As the Carrera Heuer-01 range continues to expand, we’ve been able to get our hands on one of the most anticipated models in the new range- the Black Ceramic Edition. Yes, we’ve had a phalanx of “blacked out” Carreras over recent years, but those have either been coated steel, titanium or carbon fibre, rather than ceramic. In fact, the Carrera Heuer-01 Black Ceramic Edition is the first ceramic case offered on a men’s TAG Heuer watch, after the use of the material on the women’s Formula 1 range over the last few years.
Firstly, a quick dip into the chemistry books. Ceramic is inorganic, nonmetallic material that offers several advantages over more traditional watch materials, principally its lightness and hardness. The hardness of the case is important when it comes to being resistant to scratching- remember that whether a case scratches or not depends less on whether it is coated in a plating or PVD finish, and more on the hardness of the base metal or ceramic.
So, we have an indestructible, yet lightweight case material! Well, not quite. While ceramic is a very hard and light material, it can be brittle, meaning that it can shatter on high impact. But in practice this doesn’t make ceramic any more or less practical for day-to-day use than steel, unless you plan to subject your watch to continued high-impact strikes. And if this describes what you want in a watch, then you really should be looking at a quartz G-Shock rather than a mechanical watch.
The 45mm Heuer-01 Carrera is one that we’ve covered extensively in the past, including our recent review of the Rose Gold & Titanium Carrera, so let’s see how its “full black” ceramic brother differs. It’s important to note that there are now two Heuer-01 Ceramic models, the standard model reviewed here and in 2017 a Full Black Matte Ceramic (Ref. CAR2A91) model was added to the range.
Case and Design
The new Carrera uses the now-familiar Carrera Heuer-01 design, meaning a 45mm, 12-piece modular case. While the look may not be new, the case materials are, with the majority of the watch made from ceramic. To be specific, most visible components are ceramic, with the only steel parts being the inner box section and the case back, and that’s to ensure water resistance is maintained.
The ceramic has a highly polished finish, which looks amazing…when it’s clean. As you look through these photos you’ll be able to see several fingerprints on the case despite our best efforts. This is a case that attracts smudges and fingerprints like a magnet, so you’ll spend plenty of time wiping these away with your corner of your shirt. That’s the price you pay for the high-gloss sheen, but it’s one worth paying.
Because all external case components are made from the same material, the Black Ceramic Edition has a more harmonious look than the other models in the Heuer-01 range, which typically combine contrasting metal finishes, for example, rose gold with black titanium. But here there is nothing but glassy blackness and it looks fantastic.
While the Ceramic Black Edition doesn’t carry TAG Heuer’s “Phantom” or “Full Black” labels that were used on similar watches in the past, make no mistake that either of these monikers would describe the watch perfectly. Every part of the Ceramic Edition is blackened for a stealth look, including the use of silver/ grey engraved text on the bezel rather than the usual bright white.
The easiest way to describe the dial is that it’s the Skeleton brother to the Carrera Heuer-02 Phantom, meaning we have the same skeleton dial as the other Heuer-01 45mm models, but this time with darkened surfaces and grey lume on the black gold hands.
The result is a very sporty, technical look, albeit at the cost of a little dial legibility. In our book one of the ways to provide dial legibility is the use of contrasting colours, which is why the panda-style chronograph dials are so effective. In this case, the blackness of the hands does blend into the dial, a fact that we think won’t worry prospective buyers one bit.
As with all Heuer-01 models, the standard bracelet offered is the rally-style rubber strap- although this time there is no steel bracelet option. As we’ve said before, we’re a fan of rubber straps on sporty watches, and this one is particularly well designed, integrating both the TAG Heuer shield and designed with angled edges to match the lines of the case.
The clasp on the deployant strap is made from titanium, rather than ceramic, and is coated in titanium carbide for the all-black look. While the rubber looks very similar to the strap offered on the TAG Heuer Connected, it’s a higher grade material, feeling softer to the touch.
Carrera Full Black Matte Ceramic Edition- CAR2A91
A brief pause at this point to show the second Black ceramic edition of the watch, which TAG Heuer call the “Full Black Matte Ceramic” Edition. So what’s the difference between the two watches? In essence, the watch featured in this review, CAR2A90, which has a polished ceramic finish and the new model, CAR2A91, which has a matte ceramic finish. The only other difference is that the matte ceramic model is offered with a ceramic bracelet. Here are a few shots of the Full Black Matte Ceramic Edition.
Movement and Caseback
Inside the Ceramic Black Edition is TAG Heuer’s own Calibre Heuer-01, a development on the Calibre 1887 chronograph movement that has been in production since 2010. We expect that the Calibre 1887 name will disappear over the next year or so, meaning that the existing Carrera 1887 models will either be phased out, or migrated across to Calibre 16 movement. It will only be the “new look” modular 43mm and 45mm Heuer-01 models that will continue to use the movement.
Interestingly, we still haven’t seen the Heuer-01/ Calibre 1887 movement offered outside the Carrera range and perhaps with the imminent arrival of the CH80/ Heuer-03, that may continue to be the case.As we covered earlier, the caseback is titanium-carbide coated steel and offers a sapphire case back to show off the detailed finishing of the movement. It’s a nicely decorated movement too, with its red column wheel and Côtes de Genève finishing on the main bridge.
On the Wrist
Given the watch’s light weight and the use of a rubber strap- rather than steel bracelet- you’d expect the watch to feel light on the wrist, and so it proves. We’ve tried to take a few angles here to show you the legibility of the dial in different light, and you can see that reading the chronograph at a glance will be challenging, but reading the time is straightforward.
Price and Availability- Carrera Heuer-01 Black Ceramic Edition CAR2A90
The 2016 TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Black Ceramic Edition is in stores now, albeit in small numbers. Pricing is very sharp at US$6,300, which to give you a sense of relativity, compares to US$9,500 for the Rose Gold & Titanium Heuer-01 and makes it the same price as the Grey Phantom titanium model, which is also US$6,300.
The more models that spin off the Carrera Heuer-01 modular design, the more the series makes sense as the foundation of the new TAG Heuer. The benefits for buyers is that these variants are being brought to market at a lower price that you’d expect for the features offered. And we reckon the Black Ceramic Edition is the most sporty and technical looking watch in what already is a modern, forward-looking range of watches.
Forget the theoretical weakness of ceramic cases- for most sensible usage, the benefits of ceramic are material and have the benefit here of not only offering a harmonious case design (black ceramic everything unlike its generally two-tone Heuer-01 brothers), but also means a beautifully glassy high-gloss finish. Don’t forget to throw a small microfibre cloth in your pocket if you want to keep your Carrera Black Ceramic free of fingerprints
- Full Black Phantom black-on-black looks are right on point
- High sheen case gives a look that you won’t get with steel or titanium
- The most coherent design of the Carrera Heuer-01 range- no two-tone case here
- Good value for a ceramic case, in-house movement and skeleton dial
- We like the rubber strap, but would be nice to have the leather-lined strap from the Carrera Heuer-02T as an option
- Given how many models are now in the Heuer-01 range, we’d like to see different bezel scales offered on different models to provide further differentiation between the models, fo example an hours and minutes bezel