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TAG Heuer Carrera Sports Chronograph Heuer 02- In Depth Review (Ref. CBN2A10, CBN2A1A, CBN2A1B, CBN2A5A)

Welcome to the evolution. The new 2020 TAG Heuer Carrera Sports Chronograph does not set out to wholly re-invent the Carrera line, but it does represent a clear and deliberate reinterpretation of almost every building block of the Carrera’s DNA. There’s a new case, new hour-markers, new hands, new dial design and new typeface and yet, there is no mistaking the watch as a Carrera. Make no mistake, this is the biggest change to the Carrera since the launch of the Skeleton-dial Heuer 01 back in 2015.

The Sports Chronograph is the first of two new mainstream Carrera series being launched in 2020, with the second due in September.

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While the 160th Anniversary Heuer Carrera duo may have stolen the limelight this year, the new Carrera Sports range is perhaps the key Carrera release of 2020 given its volume ambitions. At launch, there are four models- two stainless steel watches with ceramic bezels (blue and black), one stainless steel with a steel bezel (green dial) and a stainless steel with rose gold highlights.

Each of the watches features TAG Heuer’s in-house Heuer 02 Calibre, a movement that now powers the majority of the Carrera range, as well as extending into the Monaco and Formula 1 series. Having made the decision to discontinue the Calibre 1887/ Heuer 01, it makes sense for TAG Heuer to increase the number of watches using its sole in-house calibre, with only the Link and Aquaracer lines not (yet) offering a Heuer 02-powered model.

We’ve had the Carrera Sports (prototypes) range at Calibre 11 HQ for the last week to take a closer look at each element of the new design to see whether the Carrera’s future can be as glorious as its past. And while we had the foursome in our keep, we also took the chance to take some photos. Lots of photos.

Design

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Starting with the basics, the Carrera Sport series is positioned at the larger end of the Carrera family, using a 44mm stainless steel case. But that is where the familiarity ends, because as covered in the introduction, the case and dial are all-new.

Sketches-carreracode

Dial

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There are three dial colours on offer, each of which features a brushed, radial patterning rather than the usual starburst finish. We asked TAG Heuer Creative Director Guy Bove to explain the thinking behind the new dial finishing:

The sunburst finish works especially well on light dials and gives a relatively elegant, soft finish to the dial, however the brush becomes clogged very quickly when enough galvanic coating is applied and this reduces the visibility of the sunburst finishing on blue and especially black dials which are the core colors of the Carrera collection.

The circular brush helps to alleviate this and the play of light therefore becomes more visible on the dark dials using this finish. The resulting finish is also less random than the sunburst as the grooves of the finish naturally follow into themselves in perfect circles, therefore we arrive at a cleaner, more technical finish which fits well with the clean design inherent in the Carrera DNA.

Guy Bove- TAG Heuer Creative Director

Each model features three registers (30-minute chronograph, running seconds and chronograph hours at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock respectively), with the 3 and 9 o’clock registers being not only larger, but also featuring a circular azurage finish. The smaller 6 o’clock register houses the date window, a subtle integration following the path of the Heuer 02 Autavia.

The hour-markers are an all-new rectangular design that step up from the dial to a flat mid-section, before stepping down again, this time to the inner minuterie bezel. These indices are angled down towards the dial, helping give depth to the dial.

Next, we have new hour and minute hands, which take their inspiration from the 1970s Monaco, Autavia and Carrera lines, yet never appear retro thanks to the black-filled centre and tip.

And finally, there is a new typeface used for the Carrera script- look carefully and you’ll see that there is no extraneous text on the dial (for example, noting water resistance or “Chronograph”, with the only text (other than the Carrera name) being “Heuer 02 80 Hours”, a signal that TAG Heuer will be emphasising the calibre’s 80 hour power reserve as a key selling feature. The new font is based on the original Carrera serif, yet modernised and looks great.

The new dials are a success to our eyes, both in looking good but also preserving perhaps the principal features of the original Carrera dial- simplicity and legibility.

Case

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While at first glance, the case is unmistakably a Carrera, there are a number of new design flourishes, the most interesting of which is the redesign of the horns which now visually continue around the entire case, as Bove explained:

We wanted to strengthen our ties to the original Carrera but at the same time to take all of its design elements into the future. Therefore, we actually made the outer surface of the lugs straight in section as it was on the 1963 Carreras but we also introduced the idea of having this outer surfaces continue (using a curve at 4 o’clock and a curve at 2 o’clock) under the bezel from one horn to the other, which is a big change in the sense that all previous Carrera horns stopped short at the bezel.

This changes the feel of the watch from being very vertical (as previous incarnations have been) to more horizontal, with the goal of making the watch look speedier and contemporary. The lugs are indeed a little shorter and the lower part of the case sides is tilted inwards to emphasize the edgy nature of the design. What you probably will have noticed is that the watch wears exceptionally well on the wrist, especially considering that it’s a fairly large watch.”

