There’s nothing quite like the pressure of replacing a highly successful watch. Sure, you can experiment with niche models and Limited Editions, where the cost of getting it wrong is minor and the financial fall-out quickly forgotten. But make a wrong move with a volume seller and it can be a “New Coke” case study all over again.
And so that makes the new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph 43mm Ceramic a critical watch, because it replaces the Carrera Day-Date Calibre 16- still the best-selling TAG Heuer model around the globe.
The reason that we have a new model is that supply of the Calibre 16 movement (typically sourced from ETA) has reduced significantly over the last 12 months, fortunately just as production of TAG Heuer’s own Calibre 1887 has stepped up. In addition to upgrading the new movement, TAG Heuer took the opportunity to fine tune the Day-Date range with a series of detailed upgrades, the most prominent being a new ceramic bezel.
Are these changes enough to distinguish the new model from the old and keep the 43mm Carrera at the top of the sales tree?
History: Calibre 16 Day -Date
The CVA2A10/11/12 models (Black, White and Brown dial respectively) Day-Date models were introduced as a premium, larger Carrera in 2008. In addition to featuring a 43mm case, the Day-Date Carrera borrowed several of the signature design touches of the Carrera Calibre 360 (below), including the silver double-digit minuterie, inner bezel design and double-crown.
We reviewed the Day-Date Carrera in late 2011, and while we liked the watch, we did note its busy dial and thick case. You can read the review here– including some thoughts from both Mark Moss and I on what we would have changed for the next model. We even got a couple right.
TAG Heuer now offer two 43mm 2013 Carrera models with the Calibre 1887- the Carrera Calibre 1887 43mm (below left) and the Carrera Calibre 1887 43mm Ceramic Bezel (below right). The closeness of the two model names is sure to cause some confusion, even if the two watches are very different in execution.
At first glance, the differences between the old and new model (see the comparison below) are minimal. Indeed, apart from the omission of the “day” feature from the calendar at 3 o’clock, we may well be looking at the same watch.
The removal of the Day function allows the TAG Heuer shield to move alongside the date window, while the “100 meters” script that used to sit under the Calibre 16 text has been deleted. While these changes do simplify the dial, I would have gone further and deleted the words “Chronograph” and “Automatic” from the 9 o’clock register.
And while we’re talking about dials, a special mention of the starburst Anthracite dial- it’s brilliant. The colour of the dial works perfectly with the bright red highlights and white finishing.
The hands are carried over from the previous model, with the three Chronograph hands featuring bright Red detailing.
Also new is the alternating brushed and polished finishes (the side of the case being brushed), in contrast to the Day-Date which had a polished finish across the entire case and bezel.
Bezel & Bracelet
One of the most significant changes to the new model is the upgrade to a ceramic bezel, a continuing trend across much of the TAG Heuer range. As we’ve detailed before, ceramic has the benefit of being more scratch-resistant than aluminium/ steel, as well as boasting a “glassy” finish. It’s a small change, but one that does make a difference when compared to the old model side-by-side.
The new bracelet (borrowed from the Grand Carrera) is a winner. There is nothing wrong with the 5-brick Carrera bracelet used on most Carrera models, but it’s nice to see something different. It’s a chunkier bracelet than the former model, something that complements the “oversize” feeling of the 43mm Carrera very well.
No surprises on the movement front- the Calibre 16 (ETA 7750/ Sellita SW-500) is replaced with the Calibre 1887, a more modern, TAG Heuer-made movement that happens to have the same dial layout (12-6-9) as the ubiquitous 7750.
The workings of the 1887 are on display via the sapphire case back, as is the extensive Cotes de Geneve finishing.
CAR2A10- Black Dial
CAR2A11- Anthracite Dial
It’s a colour combination that we’ve seen before on the Carrera range- the 2009 Limited Edition Lewis Hamilton Carrera 41mm tachymetre (CV201M- 2,500 examples) below. The Hamilton Carrera was launched to mark Lewis’ 2008 World Championship win.
The Anthracite dial is also available on a Grey leather strap, but our view hasn’t changed: Grey leather doesn’t work well, not a problem given how good the watch looks on the stainless steel bracelet.
CAR2A80- Carrera Racing Titanium
The third model in the new 43mm ceramic range is the Carrera Racing model, which features a titanium carbide coating on a Titanium Grade 2 case. We didn’t get a chance to see this model in the flesh, but it’s clearly the most overtly sporting model in the range, borrowing its style from the Grand Carrera RS2 (below).
On the Wrist
Enough of the background- how does the new Ceramic bezel Carrera look on the wrist? In short, very similar to the Day-Date model, which means that it looks good.
The only issue for me remains size- both diameter and depth. I still feel that 41mm is the optimal size for a Chronograph, but that is very much a personal view and one that depends on the size of your wrist.
Likewise, the watch case is thicker than I like- however, criticising this watch for being too large is like complaining that water is too wet- if you want a smaller Carrera, then there are plenty of options to choose from. People who buy this model actively seek out its larger size.
The Anthracite dial looks great on the bracelet. While the bezel appears Grey in these photos, it is in fact Black. What you see is simply the “glassy” finish I mentioned earlier that reflects the light.
The new movement is a step forward, as is the bezel, and combined with the choice of the brilliant new Anthracite dial, it’s reasonable to expect that the new Carrera will remain just as popular as the watch it replaces.
Personally, I would have made more changes to the design in order to make the new model instantly identifiable from the old. Then again, while I may have preferred a 41mm case with a cleaner dial, there is always the risk that many buyers wouldn’t.
Price & Availability- (Ref. CAR2A10, CAR2A11, CAR2A80)
Australian retail pricing for the Carrera is around the A$5,500 mark, but check with your local TAG Heuer dealer for pricing in your country. Expect to pay a premium for the Titanium model.
Interestingly, we understand that the Carrera Day-Date will continue to be sold alongside the new model, at least for a while. That will give potential buyers the perfect chance to compare the two watches side-by-side and see the differences for yourself.
To see more photos, click here for the gallery.
Lewis Hamilton Carrera: Ace Jewelers