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Review: TAG Heuer’s Carrera Chrono Is a Motorsports-Focused Icon

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What IWC is to pilot’s watches and Doxa is to divers, TAG Heuer has long been to motorsport watches, with the history of high-level racing and TAG being inextricably intertwined. The Swiss brand’s higher-ups have possessed a major long-held proclivity for automotive competition that’s had an unmistakable influence on its watches and products, with TAG being responsible for some of the most iconic motorsports timepieces ever such as the Carrera Chronograph in 1963. And with it now celebrating its 60th anniversary, now seemed the perfect time to take a deep dive into the watch in this hands-on review of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph.  

At A Glance

TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Specs

Case Size: 42mm
Lug to Lug: 48.2mm
Case Thickness: 14.4mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement Type: Automatic
Power Reserve: 80 Hours
Movement: Calibre HEUER02
Lume: Super-LumiNova
Crystal: Domed Sapphire
Strap: Three-Link Stainless Steel Bracelet

A Motorsport Icon

The Carrera Chronograph’s Lineage & Racing Connection

On top of serving as a major sponsor, Heuer — which became TAG Heuer in 1985 after being purchased by Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG) — produced items that were used in motorsport competition with a wide range of high-end dashboard clocks and sports timers. These dash-mounted items would eventually serve as the basis for Heuer’s later wrist-worn chronograph watches, first with the Heuer Autavia and then the Carrera. Getting its name from the incredibly dangerous more-than-2,000-mile border-to-border Carrera Panamericana road race staged in Mexico from 1950 to 1954, the Carrera watch was born out of the company’s passion for motorsport and was penned by Jack Heuer — the great-grandson of the company’s founder who took the reigns in 1962 and was the final direct heir to manage his family’s brand. 

Heavily inspired by the Carrera Panamericana, Jack Heuer would develop a watch in 1961 that was designed specifically to meet the needs of racers and gentlemen drivers. Dubbed the Heuer Carrera ref. 2447, this timpiece was largely characterized by its clean and uncluttered dial which could easily be read upon just a quick glimpse. Taking feedback from drivers, Jack would then return to the drawing board to redesign and improve the watch, ultimately giving way to the Heuer Carrera Chronograph in 1963 — the same year that Porsche debuted its legendary 911. Over the subsequent six decades, the Carrera Chronograph’s iconic status would only be further cemented, as would its manufacturer’s ties to racing and motorsport — the latter of which was helped along by the TAG Heuer Monaco appearing on Steve McQueen’s wrist in the 1971 film Le Mans.

First Impressions

Out Of The Box & Onto The Wrist

Some modern luxury watches — especially of the field watch or GADA variety — boast more understated appearances that allows them to fly under the radar. This is definitively not the case with the TAG Carrera. Put simply, the watch looks fantastic in person/on-wrist as it does high-end, with an overall fit and finish that instantly screams “luxury watch.” Additionally, since rebranding from Heuer to TAG Heuer, criticism has at times been levied against the company for carrying too high of prices relative to their quality, movements, and overall fit and finish. Again, this in no way applies to the latest Carrera Chronograph, as the timepiece is as well-designed as it is well-finished, with every detail and surface having been carefully considered. With a cohesive design, the watch and bracelet have a handsome appearance, though the closer you inspect it, the more and more small details reveal themselves, from the mirror-polished and brushed case to the raised Rjhodium-plated indexes to the three-link bracelet to the perfectly painted Carrera logo and TAG Heuer badge on the dial. 

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An Updated Icon

The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph's Case

Finished in an amalgamation of evenly brushed and high-polish surfaces, the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph is constructed around a 42mm stainless steel case that’s equipped with a fixed bezel and set of angular tapered lugs. Alongside its shape, the Carrera is made all the more recognizable by its chronograph pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock — items that bookend the case’s knurled TAG crest-logoed push-pull crown. While thinner than the items on the original watch, the latest Carrera’s chrono pushers sport a capped design and are devoid of any lateral play, smoothly operating with a satisfying click when pushed. On the thicker side at 14.4mm, the case offers 100 meters of water resistance and is capped off with an exhibition caseback that provides an unobstructed view of the watch’s central 360° rotor — an item that’s modeled after alloy racing wheels. 

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Legible At Speed

The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph's Dial

Like the original model from 1963, the latest TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph features a black dial — more specifically a semi-gloss Opaline Black item. Boasting an all-black and silver color scheme, the dial sports raised, Rhodium-plated indexes at every hour, with truncated markers a 3, 6, and 9 o’clock to make space for its sub-dials and date window. Protected beneath a domed sapphire, the dial also features a matching Rhodium-plated split hand-set that’s been painted in Super-LumiNova — a treatment that’s also been bestowed upon the base of the dial’s hour markers. While it puts an updated spin on the design, the dial of the Carrera Chronograph maintains the original watch’s ability to be easily and quickly read while driving at speed. 

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Three-Link Classic

The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph's Bracelet

The cohesive design of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph isn’t only owed to its case, but also the staggered three-link bracelet that perfectly matches it. Secured via a clasp with double safety push-buttons, this three-row item is comprised of brushed H-links contrasted via separating polished filler-links and polished outer edges. This combination of brushed and high polish surfaces also mirrors that of the finish on the case — again, bolstering the cohesive nature of the chronograph. Like the case’s crown, the bracelet’s clasp has also been decorated in a TAG crest logo. 

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In-House Horology

The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph's Movement

At the heart of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph is one of the Swiss brand’s Calibre HEUER02 movements. First released in 2020, this in-house-developed movement features a bi-directional rotor, 33 jewels, and a 28,800 beat rate. On display via an exhibition caseback, the Calibre HEUER02 movement also packs a healthy 80-hour power reserve. COSC-certified, this automatic chronograph movement is also accurate down to an impressive -3/+5 seconds per day. 

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Still A Legend After 60 Years

Final Thoughts On The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph

With the latest Carrera Chronograph, TAG Heuer has managed to pull off one seriously impressive balancing act. The watch is still instantly recognizable as being a TAG Carrera, carrying the visual DNA of the 1963 original in a modernized form. The overall build construction and fit and finish unequivocally justify this watch’s nearly $6,000 MSRP, and that’s before you consider its historical significance or ties to motorsport. The immensely polished appearance of the watch also allows it to serve as a somewhat flashy daily-wear timepiece option or a dress watch in more formal settings. All in all, we were a bit skeptical of this contemporary take on an horological icon, though we’d by lying if we said that the company hasn’t absolutely nailed it with the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph. 

The Best Watches For Car Enthusiasts

Photo: Yema Rallygraf

The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph boasts undeniable ties to motorsport, however, it’s far from the only timepiece with a strong connection to racing, as there are dozens of other automotive and motorsport-inspired references on the market — our favorite of which we’ve highlighted in this guide to the best watches for car enthusiasts.