Comparing the TAG Heuer Carrera Range

It’s hard to imagine today’s TAG Heuer range without the Carrera, the model that was at the heart of the range for more than twenty years, but disappeared in 1985. Making its comeback in 1996- initially as a Limited Edition- the series is now available in more than 40 different models, with case sizes ranging from 39-43mm and an array of quartz and automatic movements.

While this breadth means there is no shortage of choice, it also means that it’s an ongoing challenge to give each of the models its own distinct look and feel.

While Calibre 11 has reviewed the Carrera 1887 and Carrera Heritage– the two key models in the 2011 range- before, this is the first time that we’ve been able to show the two watches side-by-side.

And while TAG Heuer continue to refine the Carrera design to differentiate the various models, one recent change to a long-standing model has created a bit of a stir….even though it’s a change that you’ll never see while the watch is on your wrist.

Carrera Heritage Calibre 16 vs. Carrera Calibre 1887

Above are the Carrera 1887 Chronograph (left) and the Carrera Heritage Calibre 16 Chronograph (right). Even though the layout of the registers is the same and both have a 41mm case, the two models are quite different in character. Starting with the dial, the key differences are:

  • Flat black dial (1887) vs. “Flinque” textured dial (Calibre 16)
  • Hour markers vs. Arabic numerals
  • “3D” vs. flat sub-dial outline

The two models also have different hands and- importantly- Chronograph pushers. I really like the design of the 1887 pushers, which have a much more interesting shape compared to the relatively plain barrel-pushers of the Carrera Heritage.

The changes made from the V2 to V3 Carrera 1887 have helped put more distance between the two designs, as the V2 1887 uses the same target sub-dial at 9 o’clock as the Carrera Heritage.

But while the differences between the two dials are pretty obvious, even at a glance, the same can’t be said for the differences in the outer-bezels.

The two Chronographs use an identical case, but have different outer-bezels.Below you see the Carrera Heritage on the left and the 1887 on the right. The flat section of the 1887 bezel (the part parallel to the crystal) is about half the width of the same part on the Heritage bezel, giving it a thinner look. This also means that the rounded part of the bezel on the 1887 has a sharper angle heading down to meet the case.

The impact of this is that The dial on the 1887 looks larger, as it seems to extent to the edge of the case. OK, we’re talking about a difference of mere millimeters, but when you only have 41mm in total to play with, a small change can make a difference visually.

The Case of the Disappearing Caseback

So now that we’ve covered off on the differences between the 1887 and Carrera Heritage on the outside, what about the inside? Below you see the Calibre 1887 on the right and the Calibre 16 (Valjoux/ ETA 7750) on the left, both visible through the sapphire casebacks.

In fact, the Sapphire caseback has become a design signature of the series. It’s used across the Carrera Heritage range- such as the Carrera Heritage Calibre 6 below:

And it’s used on most other Automatic Carrera’s, including the Calibre 5 Lady below:

But this use of Sapphire casebacks across the Carrera range is about to change, and it’s not a universally popular move.

Below is the well-known Calibre 16 CV2010, which has been part of the Carrera range for several years now. The 41mm Calibre 16 family includes other models, such as the CV2014 and CV2050.

While this watch has used a Sapphire case back, that is about to change with a running change being made for 2011 to an engraved caseback with the image of 5-time Formula 1 World Champion Juan-Manuel Fangio.

The Fangio caseback is similar in design to the one used on the 2010 300 SLR, essentially a Limited Edition version of the Carrera 1887.

Why the Change?

There’s been an active discussion on the change over at the Watchuseek TAG Heuer forum, with a range of theories for the reason ranging from a cost-cutting move, through to it being way to sneak out the ETA 7750 and instead use the basically identical Sellita SW500.

I spoke with TAG Heuer to find out the reasons for the change. The explanation is that, firstly, TAG Heuer want to provide a greater point of difference between the ETA-powered Chronograph and the Carrera 1887. The Calibre 1887 is made in-house, and so having a sapphire caseback on this model emphasises this point of difference.

The second reason comes down to the continuing 2011 TAG Heuer promotion of “150 Years of Mastering Speed”. You don’t get much more iconic than Fangio when it comes to speed.

I don’t agree at all with some of the views on Watchuseek that the name Fangio doesn’t still hold enormous value. Seems strange to me that using Steve McQueen is un-questioned, but people have somehow forgotten a 5-time World Champion who won almost 50% of the races in which he competed? Surely not.

No matter what the reason, it’s fair to say that the verdict so far has not been positive. Sapphire casebacks were unheard of a few years ago, but have quickly gained popularity. I can understand why people looking to buy a Calibre 16 watch might be disappointed, but for those who simply must have a sapphire caseback, there are still other options in the Carrera range.

Heritage Calibre 6 vs. Heritage Calibre 16

One last comparison shot that I wanted to show was the difference in the cases of the Carrera Heritage watch (above right) and Chronograph model (above left). The watch uses a 39mm case, while, as mentioned above, the Chronograph uses a 41mm case. But the real difference isn’t really in the width- it’s in the thickness of the case.

