Earlier this year, I reviewed the original 45mm Heuer 01 with the skeleton dial. Today, after doing some flipping, I find myself with the new 43mm version with the more standard dial. Let’s see how the new toned down model compares to the original jaw dropper.
But first, why do I keep coming back to these Heuer 01 chronographs? Why do I allow my collection to be dominated by boy racer watches when I wear a business suit most of the time? I actually sacrificed a classic IWC pilot watch (perfect for business suits) in order to get this new Heuer 01. Why would I make such a move? The answer is fun. If you read my original 01 review, you will see how great it was for providing over-the-top fun. That piece was a showcase for mechanical timekeeping and modern design. The new 43mm model, while toned down, offers much of the same experience in a more compact and useable package. And the Heuer 01 movement itself is a big factor for me. I’ve had more expensive pieces that use more basic movements and left me underwhelmed. The 01 is a proper in-house movement by TAG and is what I call “all-dressed”: it is automatic, chronograph and has a date. This is all the equipment you need. My passion for Formula 1 is certainly a factor in my attraction to the 01 models. TAG Heuer “powers” the Red Bull team and the Heuer 01 watches just scream F1.
Let’s begin our comparative review with some negatives. The new 43mm Heuer 01 is stunning, but take a close look at all the details. Elements such as the crown, the date display and the chrono sub-dials are taken from older and “lesser” Carrera models. Have you ever read a road test of a sports car made by a company that also makes economy cars? The guy testing the car will say that the switches, controls and buttons are just pulled out of a giant bin at HQ and stuck onto the sports car rather than having been designed for that car. It’s always quite disappointing to read and I get the same feeling with this 01. It is a gorgeous and stunning watch, no doubt. But you wonder if TAG decided to take their 01 movement and just stick it into a package made of stock parts. The watch has too many similarities to older TAG models.
One of the key differences between this model and the old one is size. At 43mm, this new watch is more compact than the original 45mm model. I wrote in my original review that the 45mm 01 was way too big to fit under dress shirts. Well, I’ve got news for you, the 43mm models is too big for most shirts as well! It does fit SOME shirts, however, and I believe it is more usable as a result. I have worn it for the past 7 days, including 5 days at the office with suits and shirts. There is no doubt that 43mm is a better size and really improves the usability of the piece. But for shock and awe, I actually prefer the bigger 45mm case…
How does the skeleton dial compare to the anthracite dial of the new 01? After about 6 months, I actually got tired of the skeleton dial. And I really disliked the skeletonized date wheel. The new model addresses this issue with a gorgeous flat dial that sparkles a bit in the sun. The conventional date window is gorgeous and has a silver border. This date display is one of my favourite changes to the new model- it feels more like a proper watch and less like an over-exaggeration. The ceramic bezel is a highlight for me, just gorgeous and high-end.
The old 45mm skeleton model was too dark and black, although I loved the red line around the case. The new model uses stainless steel for the case and buckle and I love this contrast. It has a red-tipped chrono seconds hand, but I prefer the entirely red hand on the old model. The new model is somewhat more legible, although that doesn’t really matter.
You cannot fault the 01 movement. Mine is running at +5 seconds per day with a power reserve of over 50 hours. The chronograph functions beautifully with a smooth action. The movement is also visible through the back and well worth staring at each day. The movement is made to look like a racing machine and there are all sorts of racing details, the red column wheel, the wheel-shaped rotor, etc. When you wear a 01 watch, you are wearing TAG’s flagship movement and you get all the bragging rights that come with an in-house movement.
So which model do I prefer? I honestly don’t have a favourite between the two. I really did love the original model with the skeleton, although I grew tired of the busy design. And the size was a problem sometimes. Also, the original model had a few higher-end touches such as a titanium carbide coating. The new 43mm model is gorgeous in its own right and offers familiar-yet-modern racing chronograph style with the awesome Heuer 01 movement. The smaller size allows the watch to fit under some dress cuffs and the effect on the wrist is impressive. I really don’t know which one I prefer. The important thing for me is that I have one in my collection again!
I can’t stay away from the Heuer 01 because it represents real racing DNA from one of my favourite brands. My collection never feels complete without a racing chronograph. While it may not always be appropriate for my days of meetings and business suits, I have other watches for that stuff. The 01 is like that guilty pleasure — it’s for pure self-indulgence. You wear it for the sheer fun of it. Period. Do you have a racing chronograph in your watch box? Do you crave an in-house movement? Does your collection need some excitement? Check out the Heuer 01 collection. As always, the fun is in the search…