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As we wait for news on the launch and availability of TAG Heuer’s 2020 collection, it’s already clear that the one major 2020 release we have seen- the Carrera 160th Anniversary Silver Edition– will be of the year’s highlights. Since the Carrera came back into the collection some 24 years ago, TAG Heuer has not been afraid to release limited edition versions of the Carrera, extending from entirely bespoke watches through to minor changes, such as stripes on the dial.
There are far too many Limited/ Special Editions to count, but it would be measured it the dozens over almost a quarter of a century. In fact, as recently as June 2019 we covered two black-dial 39mm limited edition Carreras separated by thirteen years.
So, with the 160th Anniversary Carrera joining a long line of limited edition Carreras, we felt it was time to look back over the modern Carrera-era and highlight six of the the best Carrera limited editions.
But given that “best” is the eye of the beholder, what exactly is the criteria? It doesn’t necessarily mean the rarest or the most expensive. The late 1990s era Carrera re-editions are sometimes mistaken as being limited editions, but they were in fact part of the regular TAG Heuer range- so they don’t qualify. We have also taken the call to exclude any of the haute horlogerie watches, meaning no Carrera Calibre 360, no Mikro-platform watches and no Heuer 02 Tourbillon.
And finally, we’ve tried to focus on those watches that you could actually buy online without needing a degree in tagheuerology. Four of the six meet this criteria; one is hard to find, but possible….and the last? A ghost that is the Keyser Söze of the Carrera universe.
The Best 2000s One: Carrera 40th Anniversary- Ref. CV2117
Give the first re-edition Carrera was a niche part of the TAG Heuer range in the late 1990s, it took a while before we saw our first modern re-edition. Yes, there was a Franco Baresi CS3110 Carrera but that was about it until we enter the 2000s, a time when the Heuer logo disappeared and the very first TAG Heuer Carreras came onto the market.
Our favourite of these is the 40th Anniversary Carrera released in 2004, a year which TAG Heuer later realised was actually the 41st Anniversary of the Carrera. The watch uses a 39mm stainless steel case, with the Calibre 17 movement inside. There were 1,964 examples made.
What we like about this one is that it’s not a re-edition, but has that heritage style from Heuer’s past, with it’s silver dial, anthracite registers and tachymeter scale and bold red central chronograph hand. The watch has that highly legible quality that is so central to the Carrera DNA and is a true classic modern TAG Heuer.
The Best Hand-Wound One: Carrera Calibre 1- Ref. WV3010
From 1963 through to 1969, all Carreras featured hand-wound manual movements. Then came the Chronomatic era, with the focus switching to Calibre 11/ 12/ 15 automatic chronograph movements. Yes, you could still buy a manual 1970s Carrera, but these were more a niche play rather than being on centre stage.
When the Carrera came back in 1996, TAG Heuer sourced hand-wound movements from Lemania- but since then, we’ve only had one hand-cranked Carrera. This is not only the best hand-wound limited edition, Carrera but the only one.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1 was launched at Baselworld 2008 as a limited edition of 6,000 watches. Now that’s a very “un-TAG Heuer” number of watches to make, with most limited editions usually having 1,000-3,500 examples. The Carrera Calibre 1 used a unique movement that we haven’t seen in any other TAG Heuer watch, being an ETA/ Unitas 6498, which originated in the 1950s.
The watch itself is a 43mm case, with an unusual “double hand” in the six o’clock sub-dial. This watch is from the same era as the Grand Carrera, with its “linear system” and rotating discs, both of which experimented with different ways of indicating and displaying time. The long white hand shows the seconds from 0-30, with the shorter red hand indicating 30-60.
We love the open, simple dial of this Carrera, the only non-chronograph to make our list. It may not be super rare, but it’s a unique Carrera that looks fantastic more than a decade later.
The Best “Not a Carrera” One: TAG Heuer 300 SLR- Ref. CAR2112
The dial may not say Carrera, but the 300 SLR was very much part of the Carrera 1887 family that was launched in 2010. Named after the famous Mercedes 300 SLR of the 1950s, the watch uses a 41mm steel case and TAG Heuer’s then-new Calibre 1887 automatic chronograph movement.
