The press embargo on the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition launched yesterday, unleashing a tsunami of horological hosannahs from TAG’s media minions. If you want the usual watchmaker history and PR fluff, feel free to click over to the usual suspects. I’d like to use the new watch as a jumping off point for a rant about TAG’s waywards ways and retro designs . . .
First let me say that Mikey likes it! He really likes it! After years of hugely expensive and hideous TAG Heuer Carrera variations – the $53,350 partially skeletonized, tourbillion-powered, diamond-encrusted Calibre Heuer 02T being a particularly heinous example – the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition returns the Carrera to its racing roots.
Sorry to inflict this on you, but to fully appreciate the Silver’s minimalist magnificence, you have to see how far the Carrera went astray. While I appreciate double-D’s as much as the next creepy old white guy, the $4800 Tag Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 DD is what the Brits call a dog’s breakfast. Again, it’s just one of many shameful designs to carry the Carrera name over several decades.
To cleanse your aesthetic palate, cast your eyes upon the original 1964 Carrera. Inspired by the fatality-heavy race of the same name, the first gen Carreras were clean, clear and functional. Ditto the second gen, from 1969 – 1978. And then the quartz crisis hit and the Carrera skidded off the track.
By the time TAG debuted the fifth gen watches, TAG HEUER had lost the plot. They veered off into a totally different aesthetic direction. Don’t get me wrong: I like the Formula 1 model above (courtesy calibre11.com). But the company relegated Carreras to a novelty item and started making the absurd variants we see today.
Well, not today. Today we have the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition, a return to form in every way, with modern upgrades.
The new old model’s 39mm (the first gen was 36mm). TAG coated the now-faceted hands with light beige Super-LumiNova, and there are dots next to the hour markers. Functionally, they moved the permanent second indicator to the 6 o’clock position (originally at 9).
The 160 Years Silver Limited Edition’s powered by the Heuer 02 caliber. Complete with a laquered rotor and motor racing-themed LE branding, the movement’s on display behind an exhibition caseback. If you’re getting the impression that the new $6450 Carrera is more about show than go, the alligator hide strap will do nothing to disabuse you of that notion.
All of which brings me to my central question: are we at the point where watchmakers have to reach back into the past to master the art of timeless design?
It seems so. TAG Heuer’s hardly the only brand digging into its archives to create retro-watches appealing to buyers who’ve bought enough big ass dive watches and G-SHOCKs to equip two Navy SEAL teams.
Longines’ Heritage Classic collection is expanding with the launch of their Classic Chronograph 1946. Yema’s Navygraf Heritage is going great guns, as is their Rallye Mario Andretti Special Edition. Not to mention dozens of microbands who see their future in the past.
I welcome the new Carrera with open arms (if not an open wallet). At the same time, I’m a classicist who wishes major watchmakers created new classic designs, rather than retro retreads.
Maybe there will be, as watchmakers embrace vintage principles of simplicity, clarity, symmetry and attention to detail – especially as the smart watch removes the need for complicated complications. As always, watch this space.