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Heritage-flavoured variants have been a key part of the Carrera range since it was reintroduced in 1996. We started with faithful re-editions back in 1996, followed by the first TAG Heuer- badged retro Carreras in 2002 and eventually in the 2010s, a series of new designs that may have borrowed some vintage elements, but were thoroughly modern in execution.
So here we are in 2015 with TAG Heuer’s latest nod to its past- the Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 Telemeter. And while there have been several Carreras in the last 5 years to wear the “Heuer” logo, none of those have been as pure to the past as this new model. That purity doesn’t only come down to design- it’s all about the feel.
Switching between modern and vintage watches highlights how large watches have become over recent years. By modern standards, the original Carrera feels almost toy-like at 36mm, and feather light compared to the typical modern 41mm Carrera.
And this is what the 2015 Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 brings back to the table. Yes, it has the heritage look sorted, but more importantly it has a vintage-style “compactness” that offers something truly different to the modern Carrera range, even if the vintage crew will be quick to point out that at 39mm, it’s still 10% larger than the original.
While not a true “re-edition”, the new watch is clearly influence by past models, such as the Carrera 7753 SNT shown above. Given that these 1960s models are 36mm in diameter, why is the new watch larger?
While some of the rationale comes down to fashion, there is a practical reason: the movement. The first-generation Carrera exclusively used manual-wind movements, which are smaller than automatic movements thanks to the lack of a winding system. Those 1996 re-editions may have been faithful to the original size, but they too used manual-wind movements.
The increased case depth required for an automatic chronograph movement means that to keep the dimensions in balance, a slight increase is needed in the diameter. It’s no surprise that the second-generation Heuer Carrera in 1969, the first to use an automatic chronograph movement, was 39mm, the same as the new model.
TAG Heuer has been through this before with the 2002 Carrera series which introduced a 39mm case and automatic movements. Part of this new family was the 2004 40th Anniversary model, below, which shares many design elements with the new Calibre 18, including the dark charcoal registers and contrasting inner flange.
Now that we’ve sorted out the size of the Calibre 18, let’s look at the dial, which comes in only one colour: a beautiful warm silver with a starburst finish. It’s a different silver to that used on the Jack Heuer 80 Carrera, with more gold hues rather than a stark, “white silver”.
Note the way the dial “folds” away towards the outer edges (almost like a Pie-Pan dial) and isn’t truly flat. This helps give the illusion of a smaller dial, as does the placement of the hour markers, which are set in-board from the edge of the dial thanks to telemeter scale sitting on the dial rather than on the inner flange.
Contrasting with the silver face of the watch are dark charcoal (rather than black) sub-dials, hands and inner flange. Note how thin that inner flange is relative to the silver flange on the Carrera Calibre 17 below- it’s barely there.
So don’t think about compactness as being only about what the tape measures tells us- it’s also the design tricks used to help pull the watch inwards to enhance this sense of smallness, a contrast to the modern trend of expansive, open faces that push all the dial furniture outwards.
Case and Glassbox
While the Calibre 18 Telemeter uses the traditional- and now ubiquitous- Carrera case, the new model has a smaller, shallower bezel which sits lower than on other Carreras, such as the Calibre 17 COSC Carrera shown below. This helps to highlight one of the features of the watch- the “Glassbox”. This leads to an obvious question: “What’s a Glassbox?”
What TAG Heuer mean by Glassbox is that the sapphire crystal has a slight “dome” to it, standing well proud of the case rather than flush as with many watches. It’s a nod to the domed plexi crystals of the 1960s and 70s and has a definite vintage feel.
In profile, the Glassbox is even more obvious, as you see above
The other vintage flourish on the case is the design of the chronograph pushers, which hark back to the original 1960s Carrera, with their smooth, rounded finish. Yes, it’s a small part of the design, but another visual link that ties the watch closer to its origins and separates it from the modern Carrera range.
How to use the Telemeter Scale
While most Carreras celebrate their motor racing heritage with a tachymeter scale, the Calibre 18 instead offers a Telemeter scale on the outer edge of the dial. As Mark Moss wrote a while back:
It was usual for the telemeter to be the inner scale on a watch with multiple scales, rather than finding it by itself. You’ll note that it is marked in kilometres with divisions showing 1/10 km too and that gives away its function. As does the word itself, its components coming from the Greek têle, meaning “far”, and metron, meaning “measure” (or arguably the Latin metrum), so a way of measuring distance. Specifically, in this instance, range-finding.
The gist of it is to press the top pusher once when you see either the muzzle flash or smoke of enemy gunfire and press it again when you hear the detonation. The distance of the gun can then be read from the telemeter scale and, presumably, the range set of your own artillery to reply.
It’s pretty obvious why this scale became less popular after WWII but it’s still possible to find the occasional watch that includes this scale today, just not on any TAG Heuers.
On the Wrist
OK, enough with the theory, let’s get to the most important question- what is it like on the wrist? Well, in short it’s good. Really good. Its compact size and brilliant colour scheme may help it look great (which it does), but as we’ve pointed out several times, its compact dimensions means that it doesn’t just look vintage, it feels vintage.
Movement- Calibre 18
Moving to the back of the watch we have a sapphire crystal showing off the Calibre 18 movement, which while nicely finished, doesn’t stand out as being that different to other Carreras. This watch is a prototype which has been well-worn, hence some of the marks that you see on the rear case back.
As we’ve told you before, the Calibre 18 movement is made by Dubois-Depraz, who add their DD 2223 module to a Sellita SW300 base.
Price and Availability- CAR221A
So, we have the perfect Heuer Carrera- vintage style and feel with a modern movement. But there is a catch, and that’s the price. At this stage, TAG Heuer expects the watch to sell for 6,400 USD/ 4,900 EUR, prices which will be confirmed at Basel. That is on the high-side for a Carrera, but I do think the watch is special enough to command that premium, especially as it will be made in limited numbers (albeit not a limited edition).
Expect the watch to be available some time around the middle of the year (July).