TAG Heuer celebrates its 160th anniversary in 2020, with an emphasis on its most famous watch model, the racing-inspired Carrera. Thus far, the market has seen two limited-edition heritage pieces, one reviving the storied silver-dial Carrera from 1964, another adopting the signature features of another vintage chronograph, the Montreal; along with a historically inspired redesign of the modern Carrera collection. I discussed the Year of the Carrera with TAG Heuer’s Heritage Director, Catherine Eberlé-Devaux.
WT: Where did the Heuer Montreal get its name and what made that model a cult classic?
CE: It was launched in 1972, and because it comes from Jack Heuer’s era, most people think that the name comes from the Canadian Grand Prix, but that’s not the case because Formula One motor racing wasn’t established in Montreal until later in the 1970s. However, the name was quite famous thanks to the world exhibition from ’67 and the Winter Olympic Games held there. In fact, the Montreal was not envisioned as a motor racing chronograph like the Silverstone, Carrera, and Monaco. The Montreal has a tachymeter scale and a pulsimeter scale plus the regular chronograph, so it’s really a versatile timepiece, a more universal type of tool watch. We picked the dial of the Montreal for this limited-edition Carrera because of its unique symphony of colors, each used for a specific purpose: blue for the pulsimeter, red for the tachymeter, orange for the chronograph, all on a white dial with black subdial counters that really help to make the watch perfectly legible — which, as you may know, was one of the most important guidelines from Jack Heuer.
WT: What was the thinking behind combining the Montreal with the Carrera rather than simply reviving the Montreal in a special edition, which was what led to the resurrection of the Autavia collection?
CE: Mainly it’s because of the love we have for the colors of the Montreal dial mixed with the specific ergonomic codes of the Carrera case — the size of the lugs, the balance between the pusher and the crown. It’s true that it’s a completely new concept for TAG Heuer, this fusion between two collections. The Montreal case would be considered a bit bulky today, but integrating the colors of its dial with the Carrera case makes for a completely contemporary watch.
WT: TAG Heuer has also launched a revamped line of Carreras for its 160th anniversary in 2020. What are the main features that distinguish these models from the ones that preceded them in recent years?
CE: For the core Carrera collection, as well as for the limited tribute pieces, we wanted to have a modern interpretation of the originals. The in-house Heuer 02 movement, which is inside these watches, allows us to give them the original chronograph subdial configuration, with counters at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00; the subdials’ features are not exactly the same, but this arrangement is true to the spirit of the design. Of course, the Heuer 02 is automatic, while the movement in the 1963 Carrera was manual-wound. For the Heritage models that preceded the redesigned core collection, we installed a sapphire caseback to show the special oscillating mass that we designed specifically for those two pieces. Of course, they all benefit from the increased power reserve of the Heuer 02 — 80 hours — and also have a date display, which the early Carreras didn’t have at the very beginning. Today, I think that a chronograph is expected to have the date, along with increased water resistance. The new cases are more water-resistant as well as being slightly larger, at 44 mm.
WT: We’ve been seeing the use of the historical Heuer logo on more timepieces in recent years, especially those with a vintage-inspired look. What’s the decision-making process as to which pieces get the modern TAG Heuer logo and which ones get the retro logo?
CE: We feel the “tribute” watches need to be genuine to what we are celebrating with them, so placing the TAG Heuer logo on such an anniversary piece would be quite disturbing for many, and not true to the spirit of the watch. At the same time, we are TAG Heuer and we respect the “technique d’avant garde” of our modern watches as well. Both are part of our history, and both make us richer in what we present to the watch world.
WT: Jack Heuer himself, who created the watches that the new collection honors, is now semi-retired as the company’s Honorary Chairman. Did he have input into any of the 160th anniversary models that launched this year?
CE: Jack is doing very well, and he was involved from the very beginning of the process of re-designing the collection, and more specifically the limited editions. We asked him recently if we had been true to his guidelines and his original thoughts about the Carrera collection, and I can tell you he was super happy with the results. The Carrera that he designed is a pillar of the brand and leaning on it, with both anniversary pieces and new Carrera novelties, is definitely part of the company’s strategy going forward.