SK a watch aficionado to namea classic sports watch, and thefirst answer may well be the TAG Heuer Carrera. Why? Well, it’s been around aslong as Beatlemania; it’s been seenon the wrists of superstars likeLeonardo DiCaprio and JensonButton; and as a modernist retort tothe stuffy designs that preceded it,it helped change the way watches were both designed and worn. The Carrera appeared 50 yearsago, back when TAG Heuer was justHeuer (the company was bought out by Techniques d’Avant Garde in1985) and the world was about toget into its Swinging ‘60s stride.Company boss Jack Heuer had theidea for his new chronograph wristwatch after a conversation with Mexican race driver PedroRodriguez, who had told him abouta furiously quick five-day road racecalled the Carrera Panamericana. The race was full of glamour andpanache, and the jet set flocked tosee professional drivers and richamateurs hurtling along Mexico’sdusty roads. But it was alsoincredibly dangerous, and wascancelled after claiming 27 lives between 1950 to 1954.Nevertheless, Heuer seized on themachismo of the event. Carrerameans “road” and “career” inSpanish, and he felt the name would appeal to ambitious, red- blooded, sophisticated menemerging as the world left behindthe shackles of the post-war era.
His design was lithe, handsome andundeniably masculine. At the timemost chronographs retained themilitary look of those used wartimepilots, but Heuer, who idolised theminimalist designs of OscarNiemeyer and Charles Eames,thought it was time watchesembraced the modernist spirit. Theoriginal Carrera, with its sleek,pared-down lines and baton markersrather than numerals, may look retro today but was as boldly modern as a Lichtenstein comic book painting at the time.It helped transform Heuer from acompany specialising instopwatches and timing systems forindustry into a celebrated prestige watch producer. In the half century since, it has become one of watchmaking’s bona fide icons. Today, it continues to be a
celebrates 50 years of a true sporting classic
FRIDAY 19 APRIL 2013
Here’s an interesting thing: peopleare now buying seriously expensivenew watches online. I know oneinternet retailer who regularly makes sales of watches over £10,000and upwards (sometimes a long way upwards). His business is up over100 per cent year on year. A couple of years ago that simply wouldn’t have been possible: high-end brands didn’t allow retailers tosell their products on the internet, because they reckoned it besmirched their luxury status.Now they’re falling over themselvesto get their products up on retailer websites. The net is no longerdeclasse –it’s right at the heart of the strategy. What’s changed? The sitesthemselves have got better,realising that sophisticated onlineinteraction with a customer is notabout flashy website bells and whistles, but good old fashionedcontact and information.More importantly, the slow-on-the-uptake powerhouse luxury groups are finally realising howpeople now do their purchasing:research, research online, thenperhaps head to a boutique to try watches on in the metal, thenhome again to research some moreand finally summoning up thecourage to click “buy”. An awful lotof online watch transactions occuron a Friday night, after someonehas spent days or weeksresearching and finally gets home,opens a beer and decides to gothrough with the big purchase.Having said all that, the bricks &mortar boutiques are goingnowhere –in fact they’re springingup in numbers. This spring seesnew shops from Breitling and Vacheron Constantin arriving onBond Street (no doubt complete with special edition watches only available in the brands’ own boutiques), while Parmigiani only recently opened on Mount Street.Meanwhile, here in the City, theRoyal Exchange remains one of thefinest hubs for watch buying in theUK. In February it saw a new arrivalin the form of the Watchfinder &Co boutique, a specialist in vintageand pre-owned pieces. Next monththe Exchange is hosting a week of watch-related activity, including workshops, displays and talks (seepage 32 for more details). I’dencourage anyone with even half an interest in watches to attend.
Timothy Barber is the editor of 00/24WatchWorld magazine and managingeditor of www.TheProdigalGuide.com.
The internet is the new frontier for watch retailers
cornerstone of TAG’s offering, in acollection that includes this year’s50th anniversary Carrera Calibre1887 Chronograph Jack HeuerEdition
. Jack himself –81 this year –had ahand in the design, insisting, forexample, that the dial carries batonhour markers and not numerals,ensuring the unfussy, utilitarianlook the Carrera is famous for.Heuer shared design duties withLondon-based designer ChristophBehling, the mastermind behind theasymmetrical case found in last year’s groundbreaking TAG HeuerMikrogirder –a mechanical watch with a stopwatch function that canmeasure to an accuracy of 2,000th of a second –that is used again here. It was also Behling who swung thecrown and chronograph buttonsround to 12 o’clock, in part to evokeold-school Heuer stopwatches, butalso so the watch could be worn andoperated on either wrist.One last thought – Jack Heuer isretiring this year, meaning this willalmost certainly be the last watchhe has a hand in. Given the fact hisoriginal Carreras have becomeexceedingly collectible pieces,there’s no reason his last won’t dothe same.
Right, Jack Heuer stripped back watchdesign to its basics with his crisp,minimalist chronograph from 1963