The star of TAG Heuer’s 2013 Carrera range is the Carrera 1887 Jack Heuer Edition (Ref. CAR2C11), effectively a mainstream production version of 2012’s Mikrogirder concept that marks the 50th anniversary of the Carrera. While we have previously noted the growing conservatism of TAG Heuer’s recent watches, the new chronograph is a bold design, and
one that reflects the timing and stopwatch heritage of the brand.
The distinguishing feature of the watch is that the crown and chronograph pushers move from their usual location on the right-hand side of the case (or left-hand side if you are a purist) to the top of the case- a style known as a “Bullhead Chronograph”.
In many ways, the Jack Heuer 1887 is a partner watch to the successful 2012 Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Carrera. But while the 2012 watch took the classical approach, the 2013 model takes a braver route. We had a week with the new Carrera to put together this detailed review and see whether the bold approach pays off.
History & Background
While a Bullhead layout is new for TAG Heuer/ Heuer, others such as Seiko, Omega and Bulova
(above) launched several Bullhead watches in the 1960s & 70s. Perhaps the Bulova Chronograph above is the closest that Heuer ever came to a Bullhead, as the watch is powered by Heuer’s Chronomatic movement (note the crown is on the opposite side to the pushers, as was the case with all Chronomatic movements). But what TAG Heuer did with the Bullhead layout was something quite clever. The design philosophy of the 2012 Mikrogirder was to create a watch that combined the looks and timing focus of a stopwatch, with the style of the traditional Carrera. The way they achieved this was through creating a two-part case- a stopwatch case that isenclosed in a stainless steel “cage”. The Mikrogirder both literally and figuratively merges these two elements into a single watch.
TAG Heuer first unveiled the Mikrogirder 2000 as a concept watch at the 2012 Geneva show. The radical 47mm Mikrogirder delivered 1/ 2,000th second precision thanks to its innovative vibrating micro-beam regulating system. It was appropriate that this innovative movement was housed in a case with similar ambition. The Mikrogirder features an asymmetrical case, with the outer-skin “peeled back” to reveal the stopwatch hidden underneath.
TAG Heuer followed up the Mikrogirder 2000 with the Mikrogirder 10000, a gentle development of the original watch that featured a re-designed dial layout that greatly simplified the task of reading the time shown by the chronograph. The new Mikrogirder featured a treated Alligator leather strap, replacing the rubber strap on Mikrogirder I, and a “girder” design on the side of the cage, where the solid sides were replaced by a hollowed-out finish.
Carrera Jack Heuer 80th Birthday
At the same time as the Mikrogirder 10000 was launched, TAG Heuer also launched the Carrera Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Limited Edition, with its distinctive sunburst silver dial, anthracite sub-dials and red-tipped sub-dial hands. If the Mikrogirder was about the future, the 80th Birthday Carrera was a nod to the past, as demonstrated by the “Heuer” logo sitting proudly on the dial. As you can see from the photo above, the Jack Heuer 1887 and the Jack Heuer 80th Birthday models share a common design language, even though they are quite different in execution. So, simplistically, think of the Carrera Jack Heuer 1887 as being hybrid of the two watches above- the case of the Mikrogirder, matched with the dial and hands of the 80th Birthday Carrera.
Design- Carrera CAR2C11
Ok, enough with the background, let’s get into the watch itself.
The steel cage follows the traditional Carrera template, with the exception of the
hollowed-out girder style on the side of the cage. The cage is a combination of brushed and polished stainless steel and clocks in at a diameter of 45mm- 2mm smaller than the Mikrogirder, but the largest production TAG Heuer. The second element is the stopwatch case, which is made from titanium and coated with a polished titanium-carbide finish. The use of different materials and colours for each element of the case helps to highlight each part, yet the overall design is very much a harmonious one. As with the Mikrogirder, the steel cage is asymmetrical, and “falls away” to show off what is my favourite part of the whole watch- that gentle fall in the line of the steel cage that shows off the stopwatch case sitting underneath. It gives the watch a great depth and creates the optical illusion that a stopwatch is somehow balanced on your wrist. While the pushers are relatively conventional, the crown is oversized and features a rubber “over- moulding”, similar to the design on the Mikrogirder. The chronograph pushers are easy to operate, thanks in part to the design of the steel cage, which allows plenty of room for your finger.
