may have been created to simply sprinkle a little “heritage dust” over the IPO, but the watch had a far greater impact than simply selling a few shares- what it did was to re-set the strategy for the entire brand and bring back an appreciation for those great watches of the past.

Want to find out more about the history of the TAG Heuer Carrera? Check out the dedicated Calibre 11 Carrera mini-site to see all ten generations of the Carrera from 1963-2013.

Photos: OnTheDash, Chuck Maddox

  • Justin Chang

    Thank you for another lovely and informative read David! Helped me pass the afternoon at work 😉

    The traditional 3-6-9 subdial formation still gets my vote over the current Carerra’s 12-6-9. Some may call us ‘old school’, but the 12-6-9 configuration just doesnt ‘balance’ out nicely. The more I look at my brother in law’s TAG Carerra, the more I like the Heuer era Carerra’s…

    It’s also nice to see a manual wind movement being reinstated rather than being replaced by a more recent automatic movement. This gives it a more ‘true’ nostaglic feel. Personally I find manual wind watches to have more ‘heart and soul’ compared to those powered automatic movements (hopefully I’m making sense here).

    In regards to the case, will it have a standard or display back David? A display back for this re-issue Carerra is one chance that TAG Heuer should not pass on (unlike some last minute changes and missed opportunities of their recent re-issues).

    I agree with both you and Miguel that none of the ‘hi-tech’ watches should come equip with croc straps. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall Girard (when they were in partnership with Ferrari) released a Ferrari limited edition that came with a kevlar strap. I’m sure for the price for a V4, they could provide an additional ‘hi-tech’ strap and release tool (similar to Panerai) for such timepieces.

    *Off topic – Ferrari’s partner agreement with Panerai expires this year, does anyone know which luxury watch maker Ferrari will be partnering with in 2011? I’m suspecting Richard Mille (Massa’s sporting one proudly).

  • You almost caught me by surprise, mate!

    I thought they were issuing another re-edition of the Carrera, faithful to the 1964 model but on a 42mm case… until I realised you were talking about the 1995 model.

    I'm highly critical of the new Carrera range. It just lost the horizontal disposition of the counters that has always characterized the Carrera line (and also the other Heuer lines) because of the adoption of the Valjoux v ertical counters disposition. Such a shame… another issue is the choice of straps; I was discussing it with Arno the day before the auction and we both agree: why do they have to put croco straps on every damn watch, especially the re-editions (or the Classic inspired lines?), even in a futuristic timepiece like the V4, that would require a more adequate kevlar hi-tech strap…

    Best, Miguel

    See you in Geneva in a few weeks time?

    • DC

      Hah, that would have been a surprise. I prefer the classic 3-6-9 to the 12-6-9…not impossible to do this with the Cal. 1887- just a new plate?

      Agree on the straps- too much crocodile. Although I really like the strap on the 300 SLR and Monaco Vintage Calibre 11. When I posted on the Rose Gold V4 I made the same point as you and Arno- a high-tech technical watch like the V4 shouldn't be on crocodile leather…just looks wrong.

      Yes, look forward to catching up

      David

  • Budi S

    I have re-edition CS3112 with copper dial and I love it so much….thx for review David

    Best regards: Budi S

  • wynonie

    Brilliant article David. As ever.

  • Karl

    Great spotlight on a great chronograph! I sought out the 1964 Carrera re-issue mainly for the reason it was a 36mm case, feeling the current Carrera’s (and many TAG’s today) are oversized and rather ostentatious. I originally had my heart set on the Monaco when it was re-released, but it just didn’t feel right on. Maybe I wasn’t used to the thick flat case after wearing the s/el and Link. Or perhaps the new Monaco wasn’t quite aesthetically correct compared to the original with the extra subdial at 6 o’clock. That said I’m so glad to see the re-edition of the grey 1133G Monaco!

    Anyway, a few years ago I managed to track down a NOS black dialed Carrera on a black leather strap (CS3111.BC0725). It felt perfect on my wrist and dial was easy to read with it’s classic lines. It took some getting used to hand winding after wearing automatic, but that is also part of the Carrera’s charm. I don’t wear it daily as it lacks a date function, which is superfluous on a chronograph, wouldn’t you agree?

