Hands on Review- TAG Heuer Carrera MP4-12C

Posted by: C11   |   29 January 2011   |   20 Comments  

While the big news to come from TAG Heuer’s pre-Basel collection last week was the Carrera Mikrograph, the release of the Carrera MP4-12C was just as eagerly anticipated, especially for the many fans who also closely follow the McLaren team on and off the track.

Last week we showed you the official press photos of the watch, but today we can bring you a detailed review from the launch that gives a better perspective of the intricate design of this Limited Edition watch, as well as an interview with TAG Heuer’s CEO on the development of the watch.

The Carrera MP4-12C (Ref. CAR2080, a Limited Edition of 1000) is the latest in a long line of TAG Heuer watches made for McLaren, which you can read about here and here.

So, lets take a closer look at this new Carrera, and in particular several aspects of the design that relate directly to the car, which is not surprising given the involvement of McLaren Automotive’s head designer Frank Stephenson (whose design credits include the Fiat 500, the Mini and the wonderful Maserati Quattroporte) in designing the watch.


The most well-known McLaren colour schemes are the red and white Marlboro colours used for almost 25 years on their Formula 1 cars and the Black, Red and Silver scheme that the team has used for the last 15 years. However, true aficionados know that the proper colour for a McLaren is the shade of Orange used on the Formula 1 cars of the late 1960s and the great Can-Am racers. Today the Formula 1 team will often test their new car in “McLaren Orange” before officially launching the car in the sponsors’ colours.

This Orange detailing can be found in several places on the watch, including the dial (The large Orange “0”), hands (Hour, Minute, Seconds and the Chrono.), Bezel and the stitching on the strap.


What makes this McLaren Carrera distinctive from other Carrera’s is the dial. It is the most interesting design aspect of the watch, and perhaps the most controversial. The dial is Carbon-Fibre with a sapphire window in the centre of the dial shaped as a large central circle with smaller overlapping circles either side. The window allows you to see the two Grand Date wheels and the perpetual calender wheel. Standing proud in the 12 o’clock position is a large Orange “0”.

The dial design links back directly to the Dashboard of the car, which also features a a large central circular dial (the Tachometer) and then two pods either side. Note that the Carrera uses the same font for the numerals as the central Tachometer on the McLaren, and the watch “starts” at “0”, just like the rev counter.

So why Carbon-Fibre? I’d argue that McLaren have done more to advance the use of this space-age material in cars than any other company. They were the first to make a Formula 1 monocoque from carbon composite in 1981 (the McLaren Ford MP4/1) and in 1992 the F1 was the first production road car to use a complete carbon-fibre reinforced plastic monocoque chassis. The new MP4-12C (The “C” standing for Carbon-Fibre) has a Formula 1-style tub that can lifted by a single person, yet is still incredibly strong.

The distinctive aspect of Carbon-Fibre is of course the weave, which you can see clearly on the close-up on the dial below. I’m sure that the decision to use Carbon-Fibre on the dial was one of the easiest and first decisions made by the joint design team.

Pushers and Crown

The Pushers have been designed to look like the top section of an engine piston- an easy way of distinguishing the watch from other Carrera’s. The crown has a nice rubber grip, the design of which I assume is influenced by the car’s tyres and is complemented by the McLaren “Tick” in the place of the usual TAG Heuer logo.

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