New TAG Heuer “JPS” Carrera – Smokin’ Hot!

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Notice the scare quotes around the letters “JPS” in the headline above. Officially, you’re looking at the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph (ref. CBN2044.FC8313). Unofficially, the watchmaker and its media minions are playing nudge-nudge, wink-wink and calling it the TAG Heuer JPS. Let me explain . . .

By its own admission, the new TAG Heuer Chronograph “takes inspiration from an iconic racing livery to reinforce the collection’s connection to motorsport.”

What they’re not telling you: the black-and-gold Carrera takes its inspiration from the John Player Special (JPS) livery that most famously adorned Colin Chapman’s Lotus 49 and 72 F1 race cars.

Why’s TAG Heuer boxing clever about the connection between their new watch and Lotus’ distinctive black-and-gold livery? John Player Special was a cigarette brand. Still is. Pakistan’s number one best-selling coffin nail, in fact.

While JPS liveried cars are no more – tobacco advertising in F1 has gone sotto voce – it would not do for TAG Heuer to sell a watch directly and explicitly associated with cancer sticks.

TAG sponsors Formula E, the race series “on a mission to make motorsport better, cleaner and safer for our planet.” I’m thinking celebrating cigarette advertising is not on Sustainability Director Julia Pallé’s to-do list. TAG also donates to cancer charities. Say no more?

Not about TAG’s decision to keep the inspiration for their watch’s color scheme vague enough to pass the PC smell test. Other than a cranky old watch blogger, who cares? As for the watch itself, what I’m also going to call the TAG Heuer JPS . . .

It’s something of an homage to ye olde Heuer 1158 CHN. Yes, but – that 70’s show was a relatively demure 38mm, wasn’t bright yellow and doesn’t sport a “ghost” seconds subdial above the date. (HoDinkee is selling the one above for $30k.)

The TAG Heuer JPS is actually a slight reworking and goldenization of the $23,500 TAG Heuer Carrera x Porsche RS 2.7 Limited Edition chronograph (above). Same chunky monkey 42mm case size. Same most excellent in-house Calibre Heuer 02 column-wheel chronograph, on display under the caseback, good to 100m beneath the waves.

Given the liberal lashings of 18k 3N (yellow) gold, the $21,500 TAG Heuer JPS is a bit of a bargain compared to the white Porsche RS 2.7 collaboration. The JPS isn’t a limited edition, but I reckon it’s the better bet for long-term value. When does a gold watch lose cachet?

On the downside, the 3N gold adoring the TAG Heuer JPS is 75 percent pure – easily scratched. On the upside, 18k gold is suitable for watch wearers prone to skin irritations or allergic reactions.

More importantly, the JPS watch’s black-and-yellow color combo is perfectly rendered and extremely elegant – it doesn’t scream I HAVE MONEY or MUG ME like, say, a gold Rolex. In this case, “JPS” could stand for both John Player Special and Just Plain Sexy.

I reckon Colin Chapman would have gladly worn the TAG Heuer JPS during his heyday – especially if TAG paid him cash to help keep his cars competitive. No doubt about it: the new watch is a smokeshow, even if TAG doesn’t want you to know why.

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