The evolution of the TAG Heuer Carrera

It may have been 56 years since we were introduced to the Carrera but it is still in pole position of the chronographs

The TAG Heuer Carrera is an icon of modern day motorsport. But, rather than racers, the two men who have sped the timepiece to the top of its game are Jack Heuer and Jean-Claude Biver, titans of the watch world with the resumes to prove it.

The evolution of the TAG Heuer Carrera
Jack Heuer proudly sporting a panda dial Carrera

Jack Heuer is the great grandson of the founder of the brand, Edouard Heuer — and also the man who first dreamt up the Carrera. Jean-Claude Biver is widely regarded as the man who single-handedly saved the Swiss watch market during the quartz crisis and helped to modernise the Carrera for modern consumers.

Revving up the Carrera’s racing origins

The Carrera first tore onto the scene at the 1963 Basel watch fair, debuting its stripped-back, simplistic design to much praise. A chronograph, it had one of the clearest timers on the market at the time — an easily-read feature sought-after by racing drivers of the time.

The name is borrowed from a historic motor race that crossed Mexico; the Carrera Panamericana, a week-long race that ran from 1950 to 1954 and was revived in 1988 to give collectors the chance to race both professionally and as amateurs across the rough terrain of Mexico.

And the watch itself was a natural step for the brand. Who better to create the go-to wrist-worn chronograph for racing drivers, after all, than the company who already specialised in dashboard timing instruments?

It didn’t take long for TAG Heuer to become the first watch brand to sponsor Formula 1. And this accolade led to many of the superstar drivers of the time strapping Carreras to their wrists when they took to the circuit — opting for a watch that was easy to read in the split-second they had to check the time.

Getting under the bonnet of the technical advancements

The evolution of the TAG Heuer Carrera
An original Carrera from 1963

The original Carreras from TAG Heuer were fitted with manual wind movements — fairly standard practice among chronographs of the era. But, in 1969, Jack Heuer teamed up with Breitling to create the world’s first automatic chronograph movement, the storied Calibre 11.

It was a movement that transformed the Carerra into a true tool watch; effortlessly reliable as well as being the stylish accessory many racers also wanted. Since the Calibre 11 was introduced, the model has been the darling of the Swiss brand’s range, sitting squarely in pole position of the development stakes.

Even more recently, Jean-Claude Biver has spearheaded the introduction of new technologies and materials at the company. The new TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02, introduced to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the watch, has seen a return to the original dial layout — but also introduced yet another new in-house movement and a modular case available in every material imaginable, from gold to ceramic.

Speeding into the future of watchmaking

The innovation hasn’t stopped there. This year the brand has revved up their R&D department even further, and introduced us to the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph. This new rip-roaring, state-of-the-art timepiece features a groundbreaking carbon hairspring integrated into a revolutionary tourbillon.

And, while the design for these two models are rather avant-garde, boasting skeletonised dials and angular lugs, they still manage to cut an incredibly sporty and modern shape on the wrist of drivers and customers alike. It’s a versatility we first saw in the original Carerra back in 1963, and one that continues to thread the range together to this day.

The shape of the Carrera was also even used as the inspiration for TAG Heuer’s Connected smartwatches. It’s a design move from the company that proves that, while the origins of the case may have crossed the start line over 55 years ago, it still resonates with audiences today.

Now find out about the evolution of the Breitling Navitimer…

Further Reading