In Depth Review- TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Chronograph

The Carrera world has transformed significantly over the last three years, with the modular Carrera Heuer 01 ushering in an era of 43 and 45mm watches with rubber straps, squared-off lugs and skeleton-dials. That doesn’t mean that the classic Carrera has been forgotten (for example, the Calibre 18 Telemeter) but heritage themed watches have certainly taken a back seat to the bold, modern and bigger Carreras.

And perhaps that’s why it’s so refreshing to see two new Calibre 16 models added for the 2018/ 19 range during the 55th Anniversary of the Carrera, models that effectively replace the much-loved Carrera 1887 which was discontinued over the last year or so.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 CBK2112

There are two dial options on offer with a blue and black dial on offer (the same colour options as offered on the other pair of sporty Carrera twins shown at Baselworld. Let’s see if the newest model is a worthy successor to the 1887 model and whether this style of Carrera still has relevance in the Skeletonised world of today’s Carrera range.

Son of the 1887….

The easiest way to think of the new Carrera is that it is essentially a Carrera 1887 with a different movement. That may be true at a glance, but there are plenty of detailed differences as you can see below

  Calibre 1887 Carrera Calibre 16
Case 41mm Steel 41mm Steel
Pushers Mushroom Cylinder
Bracelet 5-row link 3-row H-link
Inner-flange Tachymeter  Minuterie
Sub-dials Two silver rings at 12 and 6 No silver rings
Date placement 6 o’clock 3 o’clock; silver window

While there are elements of the 1887 that we prefer (pushers, tachy scale and date window), there are also aspects of the new Calibre 16 design that represent a step forward, for example the “all-black”dial and 

Carrera CBK2110- Black Dial

Kicking off the new range is the black dial watch, reference CBK2110, which we tested on a leather strap.

Dial Up Close

The black dial offers a contrasting finish- a textured dial with azurage finish on the sunken 12 and 6 o’clock registers. The 9 o’clock sub-dial carries the same textured finish as that on the main dial.

Overall, the dial has a similar feel to the original Carrera 1887 “V2” and we like the simpler finish relative to the Carrera 1887.

Perhaps our only complaint is that there is an awful lot going on around the 3 o’clock register, with the “Carrera” and “Calibre 16” text, as well as the TAG Heuer logo and the date window with accompanying date window- leaving the Calibre text on the 9 o’clock register would have helped to even out the balance of the dial.

Case from every Angle

If you’re familiar with the heritage-styeled 41mm steel case used across the Carrera range over the last 8 years, then you’ll instantly recognise the new Calibre 16 case.

When compared to the 39mm case used on the early 2000s models, the biggest change is the use of the thinner bezel, which gives the watch an elegant look and keeps your gaze firmly fixed to the dial.

The case has a polished finish, and this is one area where we’d like to see a change, as it’s hard to beat the (more expensive) brushed case finish with polished contrasts. This is a change that would improve several current TAG Heuer models, such as the Link and the Autavia, and is part of the reason that the Monaco case is such a highlight.

Caseback and Movement

Inside the new Carrera is the Calibre 16 movement, which in the majority of cases for TAG Heuer means the Sellita SW500 movement, although the ETA-sourced 7750 is still used in some cases. The two movements are essentially identical, with a range of small modifications made by Sellita.

While previous Calibre 16 Carreras have used a steel case back (leaving the Sapphire casebacks for the in-house Calibre 1887), the new Calibre 16 models do offer you a window into the mechanics of your watch, which is a welcome feature.

Leather Strap- FC6266

The FC6266 strap is the same alligator leather strap as previously offered on the Carrera 1887. There is also a steel bracelet available (code BA0715).

On the Wrist

Given the Carrera 1887 was one of the best watches that TAG Heuer has made in the last decade, it’s hardly surprising that the newest Carrera looks equally good on the wrist. The dial is clear and legible and the look is a good balance between smart and sporty.

Given the large number of strap options offered by TAG Heuer today, it had actually been some time since we’d tried out the alligator strap that was basically standard on all Carrera and Monaco models for most of the mid-late 2000s. It’s hard to think of a better strap option than this one for the Carrera, which to our eyes looks and feels perfect.

Carrera CBK2112- Blue Dial

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 CBK2112

As our regular readers will know, we’re a sucker for a TAG Heuer blue dial. Yes, blue dials are the “in” colour of the moment, but TAG Heuer has always made truly beautiful blue dials. In fact, for a short period of time there was a blue dial Carrera 1887.

Dial Up Close

Let’s get a closer look at that amazing dial. It has a metallic sun-burst finish, unlike the matte finish of its black-dial brother and if anything the white text and silver hands and hour-markers appears even clearer than the black model.

Case from every Angle

Now is perhaps the time to revisit one of the questions posed in the opening paragraphs: is there still a place for a mainstream heritage Carrera, or has the world moved on to the larger modular models with in-house movements and use of exotic materials?

In our view not only is there still a place for the heritage Carreras, but it’s essential than TAG Heuer continues to invest in the “two sides” of the Carrera: the future and the past. It would be a mistake for the Carrera to be too anchored to the past, simply churning out copies of watches made by Jack Heuer more than 50 years ago, but that heritage angle is critical to the positioning of the Carrera.

In fact, by preserving the importance of the heritage-style Carrera models, it allows TAG Heuer to push the boundaries even further with the modular watches, offering buyers a clear choice.

Caseback and Movement

From this angle you won’t be able to tell whether this is the black or blue dial model- they’re identical at the back, with the same Calibre 16 movement and the same sapphire crystal.

Leather Strap- FC6292

As was the case with the black dial model, the strap offered on the blue dial is exactly the same as that previously used by the Carrera 1887- this time reference CAR2115.

You can also choose the H-Link bracelet.

On the Wrist

Swapping the black dial for the blue doesn’t change much in terms of the “on the wrist” experience, although does give another chance to note how nice the 41mm size is- we’re maybe old fashioned in believing that 40-41mm is the perfect size for a modern Chronograph.

The Carrera remains a fairly thick watch, but not one that feels too big on the wrist. Still, it’s something worth bearing in mind for new Carrera buyers.

Price and Availability- Carrera Calibre 16 Chronographs

So you might ask: why has TAG Heuer released a similar watch to the previous Carrera 1887, and why change the movement? The answer to the first question is easy: before the Carrera Heuer 01 came along, the 1887 was TAG Heuer’s top-selling model, so it makes sense to have a strong offering with the classic Carrera style.

The answer to the second question is a combination of strategy (the move to allow fit in-house movements to the modular models in the Carrera range) and price. These watches represent fantastic value for money, and while global pricing hasn’t been finalised, we’re hearing that it will cost around CHF4000 (Swiss Francs). The reason that price is so relevant is that this is the exact price of the Carrera 1887 when it was launched back in 2010.

So, in going back to the future on price it does feel like the new watch is moving the game forward. Those customers who love skeleton dials are more than well catered for, but now there is a wonderful option for those wanting to stick closer to the original Carrera DNA.

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