The first TAG Heuer watch launched under the stewardship of new CEO Stéphane Bianchi has been unveiled today in Geneva- the 2019 Carrera Heuer 02T Nanograph.
While the watch itself is a development of the tourbillon Carrera Heuer 02, what makes the new Carrera special is that it is the first watch to use a TAG Heuer-developed and made carbon-composite hairspring. And as we’ll explain shortly, that new hairspring is a very big deal. It’s from this hairspring that the Nanograph gets its name, with the hairsping featuring a nanoscopic (one million times smaller than a millimeter) carbon molecular structure.
But it’s not just the insides of the Carrera Tourbillon that are new for 2019, with the Carrera 02T getting several new design features.
The Carrera Nanograph has a 45mm case, with the centre case made from titanium (coated in black titanium-carbide). While the official press release says that the lugs are also titanium, they do appear to be made from carbon, or at a minimum feature a carbon-style finish, a detail we’ll confirm over the coming days. What is certainly carbon is tachymeter bezel insert.
The watch predominantly features a”phantom” all-black colour scheme, offset by the brilliant bright neon green contrasts on the tips of the sub-dial/ central chronograph hands, the aluminium bridge of the tourbillon and rings around the centre case and top chronograph pusher. It’s a welcome departure from the usual TAG Heuer “battle colours” of Black and Red, and reminiscent of the colour scheme used by the Aston Martin-branded TAG Heuer watches.
The design signature of this watch is the use of hexagons. Why hexagons? Because carbon, the material used for the new hairspring, has a molecular structure of a hexagon with carbon atoms at each corner.
Hexagons are featured prominently on the new dial plate, which gives the Carrera Nanograph a different look to the existing Tourbillon models.
The Hexagon theme continues on the updated oscillating weight, which features an alternating sand-blasted and fine-brushed finish. Also carried over to the back of the watch is the colour scheme, with the text on the oscillating weight and the column wheel finished in neon green.
The 2019 Nanograph introduces a few design changes from the existing Carrera Heuer 02T Tourbillon range:
- New dial plate
- Upgraded leather strap with new design
- New crown design featuring hexagon-style grip
- Revised end-piece style with “step-down” centre, replacing the flat style
While the a gentle evolution, there is no mistaking the two generations of the Carrera Tourbillon and hopefully in 2019 we’ll continue to see the dial plate evolve further towards offering a traditional dial alongside the industrial semi-skeleton look of the original.
The Carbon Composite Hairspring
The big news of the Carrera Nanograph is the new carbon composite hairspring, the coiled spring that ensures the balance oscillates at a constant frequency.
Traditionally, almost all hairsprings used in the Swiss watch industry were made by Nivarox, a specialist supplier (and part of Swatch Group) that back in 2012 supplied 80% of the industry. You can read more about the strategic importance of the supply of hairsprings from this article we wrote back in 2011 following an interview with TAG Heuer’s then CEO, Jean-Christophe Babin.
Less than 6 months after that article, these strategic risks to TAG Heuer were highlighted when Swatch group decided to stop supplying hairsprings to TAG Heuer for the Calibre 1887, forcing TAG Heuer to seek alternative supply from Seiko and Atokalpa. About this new supply agreement, we wrote that:
We see this as an interim step and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see TAG Heuer- either on its own or as part of LVMH- making its own hairsprings in Switzerland within the next 10 years
Ensuring an independent supply of hairsprings has long been a strategic imperative for LVMH, and TAG Heuer has taken this opportunity to design something quite special.
The new hairspring was designed under the guidance of Guy Sémon, CEO of the TAG Heuer Institute (note the change in title- Semon was previously Director of the Research Institute for the Watch Division of the LVMH rather than TAG Heuer) by a team of TAG Heuer mathematicians, physicists and chemists.
TAG Heuer identifies several benefits of the new hairspring:
- The lightweight, low-density hairspring is virtually unaffected by gravity and shock. In TAG Heuer’s lab, watches were tested up to 5,000 g/1 m fall onto a hard surface – metal hairsprings bent, silicon hairsprings broke, while the carbon-composite hairspring remained completely intact
- Perfect concentric oscillations are made possible thanks to the carbon-composite hairspring’s geometry and improve the precision of the watch
- The carbon-composite hairspring is produced with the collet already attached; usually, this small part, which attaches the metallic hairspring to the balance wheel axis, requires complicated assembly and generates further inaccuracy
- The carbon-composite hairspring is completely antimagnetic, which eliminates the issue of inaccuracy being introduced after a watch comes into contact with a magnetic source
- Optimal thermal behaviour and aeroelasticity have been achieved by pairing the carbon-composite hairspring with an aluminium alloy balance wheel.
TAG Heuer is the exclusive manufacturer of these hairsprings, which are designed and produced in its in-house laboratory in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
You may recall that TAG Heuer’s LVMH sister brand Zenith announced in 2017 its own hairspring based on a matrix of carbon nanotubes and graphene in the El Primero Defy 21 movement. Given the involvement of Guy Semon and the TAG Heuer team in the development of that movement, we wonder whether there is any similarity between the two hairsprings- something we’ll look into and update this article as more news comes to hand.
Price and Availability- Carrera Nanograph Ref. CAR5A8K
The 2019 Carrera Heuer 02 Tourbillon Nanograph is a limited edition of 500 watches and priced at EUR23,200, a significant premium over the standard Carrera Heuer 02 of around EUR7,000 (depending on model).
And lucky buyers don’t just get the watch (!), but also this cool box, which features an integrated watch winder.
We expect that the Nanograph hairspring will- in time- find its way across more watches the TAG Heuer range, likely reserved for those models with a Chronometer-rated movement. The Carrera Heuer 02T may well be the first Nanograph, but it won’t be the last.