No prizes for guessing that the watch is on the left below:

Not surprisingly, the watch feels a lot lighter on the wrist than the Chronograph.

Carrera Calibre 5 Lady

Finally, I also borrowed two of the Lady’s series- both with Mother of Pearl dials and diamond highlights. It’s unusual for a Ladies watch to use an automatic movement due to a preference for smaller size. Ironically, the 36mm case is the same size as the Men’s re-edition from 1996.

I like the detailing on the Carrera Lady- take a look at the diamond hour-markers above.

For more photos of the 2011 Carrera range, including the Carrera Heritage, Carrera 1887 and Carrera Calibre 5 Lady, click here for the Gallery.

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.


  • wynonie

    Fascinating as always DC. The thing I struggle with is the the use of 'Heritage' to describe the newer Carrera which has less in common with the original, or indeed any, Carrera produced since the mid 60's.

    You have previously detailed how the 1887 is very much of the same DNA as the original series and as someone who owns several Carreras all the way up to the 1887 (MkII) this lineage is something I find very important and its something I personally enjoy.

    The hands on the heritage, the main hands as well as on the sub dials just don't say Carrera to me. They remind me more of the newer Monza – ie harking back to the 1930's and 40s rather than a nod to the period of interest to most Heuer/Tag Heuer enthusiasts ie the 60's and 70's.

    As is often the case with these changes, I defer to the design and marketing experts at Tag and I do accept that often such developments have grown on me – but I would rather have seen these more archaic touches used in a new heritage line that was based on watches that pre-dated Carrera, or an expansion of the Monza line. For me, the Carreras are about the racing spirit of those original 60s and 70s watches.

    There's been a lot of chat over on On The Dash recently about the Cote de Geneve finishes of the mid 70's Carreras, the stunning blues and browns which made Mk3 Carreras so special – this is the thing I would like to see next (I guess a bit like the SLR) in the further development of the Carrera.

  • Cowboy Bebop

    David, I feel like I woken up from bad nightmare, except I know that all of this is true… I can only hope that the new line does well… You get my drift?

  • Patrick-USVI

    Great review as always, full of the most useful information. I just want to touch on a few things.
    1st- This Fangio thing has our watch community and blogs in an uproar. I personally have never heard of him before, but I don’t discredit his amazing racing career. But I do think having a non-exhibition back on this CV2010 is sacreligous. Most people have never heard of him or care about him and would rather have a see through back. But doing away with the 7750 must have something to do with as well, because the new movement is not as nice looking, basic. I think in a way this also forces or pushes people into a higher end or higher priced watch (1887), especially when those two are side by side. Sales are down on the regular carrera (cv2010) and other colors, with the exception of the racing version (cv2014 I think) ever since the day/date came out. Now you mix in the 1887 and heritage, this fangio is not going to help things.
    2nd- This new heritage has some amazing colors, I like that blue a lot, and will add some excitement to the whole carrera family.
    3rd- As a side thought, what do you think about the new links? One thing I definitely don’t like or agree with is the dumbing down (I use the term lightly) of this family. For years you (tag Heuer) tell people this is your premier family, along side carrera, and how great it is. Now over the past 3+ years TH has been totally redoing and redifining each family, with link being last. Now the carrera has shot up like a rocket and is leading sales, and TH is cheapening this family. So you tell them for year how great it is, now at the end of this year, all of a sudden the customers are going to see these selling at such lower price points. I think they should have redid the family, and have it along with carrera as their two highend families.
    What do you all think about it? Anyone agree?

  • DC

    Wynonie, you make some really good points here. I guess they wanted a name like "Classic", "Vintage" or something similar to show that this Carrera paid tribute to earlier Heuer watches, even though, as you point out, it the style is derived from Heuer watches from the 1930s-50s, rather than the original 1964 Carrera.

    These days, we only seem to see CdG finishes on the movement.

    Cowboy, drift got!


  • Mark Moss

    I totally agree Wynonie – the "Heritage" touches on the Carrera are an anachronism, not at all reminiscent of any Carrera since 1964. They are a bit more subtle on that black-dialled watch than either of the white dials we've seen, but still look a bit out of place. I have no problem with them celebrating that heritage, but I don't think a Carrera is the best place for it. It probably makes for an easier marketing message ironically.

    Lots of talk of Côtes de Genéve dials? Keep an eye out for forthcoming articles on Calibre 11 is all I can say 😉

  • DC

    Hi Patrick, thanks for your considered post- a lot of issues there!

