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We know Jeff Stein as a leading collector of vintage Heuer chronographs, who occasionally dabbles in the newer TAG Heuer models.  It caught our eye when, twelve hours after he received his Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph in July, Jeff posted on Instagram that this watch was his “favorite TAG Heuer chronograph, ever . . . and even though you won’t see the name on the watch, the best looking Autavia-inspired chronograph, ever.” 

Below,  Jeff tells us more about his infatuation with this very interesting watch.

The new TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph.

Can you give us the “elevator version” of the Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph?

The watch was designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, a god in the world of streetwear and the creator of Fragment Design. Fujiwara has designed all sorts of interesting things such as guitars for Eric Clapton, sneakers for Nike and Converse, and headphones for Beats. In the watch world, he has designed watches for Rolex and Zenith, as well as a Carrera for TAG Heuer, in November 2018. 

On the Heuer 02 chronograph, Fujiwara incorporated the design language of a 1970s Heuer Autavia into a TAG Heuer Formula 1 chronograph case, with the watch powered by the Heuer 02 movement. 

Why has the Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph been controversial among the vintage Heuer enthusiasts?

Much of the controversy probably arises from the fact that the watch was inspired by the 1970s Autavias, but resides in the modern case that TAG Heuer uses for its Formula 1 chronographs.  There is no model name on the dial, neither “Autavia” nor “Formula 1,” so some traditionalists might see the watch as something of a Franken, which may be lacking the pure pedigree of either model.

Hiroshi Fujiwara

So how do you come to terms with these issues? 

For years, I have listened to the debates about what is and is not properly identified as an Autavia, a Carrera or a Formula 1.  Some traditionalists say that an Autavia has to be a chronograph, rather than a three-handed watch, or that a Carrera cannot have an outer bezel, because these were the rules when the models were launched in the 1960s. 

I have pretty well gotten over these hard-and-fast rules.  If Jack Heuer had felt constrained by such rules in the 1960s, the Autavia would have never made it from a dashboard timer to a chronograph and we might never have seen Heuer’s automatic chronographs.  Right now, I am more impressed with a brand making great looking, high quality watches and less concerned about the model name on the dial. 

Perhaps there is no requirement for watch models to be binary, so that the brands can incorporate elements of one model into another one.  We saw this recently when TAG Heuer incorporated the colors and style of the 1970s Montreal chronograph into a 1960s-based Carrera, and people liked the result.

The Successor – The last version of the Autavia produced by Heuer in the mid-1980s (Reference 11063, at left) and the Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition, introduced by TAG Heuer in June 2020.

As a physical object, what are your favorite elements of the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph?

I am a big fan of minimalist design, in general, and like the matte black and charcoal gray tones.  This is a great look in cars and Fujiwara has followed a similar approach with the new Formula 1, using a matte black dial. 

The hands and bezel are taken directly from the 1970s Autavias, but Fujiwara has deleted the elements that made those watches busier — the contrasting white registers, the concentric ridges in the registers and the frame around the date window. 

This is like deleting the chrome on a blacked-out car, and it makes the expanses of black more dramatic.  The red and white accents on the dial are the final touches that give the watch its pop. For several years, the Formula 1 chronographs have been housed in a case with geometry that is very close to the c-shape cases of the 1970s Autavias, so this Autavia color scheme from the 1970s looks right in the Formula 1 case.

And what are the intangibles that you enjoy with the new Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph?

The Autavias of the 1960s and 1970s were the chronographs worn by the top drivers in motorsports.  We see them on the wrists of Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, Graham Hill, Derek Bell and many other racers.  Beyond the top professionals, Autavias were popular among the amateurs and club racers, particularly with the Viceroy promotion, which offered a $200 Autavia for $88 with proof of purchase of ten packs of Viceroy cigarettes.  

The tachymeter bezel is the symbol of a racing watch, whether on the Autavia, or the Rolex Daytona or the Omega Speedmaster.  TAG Heuer is positioning the Formula 1 collection as the brand’s racing watches, and there is no better flagship for that collection than a watch that incorporates the design elements of the Autavia, the ultimate racing watch of the 1960s and 1970s.

People in the watch world may think of the Formula 1 as TAG Heuer’s “entry level” model.  How do you reconcile that with the $6,150 price tag on this model?

Essentially, this watch, and a couple of other Formula 1 models recently released by TAG Heuer, serve as a clear statement that the TAG Heuer collections will no longer follow a price hierarchy.  There is no entry-level collection or high-end collection.  Instead, the collections are defined by their aesthetics and purposes. 

The Formula 1 is TAG Heuer’s racing watch and the Autavia will be positioned as the watch for adventure.  To me, this is a much more sensible way to position the collections than just based on their price ranges.  TAG Heuer now offers its in-house Heuer 02 movement in four of its six collections, confirming that no model is relegated to “entry-level” status. 

How do you compare the new Fragment Formula 1 with the other Autavias that have been re-issued by TAG Heuer?

