Among Friends: Reviewing the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph Special Edition


The official partnership between the TAG Heuer watch brand and the Porsche sports car manufacturer was a natural choice. These two companies have been linked by a strong friendship with common history, stories and, above all, values for years. Yet the news came as a shock. Reason enough for the watch manufacturer to launch a special model and for us to test it straight away.

Compared to other current TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 models, the new Porsche Chronograph is impressive thanks to its closed dial, to which the admiring eye inevitably remains glued like a hot tire to asphalt. The seemingly ordinary anthracite-colored dial is not pierced, but nonetheless is very special. Roughened like an asphalt racetrack, this unique texture was given to this special Carrera model, our test watch, to symbolize TAG Heuer’s affinity to motor sports and the new partnership between TAG Heuer and Porsche.

For the same reason, the glossy black and scratch-resistant ceramic bezel, which would otherwise bear the word “tachymetre,” is engraved with the name “Porsche” in red letters patterned after the original typeface. Numerous details of the stopwatch function are also in red: the tips of all chronographic hands, certain areas within the elapsed-minutes and elapsed-hours counters, and the 15-second markings of the elapsed-second scale along the edge of the dial. Like red brake calipers on a car, here they symbolize sportiness and highlight the stopwatch function.

Carrera Brought Heuer and Porsche Together
In addition to the characteristic color scheme of red, black and gray, the numbers on the watch’s dial also refer to the Porsche design code and recall the instrument panels on high-end racing cars. The fact that these appliqués mark the minutes and seconds rather than the hours, as they do on other Carrera models, is only logical for this special edition, which is conceived as a tribute to motorsports. The numerals glow bright green in the dark, as do other triangular indexes and the bar-shaped hands that indicate the main time. But when the lights go out, the continually running seconds at 6 and the chronograph’s elapsed-time indicators are unreadable.

The Carrera name is relatively inconspicuous below the 12, or rather below the 60, which indicates the 60-second position at the full minute. Carrera is the connective element between these two brands, whose paths have crossed again and again in fascinating ways for decades. Carrera means “race” in Spanish, and it was auto racing that first brought Porsche and Heuer together. Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, known as “Ferry,” joined his father’s design business in 1931 at the age of 22. In 1948, he launched the 356 No. 1 Roadster sports car, the first vehicle built under the Porsche name and the foundation for the car brand named for the family. Porsche quickly made a name for itself in motorsports, including a class victory in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana. In honor of its successful participation in this race, Porsche gave the name “Carrera” to the most powerful engine in its fleet.

With a 15.25-mm-high case and push-pieces on its strong flank, this chronograph is just as expressive as the sports car.

Edouard Heuer’s great-grandson Jack also used the Carrera name for a chronograph that he developed in 1963, which enabled racing drivers to tell the time at a glance in the heat of the action. Jack Heuer also led the development of the Heuer Monaco, the first waterproof automatic chronograph with a square case. Its name paid tribute to the Mon-aco Grand Prix and the famous Monte Carlo Rally, which Porsche’s legendary 911 model won three years in a row from 1968 to 1970.

Later there were further connections between Porsche and Heuer, or TAG Heuer, as the Swiss watchmaker has been known since it was sold to the TAG Group in the mid-1980s. The two brands collaboratively developed and produced the TAG Porsche engine, which powered the McLaren team to three consecutive Formula 1 world championships, with Niki Lauda behind the wheel in 1984 and with Alain Prost in the driver’s seat in 1985 and 1986. Since 1999, the relationship between the two companies has grown even closer , thanks to their cooperation in motor sports events, such as the Porsche Carrera Cup, the Supercup and the Endurance World Championship. TAG Heuer was one of the founders of the Formula E championship, for which Porsche set up its own Formula E team in 2019, with TAG Heuer as the namesake and official timekeeping partner. Two years later, this became the official brand partnership, which seems as though it has existed for years. Joint projects are planned under the motto, “Porsche and TAG Heuer: Two histories — one passion.”

The new chronograph is worn either with a black calfskin strap with handmade decorative stitching that recalls both the interior of a Porsche sports car and a Carrera racetrack or with a stainless-steel bracelet made of H-shaped links, which forms an integrated connection with the angular case via fixed connectors. Both wristbands are equipped with a robust, high quality, folding clasp.

A fully threaded screw-in caseback with a window of sapphire seals the underside of the polished stainless-steel case, which resists pressure to 10 bar. The transparent crystal offers an unobstructed view of still-young, automatic manufacture Calibre Heuer 02. The colors red, black and gray come into play once again in a color scheme that’s reminiscent not only of Porsche, but also of earlier Heuer models. The newly designed winding rotor in black pays homage to the Porsche steering wheel. It winds the mainspring in only one direction of rotation; when it turns in the other direction, it makes a quiet idling sound that some connoisseurs find unpleasant. But TAG Heuer consciously opted for a unidirectional automatic winding mechanism with a ratchet wheel because it reduces both the total number of components and, more importantly, the overall height of the movement. The comparatively small red column wheel stands out at the very edge, accompanied by the caliber’s steel (gray) bridges, wheels, levers and springs. Together with vertical coupling, the column wheel ensures that elapsing intervals are measured with precision and reliability.

The numerals, which glow brightly at night, refer to Porsche’s typography and are reminiscent of instruments in the cockpits of racing cars.