    – Sorry that you haven’t heard of him…trust me, he’s an all-time great. Well worth a google. I’m an F1 junkie, but I understand that many aren’t.
    – But I get your point- no matter who Fangio was, you want a sapphire caseback, which is fair enough. I prefer them too (although I love the 300 SLR, which doesn’t have one, so its not a deal-breaker for me)
    – I don’t know whether the Calibre 16 will be finished any differently now that there is no sapphire- maybe it will be?
    – Sales are down? You know more than me. I have no idea on the sales numbers for various models

    Agree with you on the blue- it’s my favourite, because its the most different to the rest of the Carrera range

    – I don’t agree with your points on the Link. TAG Heuer can’t re-do all of the series at the same time, so it makes sense to spread out the life-cycle of the various models. The Link is the number 1 launch this year, so I don’t see any signs that the series is being neglected?
    – If anything, the New Link seems to be pushing higher up market…I don’t see any signs of “dumbing down” the range or that the price is being lowered (if only!)

    For the record, I’d lean towards a Carrera over a Link any day of the week, but that’s just my personal preference.



  • Mark Moss

    I don’t know that I’d describe the lack of an exhibition caseback as sacrilegious really. Glass casebacks is a relatively recent trend – as far as Carreras go, none of the original watches had them, nor did the initial re-editions or the automatic versions that came later. I think they only came in with the Vj 7750 models so that’s quite a lot of Carreras that don’t have them.

    I am a fan of F1, but also of movements. In the case of modern automatics though, most of what you see through an exhibition caseback is a whacking great rotor that isn’t particularly aesthetically appealing anyway, so I wouldn’t miss the see-through back on any Vj 7750 watch. A 72 is much more attractive but those were always covered up.

    I can see your point though. I think the most equitable solution would be to offer the choice – just as there is a model code for the watch on a strap and another for the watch with a bracelet, why not use another digit to show whether it comes with the Fangio caseback or a sapphire exhibition back? Everyone wins then, right?

  • DB10

    Reading this has prompted me to clean the caseback on my 1887..getting a bit grimy, sitting in a muggy office. The dial gets treated far better! While I do like the sapphire casebacks….variety is the spice of life, and mixing your watches up is a good thing. Certainly if the casebacks have engraving like the Fangio or SLR versions. I like both of those. If you've bought both the regular 1887 and the SLR you can have the best of both worlds!

    I think the Fangio caseback is actually very nice. TH could be on to something…there have been plenty of people linked to TH or the Heuer of old, who could appear on casebacks (maybe limited edition models) in the future…be it Steve McQueen (for the 50th anniversary of the Monaco?), Senna, Ickx, Siffert…..

  • DC

    Hi DB10,

    I like the idea of having a series of casebacks- next year is Jack Heuer's 80th birthday, so that may be a good place to start.


  • Jack

    Hi guys,

    I've been following your articles for a while now and have thoroughly enjoyed reading them without ever commenting.

    I feel the need to for this article in particular though and it's very clear that sapphire casebacks have become hugely popular, I can't argue either if I'm honest, the 1887 is just beautiful. However, for watches such as the cal. 16 I feel that Mr Moss' point has hit the nail on the head. A variety of sapphire casebacks to enjoy the movements in all of their glory and for those that enjoy a bit of history (while keeping true to the racing heart of the Carerra) an engraved caseback of a motoring great.

    The more variations the better in my opinion!



  • FredB

    Hello DC,

    Thanks for your fantastic articles.

    I totally agree with Patrick-USVI concerning the Fangio back case… despite the fact he was a fantastic pilot, i’m fine with a “Fangio” back case for special limited editions, but not for the standard model… this is a non-sense… anyway…

    To me, the 1887 v2 or v3 is not a replacement of the Caliber 16, as I don’t think they are as sporty as the “old” caliber 16.

    However, the V1 with the external tachymeter was the best version. This is of course my personal point of view.

    Does anyone know if there is a way to obtain a V1 somehow?

    I’m a bit disappointed by TH for their recent changes :
    – Fangio back case on the CV201x
    – Carrera 1887 V3 is not as nice as the initial V1
    – The new oscillating mass for the 1887 looks really cheap

    Hope we’ll have some nice surprises soon 😉

    Regards to all


  • DC

    Hi Fred.

    No, the V1 was never sold and was only shown as a prototype. Your best option is the new 43mm Carrera 1887 which has some of the design cues of the earlier 41mm 1887s.

    Everyone has their favourite with the Carrera 1887- I preferred the second version…felt that the first was too "flat" in the flesh.



  • FredB

    Thanks for your reply. 43mm is too large, my wrist is quite thin and the limit is 41-42mm max

    I talked recently to a watch maker who works for LVMH. He thinks he could maybe install a link bezel (it has a tachy on it) on a v2 to make it look as a v1…. Maybe that's the trick…

    He's looking for the spare parts and see if it is feasible…. i'll let you know if it works…

  • DC

    Thanks Fred- I'd be interested to see that.


  • Paul B

    Hi,as a new owner of a TH watch,I wish in one respect I could have read some of the interesting article that are on this site before purchase,However I did chose the Carrera watch, it is actually a present from my family for my 60th birthday,and looked at the 1887 and the calibre 16,but as there was a £1000 difference in price,I chose the 16,both beautiful watches,my only niggle is,with the heritage chrono,the 6 register hand actually obscure the date when set to zero,but one thing that sold me on this was the crystal back,i honestly think this makes the watch,