Carrera models encasing the manufacture Calibre Heuer 02 have been available since 2018, but the series lacked a classic version with a closed dial. Now TAG Heuer has closed that gap in the line in an attractive way. with the Carrera Sport Chronograph, which we review in this feature from our March-April 2021 issue.
A dial with counters at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions is called “tricompax” and is quite popular with chronograph fans, which is no surprise — the dial’s symmetry pleases the eye, which tends to seek order, and it’s also reminiscent of classic chronograph designs from the mid-20th century.
TAG Heuer’s current Carrera collection has included chronographs with tricompax dials since 2018 — powered by the recently introduced Caliber Heuer 02. But those Carrera manufacture models have a highly technical look, with openworked dials and metal components between the strap lugs, so they’re more likely to appeal to the tastes of the avant-garde than to lovers of classically styled chronographs. TAG Heuer followed the modern manufacture Carreras with the launch of two retro timepieces with closed dials, but still there were no contemporary serially manufactured models.
Now the Swiss watch brand has launched two collections: the Carrera Sport Chronograph and the Carrera Elegant Chronograph. Each line consists of four models. The Sport series differs from its elegant sister collection mainly because the cases are 2 mm larger in diameter, the bezels are wider and bear tachymeter scales, and the crown and push-pieces are more strikingly styled. In addition to three Carrera Sport Chronographs with metal bracelets, there is only one version with a leather strap. Our test takes a closer look at this model, which is an attractive combination of sporty and elegant design elements.
Even the critical eyes of our editors could discover no shortcomings in the craftsmanship of this watch. The multilevel dial with complex indexes and hands, the ceramic bezel, and the partly polished, partly satin-finished case are entirely free of flaws and fully worthy of a manufacture chronograph.
In addition to the excellent workmanship, the crown and clasp are very easy to use. The crown provides a good grip thanks to its deep fluting. And the clasp impressed us because it opens at the push of a button, snaps shut authoritatively and also includes a clamping mechanism that enables stepless adjustment of the length of the strap.
But with a retail price of $6,550, the version of the Carrera Sport Chronograph with the leather strap is considerably more expensive than the models with steel bracelets, which cost $5,750. The reason: the hands and indexes, as well as the crown and push-pieces, are plated with 18k rose gold. The gold creates a unique, sporty and elegant look and rounds out the new collection, but it probably won’t appeal to everyone who loves chronographs and sports watches.
These elegant accents go well with the new “closed” dial. All in all, the face of the watch is quite appealing thanks to its rounded surface with raised rings around the outer edge and on the chronograph’s elapsed-time counters at 3 and 9 o’clock. The subdial for the continually running seconds, on the other hand, is recessed. The hands, which combine ample luminous material and black lacquer, as well as the richly shaped and brightly luminous hour markers, stand out particularly well against the dial’s three-dimensional background.
After all these considerations, it seems almost ironic that the only detail on the dial that detracts from the impeccable styling is the last remaining aperture. The date window disrupts the harmony of the watch’s otherwise handsome and well-balanced face. TAG Heuer positioned the date display symmetrically at 6 o’clock, but it nonetheless strikes a jarring note because it partially overlaps the subdial for the continually running seconds and, above all, because the date’s numeral is written in a black typeface on a white background. A dark disk that matches the dial’s color would work wonders here.
A Modern Manufacture Movement
Regardless of the date display, the performance of manufacture Caliber Heuer 02 is impressive. It combines a high-quality ratchet-wheel control system with reliable vertical friction coupling, a large barrel for at least 80 hours of power reserve and a modern design with piercings in both the bridge above the self-winding mechanism and in the black-coated rotor. The caliber’s diameter of 31 mm is suitable for watches with modern dimensions, and its thickness of 6.9 mm is 1 mm slimmer than that of the classic Valjoux 7750 chronograph from Swiss high-volume manufacturer ETA. We were pleased to discover that TAG Heuer modified the lettering on the outer edge of the rotor for this special rose-gold model. The lettering here is rose colored rather than white, as it is on the rotors in Carrera watches with steel cases.
