TAG Heuer has the kind of affinity with motor racing that is only earned via a long and dedicated involvement at the forefront of the sport. During the 40s and 50s, Heuer was supplying timers that could be dashboard mounted in rally cars to time the stages, and it was there that the seed was sown.
Jack Heuer’s innovative and entrepreneurial mind landed a sponsorship deal with Formula 1 driver Jo Siffert, and Heuer became the first non-motorsport related brand painted on the side of the most advanced racing cars in the world. It was Jack’s personal deal with Jo to buy a Porsche from his dealership that launched a conversation about sponsorship, which in turn sparked the beginning of a multi-billion advertising industry.
In 1950, just as the last section of the Pan-American Highway (that originally connected the USA to Argentina) was completed, a great race was held along its entire length. Dubbed ‘Carrera Panamericana’ (carrera being Spanish for race), it was held annually between 1950 and 1955 and had some of the most grueling terrain of any rally stage ever. As such, it was considered to be one of the most dangerous races of any type in the world.
This inspired Jack Heuer to develop a chronograph unlike any that had been before it. He wanted it to have a unique and instantly recognisable look, as well as being very easy to read. Thus, the Carrera was born, released in 1963. One of the most distinctive features of the watch was the repositioning of the tachymeter from the outer edge of the dial to the rehaut, the tapered spacer between the dial and the crystal. This cleared the dial itself up considerably, making it cleaner and easier to read.
Various iterations of Heuer Carrera watches were produced between the launch and the early 1980s, when the quartz revolution crippled many traditional watch brands. Jack left Heuer before the takeover by TAG (Techniques d’Avant Garde), part-owner of McLaren and supplier of Formula 1 engines. TAG embraced the brand and gave it direction through its low years, using its solid financial footings to market the brand successfully enough to bring it back to the forefront, ready for a buyout by LVMH.
The TAG Heuer Carrera continued with many new iterations such as the Grand Carrera, a coming-together of new and the old, immediately recognisable as Heuer but with the forward thinking design of TAG. TAG Heuer also acknowledge its heritage with re-editions of the vintage Carrera, plus the introduction of concept watches that pushed the boundaries both with design and function.
Such watches as the Calibre 36, penned by the designer of the Ferrari Enzo, and the Mikrograph Flying 1000, which can measure 1/1000th of a second, both demonstrate that TAG Heuer is a brand that is looking forward rather than dwelling on the past.
- Carrera is Spanish for speed, and was used for the 1950’s races along the Pan-American Highway after which the watch was named.
- Jack Heuer, the owner of Heuer during the 60’s and 70’s and great-grandson of founder Edouard Heuer, designed the Carrera himself in 1963.
- The Carrera Calibre 36, released in 2009, was designed by Ken Okuyama, the genius behind the striking shape of the Ferrari Enzo.
[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]