Actor Ryan Gosling wears the Carrera Chronograph in the latest brand campaign that highlights its roots as a racing watch.

The TAG Heuer Carrera, like many legendary watches, has a tale to tell. First introduced in 1963, it has since been seen on the wrists of arbiters of cool—think singer Mick Jagger, actor and race car driver Patrick Dempsey, and actor Ryan Gosling, the current face of the brand. The 60-year-old watch, originally designed with motorsports professionals and enthusiasts in mind, seems to have only gotten better with age.

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Steel TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm watch with blue calfskin strap, $9,200
Photo: TAG Heuer

From the start, the watch’s racing roots have been an integral part of its identity. It was named after the Carrera Panamericana, a dangerous road race in Mexico that was run just five times in the 1950s before it was cancelled out of safety concerns. A young Jack Heuer, the company’s newly-installed chief executive then, was enraptured by the romance and visceral edge of this high-speed race, and thought the name would make the perfect moniker for a new wristwatch chronograph the company was producing. The various meanings of “carrera”—it could be translated to “race,” “career,” or simply “path”—offered an open interpretation that leaned further into the watch’s mystique.

Today, the watch is a symbol of aspiration and achievement, prized for its simplicity and performance, with an aesthetic influenced by Sixties design. Though Heuer was an electrical engineer by training, he had a keen interest in design and culture, and developed a taste for the works of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and furniture designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Heuer carried that blend of function, modernism and beauty to his watch creations, including the TAG Heuer Carrera.

The design of the watch was clearly thought out from the start. As a functional tool, it had to be clean and legible, with any distracting or extraneous elements removed. As part of the utilitarian dial layout, the tachymeter scale of the original model was pushed onto a tension ring on the outer edge of the dial which holds the crystal in place with increased water resistance—this has become one of the identifying characteristics of the Carrera. With its purity of design, the TAG Heuer Carrera has cemented its place as a favourite among watch buyers and collectors alike.

Dubbed the “Glassbox”, the new Carrera Chronograph’s domed sapphire crystal is designed to allow the tachymeter on the outer edge of the dial to be read from different angles
Photo: TAG Heuer

Inside The Glassbox

As the TAG Heuer Carrera enters its seventh decade, new iterations continue to be added to the family. At this year’s Watches and Wonders in Geneva, TAG Heuer unveiled new models that continue to straddle that line between simplicity and innovation. One of the highlights was the newly refined TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph that measures a slimmer and more gender- neutral 39mm.

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The watch has been dubbed the “glassbox” because it is topped by a domed, curved sapphire crystal that flows over the edge of the dial into the case, referencing the domed hesalite crystals found in the 1970s models. The Glassbox design offers a new way to display the inner tachymeter scale—previously laying flat on the outer edges of the dial, it now slopes down, following the curvature of the crystal. The flange and indexes are also curved, meaning the tachymeter can be comfortably viewed and read from more angles. Overall, the watch’s ergonomics have been refined and honed. New pushers have also been fashioned and positioned to be as efficient as possible. The movement inside the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph is an evolved version of TAG Heuer’s in-house automatic calibre, the Heuer 02. Called the TH20-00, the movement is visible through the watch’s sapphire crystal case back, and o ers bidirectional winding, which means that the rotor will continue to generate energy to power the watch regardless of which direction the wearer moves his wrist. Currently, two models are available: a signature blue dial on a chic blue calfskin leather, and a black-and- silver “reverse panda” dial with a sportier, black perforated calfskin strap.

Steel TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm watch with blue calfskin strap, $33,950.
Photo: TAG Heuer

Whirlwind Innovation

Another new edition in the “glassbox” range is the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon, a more streamlined sister watch compared to the previous 44mm TAG Heuer Carrera tourbillon pieces that had larger, sportier case designs. Following the same design principles as the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph, the new 42mm model features an elevated aperture at 6 o’clock that reveals a tourbillon—a continuously rotating cage that is designed to counteract the influences of gravity on a movement’s accuracy. The watch design allows the wearer to admire the tourbillon from all angles. It is powered by the in-house TH20-09 calibre automatic movement which also features bidirectional winding. The tourbillon model embraces the same clean aesthetic as the other Carreras. On the dial, deep azure subdials are surrounded by silver rings for better contrast and legibility. Fiery orange-accented hour markers and central chronograph seconds hand take inspiration from 1960s race car instruments, and lend a subtly retro charm to the timepiece.

Steel Carrera Date 36mm watch with silver, pink and green dials, $4,550 each
Photo: TAG Heuer

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A New Date

Another icon from the Carrera range to get a redesign this year is the Carrera Date. With slimmer proportions and a redesigned crown and bracelet, the 36mm model—the same size as the original 1963 Carrera designed by Jack Heuer—is perfect for the modern woman, although it will also appeal to men who prefer its trim aesthetic. The new Carrera Date also has a fresh new palette of four dial colours: warm silver, Carrera signature blue, pastel green and vibrant pink. The watch still maintains its sleek, racing-inspired silhouette, but subtle tweaks have improved its profile. Housed in a stainless-steel case and with a matching bracelet with classic folding clasps, the dial boasts a liberal application of Super-LumiNova for low-light legibility. TAG Heuer’s designers and engineers have also rethought the watch’s proportions while maintaining the case’s diameter size. Slight reductions in the measurements between the top and bottom lugs, as well as a case that is 2mm thinner than the outgoing model, improves the watch’s profile and how it wears on the wrist, giving a taut, athletic feel to the timepiece. A slight redesign of the crown and the bracelet round o the elegant refinements that give the Carrera Date a luxurious yet ergonomic feel that translates superbly on the wrist. With these charming new additions, TAG Heuer has updated the Carrera for a modern clientele while continuing to respect its roots and design signature.