The rate values that we measured earned mixed reviews for Caliber Heuer 02. Our timing machine found that the tested movement ran with a slight daily loss of -0.7 seconds and a maximum deviation of 12 seconds among the individual positions. This large difference between the several positions is admittedly not ideal, but neither is it catastrophic. The disadvantages become apparent in daily use: depending on whether the watch was taken off at night, and on the position in which it was left lying down, the timekeeping suffered clearly fluctuating daily deviations between -1 and -5 seconds. The former is an acceptable value, but the latter is a sobering one for people who wear their watch every day and want to rely on it for weeks at a stretch.
Pros and Cons
On the minus side, there are fluctuating rate values and a date display that not everyone likes. Fortunately, there are a lot more items on the plus side: the flawless workmanship evident in the hands, dial, case and bracelet, excellent user friendliness when operating the watch and a high level of wearing comfort. And last but not least, the pluses also include a pleasantly functional, singly folding clasp equipped with both a no-nonsense locking mechanism and a clamp for conveniently stepless adjustment of the strap’s length. The manufacture caliber is a pleasure for people who attach less importance to the manual finishing of all components and assign greater significance to the technical appearance and well thought-out construction of a watch’s movement.
But the biggest advantage is the one mentioned at the beginning: At long last, there is finally a manufacture Carrera with a closed dial.
Manufacturer: TAG Heuer SA, Rue Louis-Joseph Chevrolet 6a, CH-2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Reference number: CBN2A5A.FC6481
Functions: Hours, minutes, subdial for the continually running seconds, chronograph with central hand for 60 elapsed seconds and subdials for 30 elapsed minutes and 12 elapsed hours, date display
Movement: Manufacture Calibre Heuer 02, automatic, 28,800 vph, 33 jewels, stop-seconds function, rapid reset for the date display, ratchet wheel, vertical coupling, fine adjustment of the rate via eccentric screws, Kif shock protection, 80-hour power reserve, diameter = 31 mm, height = 6.9 mm
Case: Stainless steel, ceramic bezel, crown and push-pieces partly coated with rose gold, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on its underside, fully threaded back with transparent pane of sapphire crystal, water resistant to 100 meters
Strap and clasp: Alligator leather strap with secure folding clasp that opens on one side only
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours, with chronograph switched off / on):
Dial up +6 / +5
Dial down +6 / +4
Crown up -6 / -6
Crown down +2 / +1
Crown left -1 / -3
Crown right -3 / -4
Greatest deviation 12 / 11
Average deviation -0.7 / -0.5
Flat positions 290° / 289°
Hanging positions 248° / 242°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44 mm, height = 15.2 mm, weight = 120 grams
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The length of the perfectly crafted alligator strap can be steplessly adjusted due to the clamping mechanism in the folding clasp, which is cleverly designed, secure and comfortable to wear. 9
Operation (5): Winding is smooth and the unscrewed, easily grasped crown can be pulled out without having to pry it up with a fingernail. The only negative: the start-stop button responds less promptly than the zero-reset button. 4
Case (10): The well-crafted steel case has a ceramic bezel and two sapphire crystals and water resistance to 100 meters. 8
Design (15): An elegant version of a familiar chronograph. At long last, there is a manufacture Carrera with a closed dial! 12
Legibility (5): The dial’s contrast is sufficient, but the crystal and the many polished elements on the face reflect light like little mirrors. Ample luminous material ensures good orientation at night. 4
Wearing comfort (10): Despite its rather tall height of 15.2 mm, this watch fits well thanks to its leather strap and adjustable buckle. 9
Movement (20): Manufacture Calibre Heuer 02 boasts a ratchet wheel, vertical coupling and an 80-hour power reserve. The look is modern and distinctive. Unfortunately, the unidirectional winding rotor is clearly audible when it turns in the idling direction. 16
Rate results (10): The rate is in the “loss” column and the greatest difference among the several positions is large. 7
Overall value (15): It is not unreasonable to pay $6,550 for a well-crafted manufacture chronograph, but the price of this model is not as attractive as the price of its sister models with stainless-steel cases and steel bracelets. 12
Total: 81 POINTS