We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: whether its sneakers, watches or other fashion items, the coolest limited editions are reserved for the Japanese market. Want proof? It was only a few weeks ago that we showed you the 2017 “Green McQueen” Monaco, an outrageous take on the classic blue, red and white colour combination. And now we have another limited edition chronograph that you’ll only find in Japan- the 2017 Carrera Heuer-01 AIR-K5.
The AIR-K series marks the partnership between TAG Heuer and Japanese tennis hero Kei Nishikori, otherwise known to his fans as “Air-K”. And before we show you all the details of the newest model, we’ll first take you through the history of the AIR-K series of TAG Heuer watches.
The 2017 AIR-K edition is the first to be based on the Carrera Heuer-01 and to our eyes is the best-looking of the series, bringing together the contemporary Carrera case design, but with a unique dial design that you won’t see on any other TAG Heuer model.
The Kei Nishikori AIR-K TAG Heuer Collection
Kei Nishikori began his ambassador relationship with TAG Heuer in 2012, with the first AIR-K watch launched the following year. There have been five AIR-K editions, named AIR-K1 to AIR-K5, all of which have only gone on sale in Japan. Let’s take a look over the first four watches in the series before we dive into the newest AIR-K5.
2013 Aquaracer AIR-K1 300 CAJ2113- LE of 300
The AIR-K1 is based on the Aquaracer 500m Calibre 16, an iconic model in the Aquaracer lineage that stretches back to 1982. In addition to Kei’s signature on the 9 o’clock sub-dial, there is a solid red insert on the 6 o’clock sub-dial and red ring on the 12 o’clock register. This is the only Nishikori watch to feature this red-only colour scheme.
2014 Aquaracer AIR-K2 WAK2112- LE of 300
The AIR-K2 is also based on an Aquaracer 500m, but on the heavily revised 2012 Calibre 5 model, the first to introduce a ceramic bezel. The K2 has an anthracite dial, with red and blue highlights and with “AIR-K” text on the dial.
2015 Aquaracer AIR-K3 WAY2115- LE of 400
The AIR-K3 is also based on the Calibre 5 Aquaracer, but this time the Aquaracer 300m model. The red and blue colour-scheme was dialled back somewhat, and there was now a splash of green to add even more colour to the starburst anthracite dial.
2016 Carrera AIR-K4 WAR201F- LE of 400
The 2016 model marked a change of direction, introducing a blackened titanium-carbide steel case and bracelet, a metallic blue dial and for the first time was based on the Carrera rather than the Aquaracer. The AIR-K4 has a 41mm case and the same Calibre 5 movement as the K2 and K3, but this time with the date-date functionality.
What’s new for the AIR-K5?
The K5 follows the K4 is being based on the Carrera, but this time it’s the modern Carrera Heuer-01 rather than the more traditional Calibre 5 model. The watch has a 43mm steel case (all steel) with a titanium-carbide black coating. So far, so normal for a Carrera Heuer-01, but the dial is what sets this watch apart.
Out goes the usual skeleton dial, and in its place is a traditional dial with a méga tapisserie style finish. Yes, it’s reminiscent of the AP Royal Oak if you squint, but look closer and you’ll see the resemblance to a tennis racquet. The same patterning is used for the bespoke box.
Complementing the black dial are red, blue and green finishes, a throwback to the colours of the AIR-K3. We love the dial on this watch- yes, it’s a somewhat crazy mix of colours, but they work together well, and as regular readers will know, we’ll always vote for a traditional dial ahead of a skeleton dial.
Notice the red “K” in the date window? That replaces the “1” for the first of the month, but the rest of the date wheel is numbered in the usual ascending order.
Movement & Caseback
The sapphire caseback and Calibre Heuer-01 movement are standard from other 43mm Carrera Heuer-01 models, with only the bright red signature of Nishikori separating this from the regular production watches.
The watch is sold with two rubber straps- the standard black TAG Heuer rubber strap (Ref. FT6087) and a bright yellow (“Tennis Ball Yellow”?) strap, reference FT6314. The watch looks sensational on the bright yellow strap. Yes, blue, red, green and yellow don’t sound like a combination of colours that will work, but if you’re looking for a fun, statement watch, then leave the black rubber strap in the box and go for the bold yellow.
Price and Availability- Carrera Heuer-01 AIR-K5 Nishikori Edition CAR201N
There are only 150 2017 Carrera Heuer-01 AIR-K5 watches being made, and as mentioned, they are only available in Japan and priced at ¥606,000, which at the time of writing is US$5,300.