TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 reviewed
This TAG Heuer represents somewhat of a milestone in my collection. It’s almost like the end of a quest for TimeCaptain. You see, while TimeCaptain has been obsessed with grails and Panerai for the past few years, he has also been craving a serious motor racing-inspired chronograph. In fact, the quest for a real racing piece is what really started it all for me. And my new Carrera Caliber Heuer 01 is one helluva racing piece…
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 (the “01”) has been labeled “the affordable Hublot” for obvious reasons. First, this was the first new TAG to be unveiled under the leadership of M. Jean-Claude Biver, who led Hublot to such spectacular heights. Second, the 01 resembles many Hublot Big Bang models with skeleton dials. From what I have read, TAG Heuer actually implemented all sorts of cost-efficient techniques during production in order to deliver a high-end timepiece experience at an affordable price. But let’s be realistic- the 01 is still a very expensive watch by most standards. With an MSRP of nearly $7,000 CAD, it is in Rolex and IWC price ranges. Nevertheless, TAG Heuer made a real effort to offer a really spectacular piece at an attractive price rather than just pricing it into the high-roller category. This is quite refreshing because it seems to fly in the face of what most watchmakers have been doing for the past decade. The watchmaking industry seems to have adopted the Veblen goods philosophy, where demand for a product rises along with its price. It’s the idea that the more expensive a product becomes, the more people demand it. Certain timepieces (who will rename unnamed) have gotten crazy expensive despite using very basic and common movements, very basic materials, and very old designs. Then here comes the Heuer 01, with a brand new design and an in-house chronograph movement and cool features at a LOWER price. This, by itself, will be a turn-off for many watch collectors as the Veblen goods idea makes them shun the 01 for its entry-level-luxury-price. As I will discuss, however, the 01 should be appreciated for its design and impact without any consideration for its price.
The 01 comes in a 45mm stainless steel case, coated with titanium carbide. The case is made in an unconventional modular manner where different components are assembled to form the case. This will allow TAG to eventually produce variations of the same case with different colors, bezels, etc. and remain very cost-effective. The Caliber Heuer 01 movement is said to be a slightly modified Caliber 1887 which, as you all know, was designed by Seiko and then bought by TAG Heuer. The 1887 and 01 movements are, in fact, produced by TAG and can consider themselves in-house movements. The Caliber Heuer 01 is also a column wheel chronograph, which is a higher end design than cam-activated chronographs. The strap is a brand new design with perforated racing style rubber and a wonderful deployment clasp. Let me tell you right away that this is the most comfortable strap I have ever worn on a timepiece — ever. The most obvious design feature of the 01 is the skeleton dial, which you will either love or hate.
Let’s begin our on-the-wrist discussion with that skeleton dial. For the past few years, I have been collecting and obsessing about bold, simple designs such a Panerai, Bell & Ross and even Rolex. The skeleton dial of the 01 is the complete opposite! I had begun to crave something more visually complex with a more complex movement, such as a chronograph. The advantage of those simple designs is that they are recognizable from across the room. The 01 is spectacular in its own right and offers its owner a visual delight as it exposes the date wheel and some of the gears. From the back, you can view more of the movement and you can even see the red column wheel. The visual effect of the 01 is loud, spectacular, and fascinating to look at on your wrist. As you examine it in different lights and angles, you keep noticing different features and this makes it ultra entertaining to wear.
On the wrist, the 01 is impressive and quite heavy. Here is one criticism — the use of stainless steel. If TAG were going for racing high-end appeal, I can’t understand why they did not use titanium. Even if it added $1,000 to the price, I think this would have been better and would have kept the weight to a more reasonable level. I don’t mind a heavy watch, especially with such a comfortable strap, but I am certain that smaller guys will get really annoyed with the heaviness of the 01. The 16mm height makes this an awfully big timepiece. I am used to wearing big watches, but the 01 is really difficult to fit under dress shirts. In fact, I can’t even wear it with many of my shirts. If you work in dress shirts, you need some other pieces in your collection because the 01 will only fit under your widest cuffs. The size and awesome modern style of the 01 give it loads of wrist presence and the sensational rubber strap can be adjusted to your exact wrist size, allowing the 01 to sit perfectly on your wrist. As a functional, mechanical, practical, comfortable piece of timekeeping equipment, the 01 is the absolute TOP piece I have worn. After years of wearing Rolex, Panerai, Longines and so many others, I can say this — if I really depended on a mechanical timepiece to do my job, I would choose the 01, hands down. The fit and comfort, along with chronograph complication and date display just make it so usable. The legibility of the chronograph and small seconds is not perfect, but the overall legibility is fine, adding to the usability.