    I’d like to get a perforated rallye strap (BC0726) to replace the plain black leather one. But now looking at the second pic from top (of the co-branded Fisher dial on a striped nylon strap) got me thinking, I might try the 18mm NATO strap I had for my Submariner. At least until some fresh rallye straps can be found.

    ps. Chuck Maddox was a true legend and luminary to watch aficionados. RIP

  • Alex

    I considered this watch my personal grail for two years, now I own one and I love, and I especially love the fact that it's truly faithful to the original one, diameter included.

    I never owned a 36 mm and I thought it would have been too small…well I was wrong, I found that there was…wisdom in this measure, it's very comfortable to wear.

    About the Monza, I don't honestly consider it a re-edition because the original Monza had nothing to deal with this "re-edition", not even the Camaro looks the same to, personally I'd love Heuer to re-issue that watch now that the fifth generation Camo is out.

  • DC

    Justin, to be clear, this is not a new model, but one from 1996…it has the standard steel caseback.

    This is my own watch and a special one for me- my wife bought it for me when we got engaged. I had just started getting interested in vintage Heuer watches, but wasn't ready to buy vintage, so this seemed like the next best thing. I was living in London at the time and bought it from Heuerboy.com

    It was a slipperly slope- after that came my first vintage Heuer…and then another…and, well, you know the rest.

    Karl, I never met Chuck, but I did swap several e-mails with him and found him to be incredibly friendly and helpful- his articles today are as relevant as they were when he first wrote them.

    dc

  • Justin Chang

    David – as previously mentioned in one of our corresponding emails, I have never had much knowledge regarding the Carerra's. Thank you for correcting me (as I've only just started scratching the surface of the Carerra history).

    Oddly enough, an identical one is up for sale at Armadale Watch Gallery. Sounds too coincidential, but it was posted up for sale very shortly after your article).

    Nic has had so many stunning 1133B's which makes me want to take out a small loan to buy a couple and keep in the safe… Stuck in the back and forth stuggle with the wife of a 1133B is not a 'want' but rather a 'necessity' (currently not winning the argument even after showing her AH's post auction prices)…

    • DC

      Hah, no I have nothing to do with the guys at Armadale Watch Gallery- although I did used to live just around the corner from them.

      As for the Monaco, I believe it was confucius who pondered "if you've bought a watch and your wife doesn't find out- have you really spent any money?

      dc

  • Fabrizio

    Dear David, a fitting piece as we've learnt to expect from you.

    I fully agree that this re-edition was the foundation of the current revival of old model and in some cases, like yours and mine, it's where it's all begun.

    Cheers,

    Fabrizio

  • Shauno

    Great write-up DC 🙂

    It was Chuck's article that got me on to Carrera's in the first place, and my first (Tag) Heuer was the CS3110 – I still think it's the best of the modern Carrera's, maybe followed by the "40 Years" CV2117.

    Such a pity none of the new/modern Carrera's come with 3-6-9 subdials

    Karl – I've got my Carrera Re-edition on a DiModell Rallye strap, and it's fantastic – though unfortunately can't use the original buckle.

  • Mark

    “In Chuck’s article, reference is made to the original having a white dial compared to the silver of the re-edition- I’d love to see the two watches side-by-side, because to me they look to be the same colour.”

    I wish Chuck was still around so we could work on updating that Carrera article together. So much more research material available now, and we’ve turned up more watches for review and comparison too.

    Chuck was right insofar as some of the original Carreras had more of an enamel white dial, but earlier ones were distinctly silver too and would indeed be a good match for the re-issue when placed side by side.

    Having gone on at length about preferring the 3-6-9 and 3-9 register layouts over the 6-9-12 of the current Carrera range, it’s nice to see that the view is shared by lots of others. Still, the 1887 has dropped the external bezel that was never on the original Carreras, so perhaps we may see a return to the classic register layouts (I will give them the 6-9-12 layout featured on the 510.511 and .523 but it was hardly the typical layout for Carreras).

  • Tony Williams

    I own an 18kt. Gold Heuer Carrera Re-edition (CS3140.BC0727)in mint condition and was curious about the current value. Can anyone shed a little light on such a subject? I am the original owner and have had much appreciation of this beautiful design.

  • Laz Andres Mesa

    I bought CS3111 a year ago and I am in love with this piece. Thank you for such a great review.

    • calibre11

      Thanks Laz

  • Alex Digenis.

    I love what the company has done with the re edition. I get the desire to stay true to the original. 36 mm is just too damn small. Too bad. I really like the easthetic of this classic. Also glad they are not adding “Tag” to the monicer.