The dial was the stand-out feature of the watch- a beautiful smoke dégradé dial that was lighter at the centre (almost a silver) and a darker brown at the outer-edge, similar to the dials of the 1970s Silverstone. As we said at the time, brown and orange may not be at the top of your list for attractive colour combinations, but on this watch it works beautifully together.
We also love the details on the watch, from the (vintage period correct) square-bottomed sub-dial hands at 6 and 13 o’clock to the bright orange rubber lining on the inside of the strap. The 300 SLR was a limited edition done right and today is one of the most coveted Calibre 1887 watches.
The Best One You’ll Never Find: Carrera Calibre 1969- Ref. CAR2A50
Changes in leadership at the brands almost always produce changes in strategy and therefore changes in product. And the TAG Heuer Calibre 1969 fell right into a tumultuous period at TAG Heuer. Signed off under the reign of Jean-Christophe Babin, the Calibre 1969 came to life under Stephane Linder, who replaced Babin. But the arrival of Jean-Claude Biver in late 2013 put the entire project under the spotlight.
Firstly, the sole watch that had been launched with the Calibre 1969 was pulled from the market. Then, the Calibre was re-branded the CH-80 and relaunched at Basel in March 2014, before being scrapped altogether. No Calibre CH-80 movements ever made it to market. But, all’s well that end’s well, with the Calibre 1969/ CH-80 being again renamed at the Heuer 02 movement, which is today TAG Heuer’s sole in-house chronograph movement.
But back to that watch that featured the Calibre 1969- the Carrera Calibre 1969 in a 43mm Titanium and Rose Gold case. It was meant to be a limited edition of 500 watches, but only a few (dozens?) made it to market before it was pulled. In fact, this watch is so rare, that the photos we took at the TAG Heuer Paris Boutique in early 2014 are the only real photos of the watch that you’ll find on the internet. And despite looking for the last six years, we’ve never seen one for sale. If you do have one, please drop us a line. They’re out there..somewhere.
The Best Micro Edition One: Ronnie Peterson Carrera Re-edition- Ref. CBH2210
The Jean-Claude Biver era of TAG Heuer will be one remembered for the number of micro-editions- limited editions measured in the tens rather than thousands. The best of this era is the 2017 Ronnie Peterson edition Carrera, of which only 40 were made in stainless steel with a silver Côtes de Genève dial and only available in Scandinavia.
The watch is a faithful re-edition of the second-generation vintage Carrera of the 1970s, coming in at a 38mm diameter and featuring a Calibre 11 movement. The watch also has a bespoke bracelet, that you won’t find on any other TAG Heuer watch.
And if one of forty is too common for you, there were two solid Gold editions of this watch made- one is owned by Cristiano Ronaldo and the other was auctioned by Bonhams.
The Best One: Jack Heuer Carrera 80th Birthday Edition- Ref. CV2119
It would be something of a cop-out not to put our necks out and name the best limited edition Carrera of the last 24 years. It’s this one- the Carrera Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Edition, a limited edition of 3000 watches launched in 2012 to mark Mr. Heuer’s 80th birthday. What makes this the best of the bunch is that subjectively, it’s one of the very best modern TAG Heuer designs and objectively, it is one of the most influential limited editions Carreras, as it spawned a further five limited editions:
The 80th Birthday Edition uses a 41mm steel case, with a similar silver and anthracite colour scheme to the 40th Anniversary Carrera- even the movement is the same (Calibre 17). It’s the small details that make this watch a truly stand out edition, from the red Heuer shield to the red “80” on the tachymeter scale, and the beautifully finished black calfskin strap.
What we like the most about the design is the modern-vintage design ethos. This is not a simple re-edition of a past watch, but something new which takes some of those great vintage Heuer design elements and includes them in something modern and fresh. We often get asked which modern TAG Heuer could be a future classic, and the answer always includes the Carrera Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Edition. A true modern classic.
Agree with our list? Have we missed your favourite- maybe the Bullhead Jack Heuer Carrera? The 2017 Heuer Skipper? The Lewis Hamilton (CV201M)? Join the discussion at the forum below.