TAG Heuer Carrera (39 mm) Calibre 6 — hands-on review
What is it about Heuer? It’s cool, I can tell you that.
The TAG Heuer Carrera (39 mm) Calibre 6 COSC was launched last year and it immediately shot to the top of my wish list. My only concern was the size, although my last blog explains why size is no longer a concern for me.
This piece is branded with the old-school Heuer logo and I want to discuss just how important this is to the coolness of this watch. On my wall, I have a painting of Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari with a prancing horse in the background. On the nose of the Ferrari is a Heuer logo as the brand was then sponsoring Ferrari’s F1 squad. Seeing the same Heuer logo on a timepiece stirs up all kinds of feelings inside me. It reminds me of classic Formula 1, my passion for racing and Ferrari, and (TAG) Heuer’s fantastic history in motor racing. Heuer had a cool history with a long association with motor racing and TAG Heuer later became a huge presence in F1. The Carrera Calibre 6 just oozes vintage motor racing style while saluting that fantastic Heuer legacy.
You can look at my photos and form your own impression of the Carrera’s looks. But let me point out that photos do not do justice to this timepiece. You need to try one on to appreciate its beauty. First of all, it wears larger than 39mm and sits pretty high on the wrist. Then, the slightly domed crystal and applied indices really jump out and add depth and dimension to the overall feel. That’s what is often so misleading about size and technical specs. On paper, the Carrera would seem to be unimpressive on the wrist. But when you strap it on, bam! Hel-lo! It is a stunner… an absolute stunner on the wrist. The lugs are pretty long, too, which adds to the larger feel.
Check out the strap and deployment buckle. The rally strap just screams 1960’s racing watches and the buckle, once again, displays that nostalgic Heuer logo. And the Carrera wraps everything in a beautifully made package with a fairly high-end feel. Now that I think about it, I think all TAG models with the vintage Heuer logo are the more upscale pieces — think of the 300 SLR and the retro Monaco chronograph.
The blue, red and silver colour scheme is definitely not something I would wear every day. It would not match black suits, for example. But if you are wearing blue, brown, beige or certain shades of grey, the Carrera is in the zone. It looks cool with t-shirts because of its sportiness, but it is totally 100% suited for business attire and dress shirts. And this puts it in pole position for me.
This Carrera is powered by the Calibre 6 movement which is an ETA movement in chronometer form. Now, if you are not familiar with COSC and the chronometer designation, take a few minutes to look it up. To many watch snobs, COSC certification has little value because top watchmakers such as Patek-Philippe have their own internal standards which are much more stringent than COSC. Rolex, for example, recently announced new internal standards for accuracy that are way tighter than COSC and Omega also announced a new internal certification. Nevertheless, to meet COSC standards, a movement must meet some finishing and quality standards in addition to operating within an accuracy of -4 seconds to +6 seconds per day. Unlike the watch snobs, I really like to see the “chronometer” designation on a timepiece and the Carrera Calibre 6 is sold with proper COSC paperwork. That’s pretty cool. To me, the COSC certification elevates the Carrera above other TAG Heuer models.
After 2 weeks on my wrist, the Carrera is gaining about 4 seconds per day, which is right in the COSC zone. I have one issue with the performance, however. While the power reserve seems OK, it does not seem to wind efficiently. It seems that I have to wear it for days before it gets fully wound and attains maximum power reserve. I had a Monaco with a Calibre 6 movement — I must assume this is the same movement as the Carrera, albeit in non-chronometer form. It had the same issue. I could not leave it sitting for more than a day, and keep it ticking, without manually winding it a lot to top up the power reserve. This is not critical, but it is somewhat disappointing.
The other small issue I have with the Carrera is that it rarely sits centred on my wrist. It always ends up tilting to one side as the buckle gravitates toward the inside of my wrist. It is very comfortable, but usually off center. It is possible that the buckle is too heavy for the small 39mm case. This is not a real concern, but something worth mentioning.
The feel of quality certainly seems consistent with a higher end piece. The sunburst dial and applied indices really look and feel high end, while the strap adds to this feel. You will find yourself in much more expensive company while wearing a Carrera Calibre 6 to business meetings, but the coolness and stunning wrist presence of the Heuer will allow you to hold your own. The Carrera has a modest price tag, but it looks and feels amazing. It fits under shirt cuffs as well as French cuffs and feels light and comfortable on the wrist. You will want to stare at it all day- check out the minute track with the subtle-yet-racy red 60. Much like the Longines Legend Diver, the Carrera is cool and desirable despite costing way less than many other luxury watches. Its racing heritage is absolutely genuine and that 1960’s racing vibe is way cool. In so many ways, the Carrera expresses everything I ever liked about timepieces — it is a link between the past and the present. It has a motor racing heritage. It is gorgeous. Its mechanical movement is precise and certified. It is really cool. The Calibre 6 COSC-certified movement is automatic with a date display, which means it has everything a man really needs for gettin’ down to business.
In case you couldn’t tell already, I am totally smitten with the Carrera Calibre 6. I lusted for this piece for the past year after only seeing it online. And when I finally saw one in the flesh and tried it on… oh, it did not disappoint.
So now you see how 38mm-40mm is TimeCaptain’s current size range. And you will have noticed that TimeCaptain is a raving fan of TAG Heuer these days — I own 4 TAG after all. I tell my pals all the time that their “one piece per brand” philosophy is nonsense. If a certain brand has 2 or 3 pieces that you love, then why pass them over just because you already have a watch by that brand? I get flak all the time from watch snobs because the so-called TimeCaptain has 4 TAG Heuer rather than 4 different brands. Diversify, they say. To hell with them! I don’t care what anybody says, the Heuer Carrera Calibre 6 is a masterpiece that should be considered for your watch box- regardless of how many TAG you already own.
How can I summarise the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 6? It is a classic men’s timepiece — elegant, nostalgic and perfect for dress shirts while having a racing vibe. Its quality and finishing are impressive, but it retails for only half the price of many entry-level luxury timepieces. The Carrera won’t be the most expensive piece at the board meeting, but its style will make it the coolest. This timepiece really speaks to me- it is perfect for my daily life with business meetings in the financial sector. And it has sexy retro racing appeal. You might even say it is…a little cheeky.
As I have blogged before, there are many superb timepieces available today in the $2000 to $5000 range. I would love to review the new TAG Heuer Aquaracer series, for example. And there are some entry-level Carrera models for barely three grand — these would be gorgeous watches to wear with business suits. We have already reviewed some Longines that deserve your consideration. But I have to applaud Jean-Claude Biver and TAG Heuer for bringing stylish quality watchmaking to sensible price ranges. Does your watch collection contain a TAG Heuer? Take a look — as always, the fun is in the search.
P.S. Congratulations to TAG Heuer for their first F1 victory with TAG-branded engines!!!