Guy Bove- TAG Heuer Creative Director

And Guy Bove is right- swapping between this watch and the 45mm Carrera Heuer 02T on the wrist and there is a noticeable difference in the way that both watches wear, despite being almost the same diameter. The Carrera Sport is still a large watch (with a case depth of 15.27mm), but the changes made to the case and the facets used to break up the profile of the bezel and crystal do help to minimise this visually. Compare this case depth to other Carreras, and you see that it’s not just a trick of the eye- it is indeed slimmer than the current 41mm Carrera Calibre 16 CMB2110 (16.23mm).

The size question is always one that arises when discussing modern Carreras- anything more than 41mm is considered “too large” by those liking classical designs, while it’s undeniable that buyers have flocked to the modern 43/ 45mm skeleton Carreras. In the end it comes down to personal preference, but there are fewer compromises with the new watch given the combination of a slimmer case and the design changes to emphasise the horizontal rather than the vertical.

Finally, we have newly designed chronograph pushers, which are an attractive combination of brushed and polished surfaces and feature an evolution of coloured “ring” that has been a feature of the Carrera series for over a decade.

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At the rear of the watch TAG Heuer has fitted a sapphire crystal to show off the Heuer 02 movement. A nice touch on the Steel/ Rose Gold model is the use of matching Rose Gold text on the rotor of the Heuer 02.

Stainless Steel Black Dial- CBN2A1B

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Reference CBN2A1B.BA0643

The first watch in the range combines a black dial with a fixed black ceramic tachymeter bezel. The watch comes on a H-Link stainless steel bracelet, but presumably a black leather strap could also be added. While the H-Link bracelet has been a mainstay of the TAG Heuer range since 2008 when it was introduced on the Grand Carrera, the bracelet has been redesigned for the Carrera Sports and is both slimmer and lighter.

The new circular patterning on the dial is noticeable on the black dial, but less so than the other two, lighter colours.

From Every Angle

On the Wrist

Stainless Steel Blue Dial- CBN2A1A

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Reference CBN2A1A.BA0643

Next up we have the blue-dial model- another beautiful hue of blue from TAG Heuer. Matching the dial is a blue ceramic bezel, with this colour combination being our favourite of the new range.

From Every Angle

On the Wrist

Stainless Steel Green Dial- CBN2A10

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Reference CBN2A10.BA0643

The final stainless steel model features an olive-green dial, this time matched with a stainless steel bezel. Green is the colour du jour for watchmakers at the moment and no doubting that this one looks right on point.

While all three stainless steel models have a single colour dial, it would be good to see one option with contrasting white sub-dials in the future as a way of providing greater differentiation across the range.

From Every Angle

On the Wrist

Stainless Steel and Rose Gold- CBN2A5A

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Reference CBN2A5A.FC6481

The final model features a black dial with a stainless steel case and rose gold detailing. The hands, TAG Heuer logo and dial indices are plated 18k 5N rose gold, while the crown and chronograph pushers are solid 18k 5N rose gold.

There is no steel/ gold bracelet available for this model- only the black leather alligator strap with a steel folding clasp.

The rose gold provides a wonderful contrast to the black dial- we love how this one looks in low-light, such as the photo above.

In Summary- Price and Availability

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The TAG Heuer Carrera Sports Chronograph range starts at the following prices in key markets for the three stainless steel/ bracelet variants:

  • Switzerland- 5,600 CHF
  • Europe- €5,450
  • North America- $5,750

The pricing comes just under the 43mm Carrera Heuer 02 Skeleton dial, which is US$5,950 on a bracelet.

The Rose Gold/ Stainless Steel model comes standard on the black alligator strap and is priced as follows:

  • Switzerland- 6,400 CHF
  • Europe- €6,200
  • North America- $6,550

The Carrera Sports line doesn’t directly replace any existing Carrera line- at least not yet, as Guy Bove explained “It replaces nothing for the time being, it is a new offer. However, we will be refocusing the collection so these new models will become more prominent, since they clearly represent our vision for a durable and contemporary Carrera sports model.”

While we love the heritage Carrera watches, the reality is that the Carrera range can’t simply be a reproduction of what it was in the past- there has to be a pathway forward for a modern Carrera. Over the last few years, the “Avant Garde” Carrera range has been centred around the Skeleton Heuer 01/ 02 range, but we feel that the new Carrera Sport is better positioned to carry forward the Carrera DNA given its combination of clarity and legibility with an in-house movement and a modern case and dial design. Evolutionary it may be, but the Carrera Sports is a clear step forward.

TAG Heuer Carrera Sports Chronograph Heuer 02 Specifications (Ref. CBN2A10, CBN2A1A, CBN2A1B, CBN2A5A)

Model NameTAG Heuer Carrera Sports Chronograph
Year of Launch2020
Production TypeStandard Production
Watch Reference NumberCBN2A1B- Black Dial; CBN2A1A- Blue Dial; CBN2A10- Green Dial; CBN2A5A- Steel/ Rose Gold
Strap Reference CodeBA0643 (Bracelet)
FC6481 (Black Alligator)
Case MaterialStainless Steel
Case Diameter44mm
Water Resistance100m
MovementHeuer 02

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