With the arrival of this Fragment Design chronograph, there are basically three series of Autavia re-issues.

The TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition flanked by the first of the automatic Autavias, Reference 1163 (circa 1970), and the last one produced by Heuer, Reference 11063 (circa 1983).

In 2003, TAG Heuer offered two versions of a cushion-cased Autavia, one with the black / orange colors and the other with the white / black / blue Siffert colors. 

In 2017, TAG Heuer offered a new Autavia, modeled after the Rindt model from the late 1960s.  After the initial model with the black dial and white registers, we have seen several limited editions, incorporating other color schemes into this same case. 

I like these watches, but the case lacks the real connection to either the manual wind models of the 1960s or the automatic models of the 1970s. 

Every collector will have their own favorite, but to my eye, the Fragment Formula 1 captures the spirit of the 1970s Autavias, with the color scheme, the hands and bezel, and the case geometry. There’s no “Autavia” on the dial, but there’s no doubt about the origins of this watch.

How is the watch on your wrist?

It’s a big watch at 44 millimeters, and I have a small wrist, but it’s a great fit.  The more important measurement might be the thickness, and TAG Heuer has shaved the case to 14.4 millimeters.  That’s not exactly thin, but it makes the 44 millimeter case very wearable.  The bracelet is entirely new, and is relatively thin with a butterfly clasp, which also makes the watch wear smaller.

TAG Heuer has created a new style bracelet for the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph. It’s a five-row stainless steel bracelet, with a folding butterfly clasp.

Why does this watch have the TAG Heuer logo on the dial rather than the Heuer shield?

I believe that TAG Heuer is reserving the “Heuer” shield for re-issues of the heritage models, like the Carrera 160 Years models that we saw earlier in the year.  This Formula 1 is not a re-issue of a heritage model, but a new creation for TAG Heuer.  So it gets the TAG Heuer shield rather than the Heuer shield.What are your personal preferences, as far as the re-issues that so many brands seem to be offering in the year 2020?

In recent years, there has probably been more hand-to-hand combat in the vintage community on the subject of re-issues, re-editions, homages, tributes and the like than on any other single topic.  We see everything from one-to-one recreations of some of the classics, like Breitling and Omega have done with great success, to watches that carry the name, but bear no resemblance to the original models. 

I really like the approach of the two Fragment Design models: take an iconic model, boil it down to find the essence of the design, then punch up the elements that provide the style and feel of the original period. 

Echoing the TAG Heuer Fragment Carrera, Fujiwara also places thunderbolts at the center of the case back and the word “Fragment” between 4 and 5 o’clock.

On the Fragment Carrera, we see the power of the oversized registers; on the Fragment Formula 1, we see the dramatic black paint and the red accents, with the distinctive hands and bezel.  These elements defined the racers chronograph in 1970 and, fifty years later they continue to capture the excitement of racing.  To me, capturing this timelessness is the ultimate success of a re-edition.

Other than the Fragment Design models, which are your favorite of TAG Heuer’s heritage-inspired models?

I like the Limited Edition Skipper that was a collaboration with Hodinkee back in 2017, and the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition from earlier this year. 

The Skipper captured the colors and spirit of one of the Heuer grails, the original Skipper from 1967, but took some liberties (for example, having a 30-minute register rather than the 15-minute count-down register). 

The Carrera Montreal took even more liberties, incorporating the colors and vibe of a wild-looking 1972 Montreal chronograph into a Carrera case. Once again, the traditionalists may frown, but if you like the look of these watches and enjoy the connection with the Heuer heritage, these are fun watches. 

If you could only have one of the Fragment models, the Carrera or the Formula 1, which would it be?

My first instinct is to dodge the question. The same way that the 1960s Carreras were different from the 1970s Autavias, the choice between the two Fragment models comes down to a matter of the mood and look that you want on a given day.

Fragment Design has developed two limited edition chronographs for TAG Heuer, the new Heuer 02, which draws from the Formula 1 and Autavia models, and the Carrera Heuer 02, from November 2018.

The quiet elegance of the Carrera is very different from the loud excitement of the 1970s Autavias.  Looking at my collection of vintage Heuers, I probably have four times as many 1970s Autavias as 1960s Carreras, so the Fragment probably gets the nod. 

If there will be a third Fragment Design chronograph for TAG Heuer, what are you hoping for?

Fujiwara has done a Carrera and an Autavia, so his third model will have to be a Monaco.  It would be fantastic to see what he would do with the extra-large canvas of the Monaco.

(Click here to read Jeff Stein’s “On the Dash” post about the TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition.) 

 

The new TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph 44mm collection, each fit with a Caliber Heuer 02 movement.

TAG Heuer continues to celebrate its 160th anniversary with the launch of four Carrera Sport chronographs, all now updated with the watchmaker’s own Caliber Heuer 02 movement, which boasts an eighty-hour power reserve and a chronograph with a column wheel and a vertical clutch.

