If Heuer in the 1960s was all about monochrome colours, then the 1970s saw an explosion of vibrant colours on dials and hands. And to mark the 160th anniversary of TAG Heuer, we’ve been given a Carrera representing both design periods- back in January we saw the monochrome Silver dial CBK221B and today we have its colourful cousin, the Montreal-inspired CBK221C. White, blue, red and yellow- this Carrera has the full palette of colours, yet somehow still looks cohesive and sporty.
The watch is the latest member of the Glassbox family, meaning a 39mm stainless steel case teamed with Heuer-only branding and the in-house Heuer 02 chronograph movement. The series started with the Calibre 18 Telemeter, then the Heuer Skipper re-edition, the Carrera Fragment Design from 2018 and the Carrera 160th Anniversary Silver from earlier this year.
And while the watch that inspired the new Carrera may not be as well-known as other Heuer 1970s chronograph, TAG Heuer has selected one of the very best Montreals as a base for the new design.
The History of the Heuer Montreal
The Montreal was one Heuer’s “next generation” of Calibre 11/ 12 chronographs following the launch of the Autavia/ Carrera/ Monaco trio in 1969. There were two generations of the Montreal, with the new Carrera based on the first generation from 1972, and specifically the white-dial watch, reference 110.503W.
You might be tempted to think that the watch was named as part of Heuer’s naming strategy around cities or racetracks linked to Formula 1 (Monaco, Monza, Jarama, Silverstone), but in fact the first Grand Prix wasn’t held in Montreal until 1978, some six years after the series was launched. Instead, the name was chosen as part of Heuer’s push to drive sales in North America, with the Manhattan and Daytona watches to follow later.
We love the Montreal, in particular the combination of the oversized starburst case and that amazing colourful dial. You can read more about the Montreal family in our ultimate guide here.
By the way, don’t be fooled into thinking that the Montreal has a yellow coloured ring around the crystal as it appears in the photo above- that’s simply the way that the gaskets age. You can see that on watches where the gasket has been recently replaced (such as the one below), the gasket is clear/ white.
Essentially, think of the new Carrera as being a combination of the classic Carrera 1960s case with a dial inspired by the 110.503W Montreal. There are some subtle differences- for example, the Carrera uses blue rather than black registers and inner ring, but there’s no mistaking the connection between the newcomer and the family tree.
As mentioned in the introduction, the Carrera Montreal Edition uses the same case as the Carrera Fragment/ Silver 160th Edition, both of which used TAG Heuer’s in-house movement. What makes this watch special is the dial, which is unlike anything we’ve seen from TAG Heuer since the original Montreal.
One of the secrets to making a modern white-dial watch look vintage is to use a true, flat white. Most modern “white” dials are not a pure white, but actually have shades of beige or a metallic finish to lift the dial’s appearance. We went through this process when finalising the design of the Calibre 11 edition Jo Siffert Autavia, and insisted on a true white with no other colour or finish mixed in- and that looks to be the same approach that TAG Heuer has chosen here for the base colour. True, flat white- just like the old days.
Next, we move to the deep blue registers, with their azzurage circular patterning. The same blue is then used on the outer-edge of the dial, almost making the white central element appear to float. While the Carrera doesn’t feature a Pulsometer scale, as the Montreal did, instead the minuterie on the inner bezel alternates between red and blue- blue for the first 15 minutes, and then the remaining 45 minutes in red.
The final element is the splashes of yellow SuperLuminova on the circular hour plots and matching yellow segments on the 3 o’clock register. Probably the most controversial aspect of the watch will be the yellow lume- on both the hands and the dial. It is true that when you look at the vintage Montreal, the lume inside the steel hour-markers do appear yellow- but they didn’t start this way (they were a light green), rather ageing over time. We’ve said for some time that we look forward to the day when “aged” lume dies out as a design flourish. It’s the horological equivalent of fake exhaust tips in the automotive world.
Over at the Calibre 11 forums, the topic of the “glassbox” Carrera is a popular one: some people love the domed vintage look, while others feel that the glassbox “ring” robs the dial of needed width, and can make the watch look too thick.
We’re in the “love camp”. The combination of the glassbox crystal and the size of these case- 39mm- gives the perfect “modern vintage” look and feel and with the benefit of an integrated chronograph movement, we now have the crown and chronograph pushers perfectly aligned.
According to our scales and calliper, the Carrera Montreal (including strap/ deployant) weighs in at 85g and has a case thickness of 14.7mm.
The Montrerra featured a sapphire caseback with the 160th Anniversary rotor. Unfortunately, each watch is marked as “One of 1000” rather than having an individual LE number. We’re not sure why this is, but assume that it’s a cost-saving measure. How much is being saved we can’t guess, but it’s a saving not worth making- collectors love to know the individual number of their watch.
The strap is a new design- similar in fact to the blue alligator strap offered on the Monaco Heuer 02. The strap has a smooth finish and is a good change from the previous rallye-style calfskin straps that have been offered on similar Carrera watches.
Live Photos- Carrera Montreal Edition
And here it is in the metal. The watch feels as light on your wrist as the scales indicate, with the colours on the dial being bright and vibrant. Here are a few shots taken with an iPhone- we have some better quality photos on the way.
The Carrera 160th Anniversary Collection
Price and Availability- Carrera Montreal Limited Edition (CBK221C)
The 2020 TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition is a limited edition of 1,000 watches, a number that will be a relief to collectors frustrated at the micro-editions we’ve seen over recent years with ~100 pieces made.
The watch is priced at US$6,750, which is a $300 premium over the Silver dial CBK221B, most likely because that watch is an LE of 1,860 watches, whereas the CBK221C is around half of that number. There is a bespoke box that comes with the watch, and we’ll add photos of that as it becomes available.
The good news is that the watch is available right now from TAG Heuer boutiques and online at www.tagheuer.com. After many months waiting for the new 2020 releases, it’s pleasing that we’re getting the chance to buy the watches as soon as they are released.