In 1963, Heuer (now TAG Heuer) introduced the first Carrera to market. Named after the Carrera Panamericana, a Mexican open-road endurance race believed to be the most dangerous of its kind, the wristwatch offered one of the most impeccable executions of the time with its clean dial and elegant silhouette. Watch collectors have Jack Heuer, great-grandson of the watch company’s founder, Edouard Heuer, to thank for creating this classic timepiece.
The Carrera was a smash hit for Heuer until the quartz crisis hit the brand hard and it sold to TAG Group in 1985. Under new management, the company took a sharp turn away from chronographs and stopwatches toward avant-garde mid-range luxury wristwatches. While it was a successful business move, the new lineup alienated the original Heuer audience, especially when the TAG Heuer ceased production of the Carrera shortly following the acquisition.
TAG Heuer welcomed the Carrera back to production in 1996, where it’s been part of the family ever since. However, the Carrera has had to climb itself back into glory after disappearing for a decade. Models like the Grand Carrera played an important role in restoring the innovative perceptions of the Carrera and TAG Heuer in general, but the busier automatic chronographs of the mid-2000s powered by the Valjoux 7750 never seemed to carry the same heart and elegance as the 1960s chronographs. When ETA put the squeeze on watch companies by restricting its supply of movements to brands outside of the Swatch umbrella, TAG Heuer responded with its Calibre 1887 in 2010, further cementing its return as a maker of beautifully engineered tool watches with a racing spirit.
While the brand has already released special edition timepieces that more visually reflect the 1963 Carrera, the Jack Heuer Edition, released in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Carrera and its creator, is one of the strongest stories ever packed into watch form. I often say that good reissues offer a compelling narrative of the brand in addition to their classic looks, but the Calibre 1887 Jack Heuer Edition we’re looking at here offers a rich celebration of the Carrera as well as a promise of innovation that heritage throwbacks just can’t match.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Caliber 1887 Jack Heuer Edition
You’ll have a hard time getting past the case without a polarized reaction. Love it or hate it, the only time you’ve seen this before is in 2012 when TAG Heuer released its Mikrogirder, a mechanical stopwatch fit to measure elapsed time with a precision of 5/10,000ths of a second. With the Mikrogirder, a bona fide concept watch, the goal was to pay homage to the brand’s origins as a racing-inspired timekeeper, and TAG Heuer did this through a bullhead configuration where the crown and pushers sit atop the case and by constructing a two-part case that looks like the stopwatch is being cradled, as if it’s resting while not in use.
The Jack Heuer edition exhibits the same silhouette and boasts a highly complex construction with different finishings and materials used throughout. The outer girder cage is brushed and polished steel, while the polished bezel is black titanium carbide coated steel. The inner case itself is black titanium carbide coated titanium. All of the different surfaces keeps things interesting, but it’s the three dimensional details that really give this watch its fire. On or off the wrist, you don’t really get bored looking at this one from all angles. It’s a watch from the past and future. It’s profile is certainly something new but its bullhead design and signature Carrera lugs salute its heritage.
The crown on top is probably the easiest crown I’ve operated on a watch that isn’t a flieger. It’s bold, making it easy to use, but it’s most valuable feature is the rubber strip that means a sure grip when pulling out the crown without needing a fingernail for leverage.
Sapphire crystals are on the front and back. You can see the exhibition case back’s window is smoked, offering a limited view of the movement and housing the Heuer family crest as well as Jack’s signature in red script.
Like the case, the dial has two parts to it, the inner, lighter silver sunburst dial and the outer anthracite dial that houses the polished hour markers. The 3-6-9 layout of the subdials gave TAG Heuer the opportunity to make the chronograph registers on the sides more pronounced than the running seconds at 6 o’clock, which is almost completely hidden. This ties together the stopwatch-related subdials and overall it looks like a vintage Heuer, like a reference 7753, with a bi-compax layout.
There’s the date within the 6 o’clock register, countered with the applied logo across the dial at 12. A splash of color also unites the chronograph features. The red stopwatch seconds hand coordinates with the red-tipped hands of the hour and minute registers. The overall design, from the fonts to the hands and markers, is distinctly Carrera.
Caliber 1887 is behind the dial. It’s a 39-jewel automatic column wheel chronograph movement with 50 hours of power reserve. The column wheel chronograph translates into a buttery soft push button experience. Starting, stopping and resetting the chronograph feels much smoother than your average lever-based system. Column wheels not only boast smoother action, but the implementation is more appropriate to a Carrera given its early beginnings with Valjoux 72’s, which were also column-wheel chronographs.
Normally the 1887 doesn’t allow for a tri-compax dial arrangement, but achieving the bullhead design essentially requires rotating the movement counterclockwise, thereby rendering the 9-6-3 register layout, which is also a nod to Heuer’s Carreras of the past.
On the Wrist
The Jack Heuer edition comes on an alligator strap with a gorgeous red lining. TAG Heuer calls it a “soft touch” leather and it really is. Both flexible and strong, this is a strap you can wear for hours on end and the red lining is a really nice touch. The deployant clasp is black titanium carbide coated titanium. It’s super light, easy to use and doesn’t rely on existing pin holes in the leather, so you can get a 100% perfect fit out of the box. The lug width on this Carrera is 22mm, so you could switch out the strap, but I don’t see why you would. It’s what every other brand watch should strive to provide with their sport chronographs.
It’s a sporty watch with luxurious details. Wear it with whatever you want, but I always see this as a conversation piece. It’s unique in its design and I like to think of this as a perfect watch for special occasions. Fit for everyday wear, but something you reach for when you want something special on your wrist. Additionally, given its case design, with the inner case set an angle, its 16.5mm thickness doesn’t make it easy to hide beneath many shirt cuffs.
The Jack Heuer Edition retails for $7,800, putting it up against some tough competition from Omega’s co-axial Speedmasters, Zenith’s El Primero, and for a little bit more, IWC’s Portugese Chronograph. On a purely technical dimension, does the Calibre 1887 play in the same league as these alternatives?
A purely technical comparison is too reductive and unfair. Special editions are rarely the best deals. No, this isn’t your best value in a manufacture chronograph, but its complex construction, unique design and wearability are not to be overlooked. Most collectors seeking the finest chronograph that $7,800 can buy probably won’t pick up the Jack Heuer Edition, but serious TAG/Heuer fans and buyers who want a special chronograph to stand out from the ones they already own would do well to consider it. And that is who the Jack Heuer Edition is for.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Jack Heuer Edition is available at TAG Heuer boutiques, authorized dealers and online at TAG Heuer’s web store. shop-us.tagheuer.com