In addition to the technical upgrade, the new models also offer a newly beveled inner flange around the dial, shorter lugs than earlier Carrera designs and a 44mm case with alternating polished and fine-brushed finishes.Also new is the dial finish. The new watch dials glow with circular brushing in a choice of deep blue with a matching ceramic bezel, olive green with a stainless-steel bezel or one of two black-dialed models, each with a black ceramic bezel.

New dials

With the new models, TAG Heuer offers four more solid-dial options within the Carrera chronograph collection outfitted with the Caliber Heuer 02 movement, most of which currently power Carrera chronographs with open dials.

Within these newly finished dials TAG Heuer alters the layout of the three sub-dials, which here differ from those seen on existing Carrera chronographs that are fit with the Caliber 16 movement.

The hour counter for the chronograph (here at 9 o’clock) also differs from those existing Carrera chronographs with inclusion of the numerals 12, 4 and 8 to better balance the minute counter, which is now at 3 o’clock.

TAG Heuer also moves the date to 6 o’clock, which differs from existing Carrera chronographs that use the Caliber Heuer 02 movement, where the date is in the 4:30 position. Finally, wearers can expect a somewhat lighter Carrera chronograph thanks to the new, thinner H-shaped bracelet.

Rose gold accents

While all four new Carrera Sport chronographs are cased in steel, one black-dialed model offers rose gold accents. For this watch, TAG Heuer filled its black ceramic bezel with a fetching rose-gold-colored lacquer, and then matched it with an 18-karat gold crown and push buttons.

Also for this model, TAG Heuer fits a black PVD-coated brass rotor (visible through the sapphire crystal caseback) and then prints watch specifications on it using a rose gold printing process.

TAG Heuer launches this new Carrera Sport lineup this month following the launch of the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver and the 160 Years Montreal Edition limited editions earlier this year.

The La-Chaux-de-Fonds based watchmaker is not done celebrating its 160th anniversary yet. TAG Heuer says it will unveil four more “core novelties” as well as two special editions before the end of the 2020 anniversary year.

Prices: $5,350 to $20,400 (with rose-gold accents).

 

TAG Heuer today introduces a second Carrera collector’s edition to mark the Swiss watchmaker’s 160th birthday.

The new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition.

The TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition, the new limited edition of 1,000 watches, echoes the brand’s White Heuer Montreal from 1972, complete with that model’s colorful dial marked with then-novel yellow luminescence.

The eye-catching 39mm watch arrives about six months after TAG Heuer started this anniversary year by launching the equally fetching TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Dial Limited Edition, which we discussed here.

TAG Heuer says that a now highly collectible White Heuer Montreal, reference 110503W from 1972, inspired the new watch’s retro design. As a result, TAG Heuer has echoed that watch’s red, yellow and blue coloring scheme.

The White Heuer Montreal from 1972.

The new model somewhat replicates the original dial, though in a current Carrera case with right-side crown rather than a cushion case with a left crown, and without the marked pulsimeter and tachymeter references seen on the original. TAG Heuer has replaced those references with a blue and red ruled scale, and replaces the ‘Montreal’ monicker with ‘Carrera.’

However, the new model echoes the original’s use colorful luminescence, which was just being developed at the time. The TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition, as a result, features a chronograph minute counter (at 3 o’clock) with three curved lines, each colored with yellow SuperLuminova. The same color is also found on the central minute and hour hands. The central chronograph seconds hand is colored with straight red lacquer.  

The dial itself features three blue subdials (with updated hands) protected by a domed ‘glassbox’ sapphire crystal, inspired by the original.

TAG Heuer’s own Caliber Heuer 02 manufacture chronograph movement powers the tribute watch.  The movement, visible from the sapphire caseback, includes a column wheel and a vertical clutch and boasts an impressive eighty-hour power reserve.

Packaged in a special box, TAG Heuer will package the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition in a special gift box and make it available in July at TAG Heuer boutiques and online at www.tagheuer.com. Price: $6,750

 

Specifications: TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition

Movement: TAG Heuer Caliber Heuer 02 Automatic manufacture movement with column-wheel chronograph, vertical clutch, power reserve of 80 hours.

Dial: 
Blue, white opaline dial, white flange with 60-second/minute scale and three counters (at 3 o’clock: blue minute chronograph counter with yellow SuperLuminova, at 6 o’clock: blue permanent second indicator, at 9 o’clock: blue hour chronograph counter. 
Rhodium-plated minute and hour hands with yellow SuperLuminova. Red lacquered central hand. 
Black printed logo.

Case: 39mm polished steel, polished steel fixed bezel, domed sapphire crystal, polished steel standard crown and pushers, steel screw-down sapphire caseback with special numbered limited-edition engraving. 
Water-resistant to 100 meters.

Strap: Blue alligator leather with polished steel folding clasp and double safety push buttons.

Price: $6,750