Today, there are more than a handful of manufacturers that have been in business since before you were born. Some watches making the rounds today made their debut decades or more ago.

Tag Heuer is one such manufacturer. Having been one of the world’s foremost authorities on all things timepieces for years, they’re certainly a member of the prestigious club of watchmakers with a pedigree.

Almost as storied as the company itself is its Carerra watch. Designed over 50 years ago and as popular as ever today, it’s one of the industry’s golden standards. Here’s a look into Tag Heuer and their iconic Carrera, just in time for their newest product launches.

It’s an Homage
Designed in 1963, the Tag Heuer Carrera is the brainchild of Jack Heuer, who invented the watch as an homage to one of the day’s most prolific and thrilling auto races, La Carrera Panamerica. The race only ran for four years (1950-1954), but had a tremendous impact on the world of motorsport, giving enthusiasts a timeless and meaningful experience they’d talk about for decades.

Mr. Heuer’s watch is meant to capture the spirit of the event, borrowing design elements from sportscars of the day. This race-inspired motif would prove wildly and immediately popular, leading to the watch becoming a staple overnight.

It would also prove useful — the watch’s marriage to the auto industry and its reliance on design elements ripped straight from the motorsports industry saw it fast become the home of new technologies, innovations, and breakthroughs in durability.

Ever sleek and sporty, the Carrera has since burgeoned into one of the world’s most popular and enduring brands in all of timekeeping. No longer a plaything for racing aficionados and racecar drivers alone, the Carrera is something like the Coke or the Pepsi of the timepiece world.

The initial design emphasized durability above all else. Jack Heuer likely thought the watch’s best shot at market success was impressing drivers — so it was built to sustain even the heaviest use while resisting damage and corrosion at any cost.

It was a tank, especially for the time. Some of the features found on the first Carreras were less common than they are today, including water and shock proofing, and being 100% anti-magnetic.

Another feature meant for the track but loved by everyone was the watch’s easy, at-a-glance readability. The large dials and clean and markers are evenly and well spaced for easy and quick viewing. The flange even housed a 1/5th of a second marker, so the watch had no problem making extremely precise measurements.

Operation was, and still is, very simple. As featured as the watch has become, it’s always meant to be one of the industry’s most accessible pieces. Simple, timeless pump-push mechanisms provide a clean clicking feel to each push. The watch feels durable and mechanical.
In the 70’s, thicker cases took hold everywhere, and the watch first incorporated automatic movements.

A Movement that Matters
Inside the modern Carrera is a movement that serves as the backbone for the entire brand. Called the 1887 and named for the year that Heuer invented the oscillating pinion to be used in stopwatches, it boasts:

  • 4HZ balance
    50 hour (approximate) power reserve
    Automatically wound by full-size rotor
    Subdials for running seconds
    30-minute chronograph register
    12-hour chronograph register
    Small-sized date wheel
    Column wheel chronograph in lieu of a lesser clutch

This movement is a much-upgraded and redesigned version of the Seiko 6S37, which is less flat and has its balance wheel positioned differently.

Of all the manufacturers involved in the creation of a Carrera watch, only Seiko is not Swiss, so the in-house construction claim is pretty airtight. After modifying, the watch is as pure in heritage as it is in appearance.

This tinkering has proven to be beneficial for the brand. Seiko’s winding systems are some of the most compact and emulated anywhere, with their double-pawl winding system being much more efficient than the standard rotor winding mechanism. The brand’s marriage to Seiko is a beneficial thing.

Today’s Carrera
The casing of the new Carrera is available in two sizes, the thinner and more classically-inspired 41mm and the thicker, more 70’s-inspired 43mm. All the dials are highly polished, and very easily readable.

To further the watch’s usefulness in poor lighting conditions, the watch’s polish is quite extreme in its crispness. It is rather shiny in full on sunlight, but it’s easy to read in near-perfect dark, which is great to have. Some folks simply can’t tolerate a glow-in-the-dark approach, particularly in a luxury watch, so this feature bridges the gap nicely.

Lining the dial flange is a tachymeter, as you might expect. Finished in matte black to match the similarly darkened dial, readability is great. Hour markers are metallic, as are the flange housing the subdials.

As for layout, it’s pretty intuitive. The 30-minute chronograph register is located at compass North, the 12-hour register in the South position, and running seconds at the West position. There’s a small date window, and the watch overall is very subtle and unobtrusive.

Performance-Inspired: More than a Moniker
Looking great has never been a problem for the Carrera, and the new model looks extremely confident and sophisticated. For performance, you can’t fault the watch.

This is the brand that emphasized durability and usability over everything else, but came out with one of the most attractive and enduring designs in history for their workhouse. All told, it performs very well.

The bands are available in matte crocodile or on a metal band, and the crocodile looks a treat, featuring Tag Heuer’s proprietary clasp instead of a pin-and-hole method, allowing for a much more perfect fit than what most watches offer.

It’s easy to use and may even turn some heads. For the watch enthusiast and the casual observer, it’s fun to look at and use. A grand slam (again) for the Carrera.

It’s a fitting homage to the original design, and feels modern without encroaching on bulky or tacky territory. Priced just north of $5,000, it’s got a lot to offer and a pedigree you can’t imitate.