A Powerful Engine for a Sports Watch
The development of Calibre Heuer 02 began in 2011. It debuted under the name Calibre 1969 in 2013, but was soon renamed CH-80, after its remarkably lengthy 80-hour power reserve, which it achieves with only one barrel.

In the following years, however, TAG Heuer had to optimize the movement. The goal was to create a robust and reliable chronograph caliber that could be manufactured as cost effectively as possible. The caliber’s dimensions of 31 mm in diameter and 6.5 mm in height are identical to those of the El Primero, which is produced by Zenith, one of TAG Heuer’s sister brands in the LVMH Group. However, the slim design of Calibre 1969 resulted in some problems. In addition to the unidirectional self-winding mechanism, it also required a thin chronograph bridge. The winding mechanism was adequately efficient, but the slender bridge couldn’t cope with the force of the chronograph’s switching operations and became deformed. The new and sturdier design adds 0.4 mm to the movement’s height for an overall thickness of 6.9 mm.

In addition to the column wheel, the chronograph bridge is one of the few components that are screwed to the base plate. Other components, such as stamped levers to start, stop, block and zero the chronograph, as well as springs to hold components in place or exert pressure, are either plugged or hooked into place. The elimination of screws shortens the assembly time and reduces the total number of parts to only 233. The gearing in the winding and hand-setting system also called for improvement because clicking noises were caused by gears that did not mesh deeply enough. The semi-jumping date mechanism likewise underwent optimization. The current version is so secure that it cannot be damaged if its user mistakenly tries to manually reset the date while the mechanism is in the midst of its automatic switching process. To protect the mechanism, the system locks, and the date must be manually advanced by turning the crown after having pulled it to its center position. When the watch is running, the rather small date display at the 6 begins to advance about 30 to 40 minutes before midnight.

Calibre Heuer 02 amasses an 80-hour power reserve, thanks in part to a rotor modeled after a Porsche steering wheel.

TAG Heuer cooperates with the specialist Atokalpa for the oscillating and escapement system, which is paced at 4 Hz. The Isograph hairspring, which premiered two years ago, is not yet deployed. TAG Heuer’s CEO Frédéric Arnault explains that the Isograph is still very expensive to manufacture and is therefore currently only used in high-end products. However, the conventional system also achieves good, well-balanced rates in the chronometer range, which is not the only thing our test proved.

Heuer Calibre 02 debuted in 2016 as the chronometer-certified Heuer Calibre 02-T inside the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 Tourbillon. In 2017, the new manufacture movement without a tourbillon appeared in the retro model Autavia Calibre Heuer 02. In 2018, it was integrated into the Carrera and finally in 2019, into the Monaco. It has established itself as an excellent high-performance engine for timepieces inspired by motor sports.

SPECS:
Manufacturer: TAG Heuer SA, Rue Louis-Joseph Chevrolet 6a, 2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Reference number: CBN2A1F.BA0643
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date display, chronograph (central elapsed-seconds hand, counters for 30 elapsed minutes and 12 elapsed hours), tachymeter scale
Movement: Calibre Heuer 02, automatic, 28,800 vph, 33 jewels, Glucydur balance, Nivarox hairspring, index and eccentric screw fine adjustment, Kif shock absorption, 80-hour power reserve, diameter = 31.0 mm, height = 6.90 mm
Case: Stainless-steel case, curved sapphire crystal, doubly anti-reflective (above dial), sapphire crystal in caseback, water resistant to 100 m
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless-steel bracelet, folding clasp opens on one side only
Rate results (deviations in seconds per 24 hours, fully wound/after 24 hours):
On the wrist +1.5
Dial up +0.3 / +0.1
Dial down +0.9 / +0.8
Crown up −2.7 / −1.7
Crown down +7.5 / +8.2
Crown left +2.1 / +3.4
Greatest deviation 10.2 / 9.9
Average deviation +1.6 / +2.2
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 309° / 292°
Hanging positions 267° / 246°
Dimensions: Diameter = 43.25 mm, lug width = 21 mm integrated, height =
15.25 mm, weight = 192.0 grams
Variations: With calfskin strap (Ref. CBN2A1F.FC6492, $5,850)
Price: $6,050

SCORES:
Wristband and clasp (max. 10 points): Handsome wristband, comfortable clasp 9
Case (10): High quality case with facets, two sapphire crystals, threaded caseback, ceramic bezel, matching push-pieces and crown 8
Dial (10): The design features elements from the Porsche racing world, exclusive “asphalt” dial, special appliqués. 9
Design (15): Successful translation of Porsche racing design codes with red, gray and black, special numerals and optional leather strap 13
Legibility (5): The time display dominates, even at night; the chronograph function is not legible in the dark but is easy to read during the day; date display is small and difficult to read. 4
Operation (5): Crown is easy to use, chronograph pushers have firm and secure pressure points, but the steel parts of the bracelet are pinned. 4
Wearing comfort (5): The case is quite tall and the watch is heavy, especially when worn with the stainless-steel bracelet; massive clasp. 4
Movement (20): The optimized manufacture caliber has proven its mettle in everyday use; secure basic construction with reliable switching for the chronograph and the date; long- lasting power reserve; special rotor. 17
Rate results (10): Although this is not a certified chronometer, it keeps time with very good, balanced rate values in the chronometer-worthy range; the amplitudes remain stable, also when the chronograph is running. 9
Overall value (10): The special design celebrates the partner-ship with Porsche, it implements Porsche’s design codes; the price is fair. 8
Total: 85 POINTS

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