Like the case, the dial is also composed of two parts- an inner-dial with the same silver sunburst finish as the Jack Heuer 80th Birthday model, and a dark outer-ring, which matches the colour of the sub-dials.
We hear that the first prototype of the Jack Heuer 1887 had a dial very similar to the 80th Birthday model- a silver sunburst finish across the whole dial. While we love that dial, it would have been a shame to repeat the design, so the late change is certainly for the better. The inner flange of the watch has a two scales- a tachymeter and a pulsometre scale, a combination found on several of Heuer’s 1970s models, including the Montreal and Monza. It’s an unusual addition to the watch (as the name suggests, a pulsometre allows a pulse rate to be calculated), but one that is a good excuse for an additional splash of Red. Note how the inner-dial bulges out at the sides to accommodate the sub-dials? This is a flourish that we’ve seen before, albeit for a different purpose. And speaking of McLaren,
the Red/ Silver/ Dark Anthracite colour scheme of the Carrera Jack Heuer reminded us of the colour scheme that McLaren has used on its Formula 1 cars of late- below is this year’s MP4-28.
The hand set used on the Carrera Jack Heuer 1887 is the same as the one used on the 80th Birthday Carrera, meaning a bright red central chronograph seconds hand, polished silver hands and red-tipped sub-dial hands. The only change is the length of the hands, as the larger case (45mm vs. 41mm) requires longer hands.
The Sapphire Case back shares its basic design with the steel back of the 80th Birthday Carrera- both feature the Heuer family crest and Jack Heuer’s signature in Red. Also engraved on the back is “Carrera 50th Anniversary”.
However, given the Bullhead layout, the Calibre 1887 is rotated 90 degrees. This allows the usual 12-6-9 layout to be transformed into a “tri-compax” 3-6-9. You can see how this looks if we rotate the watch sideways and merge the photo with that of a Carrera 1887.
- 3 o’clock: Chronograph hours
- 6 o’clock: Running seconds
- 9 o’clock: Chronograph minutes
On the Wrist
Despite the two-part case and large size, the watch doesn’t feel especially heavy on the wrist, no doubt partly due to the liberal use of Titanium. Nor did the watch feel too top-heavy, as can be the case with some of the 43mm models in the Carrera range. The strap is the same treated Alligator leather strap used on the Mikrogirder 10000 and is lined with a soft-touch Red rubber finish- the same lining used on the Jack Heuer 80th Birthday model. Another look at that asymmetrical steel cage….beautiful. One of the benefits of the Bullhead layout is that you’ll never have the crown or pushers digging into your wrist. In fact, overall I was surprised by just how comfortable the watch was. However, try as I might, it was never going to fit under the cuff of a business shirt- this one wants to be seen.
While I very much enjoyed wearing the Jack Heuer 1887 for a week, I did wonder if I would be happy wearing it every day- and the answer is that I probably wouldn’t. To me, this is a
“special occasion” watch and one that is perfect for collectors who will treasure wearing it every time it comes out of the box.
If I could only have one watch to wear everyday, I’d probably prefer the Carrera 80th Birthday watch, probably because it’s more conventional and classical. It is a watch that you could wear daily without having to think twice.
However, in terms of design, the Carrera Jack Heuer 1887 feels more special than a “typical” Carrera and is one of TAG Heuer’s stand-out designs in recent times. It’s a great combination of a classic chronograph dial, with the case of a concept watch, as well as being one that makes good use of the Calibre 1887 to at first glance appear as a classic bi-compax dial.
Price and Availability- Carrera Bullhead (Ref. CAR2C11)
The bad news for would-be buyers is that there you’ll need to be patient- the Carrera Jack Heuer 1887 is not expected to be on sale until October 2013. The anticipated price in Australia is A$7,950, which is about A$2,500 more than other 1887-powered Carreras and probably a fair price given the how distinct the model is to the rest of the Carrera range. You can see more photos of the TAG Heuer Carrera Jack Heuer
1887 Edition in the gallery here.