The performance of the 01 could be better, but it’s acceptable. My 01 has been gaining just under 10 seconds per day. This is not great, but it’s fine for me. When I set the time, I just set it 1 minute or 1 1/2 minutes slow and then it gradually catches up to the real-time as you wear it. The power reserve is very good. It is rated at 54 hours. I have not tested it up to 54 hours, but I can wear it for 1 day and let it rest for over 36 hours and find it still ticking. That is excellent because it means that the 01 is very efficient at winding itself. The chronograph works well with a buttery smooth action and a lightning fast reset. The overall feeling I get from the 01 is that I am wearing a serious racing chronograph.
So what it is like to wear the 01? Well, it’s certainly a bit over the top! It’s like driving a new Ferrari. It is gorgeous and high-tech with a real avant-garde design. It is not quiet or subtle and it just flaunts its modern features and racing-inspired-design. The 01 is not the most appropriate piece to wear with suits or formal attire. It really fits best with casual or sporty clothes. Nevertheless, I have been wearing it to the office, to meetings, to a wedding and to cocktail parties. I have no problem strapping it on with a business suit because it is cool and it makes me smile.
This is the where the Heuer 01 marks a new chapter for me as a collector. In the past, so many of my timepieces were acquired to project an image or because of their status. I focused on wearing the “right” piece. For sure, all of the grails I acquired are awesome pieces and I enjoy them. But I must admit that I got caught in the trap of trying to outdo the other guy and trying to wear the “in” pieces. The TAG Heuer Caliber Heuer 01 is something I wear just for myself. The skeleton dial is just so interesting to look at and all of its intricate features are just beautiful in their design. The motor racing style of the case and strap are just fun — I am a Formula 1 fanatic, after all. The rubber grip on the crown and the little red accents on the case and start/stop pusher give the 01 a Formula 1 flavor. I enjoy all these things. I know that watch snobs will disregard a TAG Heuer Carrera. But I feel like the 01 is a (guilty) pleasure. I look forward to putting it on and I stare at it as much as possible while wearing it. I have always selected my timepiece according to my outfit and occasion. For example, I would wear a brown leather strap with brown shoes, or a stainless steel bracelet with a blue suit. I would wear a Rolex for a day of formal meetings and a Panerai when going out with finance jocks. All of that goes out the window with the 01. I wear it whenever the hell it fits under my shirt cuffs and for any occasion. I wear it for kicks. I wear it to feel good. I wear it because it is one sweet piece of design and engineering.
Acquiring a TAG Heuer Carrera Caliber Heuer 01 feels like being true to myself. As I have blogged before, my passion for timepieces began with TAG Heuer and through their involvement with Formula 1. For 2016, Red Bull’s F1 engines will actually be branded as TAG Heuer and I acquired the 01 on the very day of the announcement. That felt so appropriate for me! And while I collected so many wicked timepieces over the past decade, only one was a racing style chrono….and I traded it after a few months! So wearing a brand new (awesome) racing-inspired TAG Heuer chronograph today feels very…me. While blogging about loving basic manual movements and no-date pieces for so long, I started to crave the exact opposite. I began to crave another automatic movement with a date and a complication, such as a chronograph. So, once again, wearing the 01 feels like being true to myself and going for what really makes me feel good. When I wear the 01, I am expressing all of the things that got me excited about watches to begin with.
I am sure that the TAG Heuer Carrera Caliber Heuer 01 will not be the right piece for everyone. But perhaps this blog will encourage you to forget logic and appropriateness, and to just follow your heart and go after whatever makes you tick (pun intended). As always, the fun is in the search.
Diameter 45 mm. Made from steel, modular thanks to its 12 different components (lugs, case middle, bezel, case back, crown and its moulding, push-buttons, gasket between the middle and the bezel and the upper and lower sapphire crystals)
Bezel anthracite with a tachymeter scale
Steel crown with overmoulded rubber, upper and lower anti-reflective sapphire crystals
TAG Heuer Calibre HEUER 01, Manufacture movement
Automatic chronograph with date
Visible skeleton date disc with window with red surround at 3 o’clock
Red chronograph hands
Red column wheel, new skeleton weight and chronograph bridge
50-hour power reserve
Black skeleton with 3 counters: Chronograph minute counter at 12 o’clock
Chronograph hour counter at 6 o’clock and small counter at 9 o’clock for the current seconds
Rhodium-plated indices with red dot detail and white and red Super Luminova™; rhodium-plated hands, polished or satin-finished
Perforated rubber with deployant buckle and safety push-buttons
Price: $5,500 US