The range of ultra-high frequency “Mikro” TAG Heuer watches released over the last 12 months can each trace their lineage back to the brand’s first foray into high-precision Chronographs- the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 360. The watch is an evolution of the Carrera 360 Concept from 2005 and was TAG Heuer’s first efforts at in-house mechanical watchmaking for more than 35 years- even if this work on the Calibre was limited to the development of the Chronograph module.
The Carrera Calibre 360 is a range of four (or is it three?…more on this later) +USD10,000 Limited Editions Carreras that not only signaled TAG Heuer’s intentions to reclaim its position in the high-precision market, but also established a design template that can still be seen in TAG Heuer watches six years later.
Despite the efforts in developing the Calibre 360, the movement wasn’t used in any TAG Heuer watches after this Carrera, although we did get close to another production watch, which you’ll read about shortly.
The Calibre 360 movement is a piggy-back Chronograph that combines a Calibre 7 (ETA 2892) watch base, with a TAG Heuer in-house Chronograph module capable of 1/ 100th second precision- the first mechanical watch to reach this benchmark.
The area of ultra-precision is only a new focus for watch brands, as when the Calibre 360 was shown there were no mechanical watches displaying 1/ 10th second, let alone anything more precise.
The Calibre 360 features an innovative crown system that winds the manual Chronograph module when turned Clockwise and winds the automatic watch in the anti-clockwise direction, as the video below shows:
TAG Heuer Vanquish
We’ve shown you the TAG Heuer Vanquish before- a Limited Edition of 12 watches that is effectively the production version of the Carrera 360 Concept watch. This was the first watch to use the Calibre 360 movement, albeit in very small numbers.
The success and interest in the watch gave TAG Heuer the confidence to follow-up the Vanquish with a series of Limited Edition watches that showcased the new movement- the Carrera Calibre 360.
Carrera 360 Stainless Steel
Opening the range is this stainless steel model featuring a plain black dial. The steel version is limited to 360 watches and has “1/100” at the top of the six o’clock register and “Calibre 360” at the bottom- the inverse of all other Carrera 360s.
There may be an interesting explanation for this: perhaps the stainless steel model never made it into production and so all we have are the official studio photos of the pre- production model. Despite appearing in all the official brochures, I have never seen a single real-life photo of the watch (the above image comes from TAG Heuer), nor a single example for sale on the second-hand market.
Compare this situation to that of the PVD model which is an LE of only 10 watches- yet in this article you’ll see photos of two of the ten that exist. Adding to the intrigue is that the original TAG Heuer brochures refer to the Rose Gold version (see below) as being a LE of 100 watches- yet this ended up being 500. So is the extra 400 Rose Gold models to compensate for the lack of the 360 stainless steel watches?
At this stage its only speculation, so if anyone out there has a Steel Carrera 360, please get in touch.[see the bottom of this article for an update on the status of the steel model]
Carrera 360 Rose Gold
The Rose Gold model (CV5041) comes with a similar colour scheme to the 2011 Carrera Mikrograph– a deep Brown and Rose Gold and is limited to 500 watches.
The guilloché finish works very well on the dial- enough to make it interesting, but without dominating the display.
Carrera 360 White Gold
It’s probably my favourite of the four designs- just enough colour, while still looking very elegant and simple.
Carrera 360 PVD Tempus
The “Full Black” Carrera 360 (CV5013) is the rarest of the bunch, with only 10 made. The watch was made for the Tempus “Temple of Time” Exhibition (Organised by The Hour Glass Singapore) in September 2007. The exhibition showcased several low-run limited editions, each of which followed the all-black colour scheme. There were some very special pieces created for the event that you can see here.
The Tempus watch uses a stainless steel case and pioneered the Red & Black design that TAG Heuer would later use on the Grand Carrera Calibre 17 RS and Calibre 36- as we’ll soon show you.
Other Calibre 360s
The Monaco LS Calibre 360 was an interesting watch launched at Basel 2006 that showcased both the movement and the Rotating Disc (RS) system used on the Grand Carrera range. While the watch is one of the few Concept TAG Heuer watches not to make it into production, it did inspire the Monaco Calibre 12 LS that remains on sale today.
Eagle-eyed observers who remember our interview with Christoph Behling may have noticed a prototype on his wrist- a variation that never came to market.
We can also confirm that there was another secret Calibre 360 model that almost made it into production- a Grand Carrera Calibre 360. Work was advanced on launching this model, before TAG Heuer decided to move their attention away from the Calibre 360 and instead focus on building a new 1/ 100th second movement- the Mikrograph.
The Carrera Calibre 360 was the most exclusive line of TAG Heuers watches ever made, with a maximum of 970 examples made in four distinct styles (or 610 across three models if you believe that the Steel model never made it). It was the first range of watches that sat at premium price points and demonstrated that there was a market for a + USD10,000 TAG Heuers.
The Carrera 360 was also one of the first watches designed by Christoph Behling, the man repsonsible for today’s TAG Heuer range. And if you look closely you can see how some of the ideas from the Carrera 360 made it on to other models.
The most obvious links are between the PVD Carrera 360 and the Grand Carrera range is the colour-scheme used on the Calibre 17 RS2 (above) and the Calibre 36 RS (below).
One of the first articles on Calibre 11 back in 2009 looked at the similarities between the Carrera Day-Date and the Carrera 360. You can see these from the photo above- the two-digit minute markers, the red band on the Chronograph pusher, the silver ringed sub-dials and even the small triangle on the inner-bezel.
The Mikro Family
And finally without the Carrera 360 we wouldn’t have today’s Mikrograph, Mikrotimer and Mikrogirder. The Calibre 360 was TAG Heuer dipping its toes back into the world of mechanical watch-making after a long time out of the game. The Calibre 360 movement helped reestablished TAG Heuer’s brand credibility as a high-precision chronograph brand, something that was a hallmark of Heuer.
The design of the range has aged well and each of the watches still looks contemporary and thanks to never being made in large numbers, the watch is highly collectible today. Now if only we can find a few stainless steel watches..
For more photos of Brad’s immaculate Carrera 360 Tempus, click here
Update- 27 February 2012
Looks like there is a good reason why no-one has seen a stainless steel Carrera Calibre 360- TAG Heuer have confirmed this morning that it was never made.
PVD Carrera Calibre 360, Carrera Day-Date and Grand Carrera Calibre 17 RS2: Brad Harrison
PVD and White Gold Carrera 360: Rage2
Rose Gold Carrera 360: rteixeira