Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Grand Carrera

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   1 May 2011   |   27 Comments  

The launch of the Grand Carrera range in 2007 was a crucial one for TAG Heuer. Not only was it the first new series introduced since the S/el way back in 1987, but the new range had the tough task of pushing into a more premium segment of the market and to an older set of buyers, many of whom may have never owned a TAG Heuer before.

The importance of the series meant that it took four years to develop, with lead designer Christoph Behling telling Calibre 11 about the countless prototypes and variations that were considered before everyone was happy that they had the right look. We also know that finding the right name also took some time, with “Vanquish” being a contender until late in the development.

Four years on, I was keen to take a closer look at the GC series. I’d spent a couple of weeks with both of the Calibre 36 models last year, but this was the first time that I had test driven the other three models- from the basic watch through to the elaborate Rose Gold titanium model. And as often seems to be the case, the model that I liked the most was the one that I thought that I’d like the least when the watches first arrived.

TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Design theme

The design theme of the Grand Carrera is given away by its name- a watch that takes the simplicity and sportiness of the Carrera and “premium-ises” it. Each of the models features several key design touches:

  • Hand applied logo
  • Applied hour markers
  • Double sapphire case back
  • Rotating System disc
  • Extensive Côtes de Genève finishing
  • Double-crown

None of these features on their own are especially remarkable, but when combined do give that feeling of quality. A more premium watch than a Carrera, albeit one that is less sports-orientated.

Each of the models is available with either a stainless steel bracelet or a crocodile leather strap, with the Chronograph models also available on a great looking rubber strap.

Supporting the premium look is a premium approach to movements: The GC is the only series in the TAG Heuer range not to be offered as a quartz version. Not only are all models automatic, but all are Chronometers, meaning that their automatic movements have been COSC certified.

The Rotating System Disc

Perhaps the design signature of the series is the Rotating System, (“RS“) disc used across the range. The discs replace the traditional sub-dials and are decorated elaborately with semi-circular, polished frames.

So why bother with the RS disc? It does give the Grand Carrera series a unique look, which in some cases is more legible than the reading the elapsed units from a dial (although it’s less accurate than a traditional dial as the units are in larger increments, as you can see above).

In reality the real benefit of the RS disc is that it allows designers greater flexibility on the shape and size of sub-dials- you certainly don’t need a full circle, or even a half-circle to accurately read the time. The sub-dial windows could be half the size that they are and they would still be just as legible.

But there is a downside to the RS disc system- and it’s one of perception rather than any lack of accuracy.

Some buyers are surprised that the disc does not rotate as smoothly as they expected, and wonder if something is wrong. The answer is that nothing is wrong, but what you see is the limitations of a mechanical movement amplified by the use of a disc rather than a thin hand.

If you look closely at the seconds hand on your automatic watch you’ll notice that it too doesn’t sweep around the dial smoothly. The limiting factor here is the speed at which the movement vibrates. Traditionally, a movement that beats more than 18,000 times per hour is considered to be “High-Beat”. The Calibre 6, 8 and 17 movements used in the models you see here all beat at 28,000 beats per hour, or 4 hz, while the Calibre 36 models beat at 36,000 beats per hour, or 5 hz. The more beats per hour, the smoother the hand or disc will rotate, but there will always be a degree of “jerkiness”.

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