TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Over the years that I have been fortunate enough to cover, see, touch some of the latest and most important watches released, there have hardly been any other that raised so many questions in me - and much more importantly, in the fans of the brand - as did the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01. This sporty, modern looking chronograph bears the logo of a hugely important brand on its crystal (yes, there), while it is dressed in a way that made some feel a bit confused about its true origin and purpose...

But all that's because: it's new! And while that is exactly what TAG desperately needed, because it is new and important, it raises a number of interesting issues that are larger than this (not-so-)innocent looking automatic chronograph. Let's start with... Issue 01.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Issue 01 – Concept

"The problem is that the young millennial demographic that TAG Heuer is seeking to attract has no idea (nor do they care) who Steve McQueen is or what TAG Heuer was doing in the 1960s." This is one of the key take-away messages from our hands-on article with the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 – a watch so Heuer, it has Heuer twice in its name (here's one more time for you: Heuer). But we wrote that at the time of its debut, in March, at BaselWorld 2015, and now it's time for a super early review to once again address some of those questions and see just how much TAG, how much Heuer, and how much Hublot this new watch is – and what it means for the old and new fans of the brand.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Many die-hard Heuer fans will be familiar with the direction TAG had taken in recent years: first, it remittently kept its prices on the rise in most all of its collections, pricing itself largely out of the market segment that was its bread and butter, and second, it somehow repeatedly failed to bring something genuinely new to the table – other than with its stratospherically expensive haute horlogerie collections. Long time fans have already purchased most of what they wanted, they had their Monacos, Carreras, and/or Aquaracers; while new fans were difficult to acquire, with nothing new to catch their attention.

Changes had to be made, and the the most important one was what we were first to report in late 2014: TAG Heuer has a new interim CEO with the highly dynamic Jean-Claude Biver taking the helm at the brand. His primary goal was and still is to shake TAG up and define new goals for it; specifically, to attract new target demographics with new pricing and product strategies... and voilà:

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 comes with a new case, new construction, new movement, and a new overall design for TAG. The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 is, of course, much more than just a new watch: it is the first to bear key design elements that will define a number of crucially important new releases from the brand, including the Heuer 02 Tourbillon Chronograph with a previously unheard-of price tag for a Swiss tourbillon watch of around $15,000, as well as the reported smartwatch that TAG has been working on with Google and Intel. The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 means a vital new chapter – and so our expectations are very high indeed.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Issue 02 – What's New

So, just how new is the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 really? Well, the 45-millimeter-wide case is what stands out first: in bare or titanium carbide coated steel, it is certainly is a novel design for the brand, and with its perfectly round dial and rather long, straight, angular lugs – if you squint hard enough – may remind you of the Carrera (reviewed here). I would recommend that hardcore fans of the brand do a side-by-side comparison with the images in the review I linked to just there to see how closely the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 actually comes to the design of some of the Carreras from recent years – while the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 seems "shockingly new" at first, there's good reason why it has "Carrera" in its name.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

It wears large, even for 45mm wide, as the lugs extend quite far away from the case – and because of this property, it looks sporty and borderline aggressive. What renders it truly new, though, is its 12-piece case construction, which includes the lugs, middle case, bezel, case back, crown, push-pieces, gaskets and the crystals on its front and back. TAG went with a metal-black-red colorway for the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01, but the modular case construction will allow them to easily create new designs and color combinations without costs skyrocketing.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews
UPDATE: Note the updated date aperture position at 4 o'clock for better legibility and the TAG Heuer logo, now installed on the dial itself.

For the time being, however, this rather dark look is what TAG opted for, and with its dark dial, black bezel and strap, and shiny and completely flat lug surfaces, the balancing of the colors on the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 looks a bit off under some circumstances. It took me quite a bit of time to figure out what appeared – to my eyes – a bit off structurally: the long, shiny lugs with their large, flat surfaces have pitch black metal inserts between them, so dark, in fact, that it often seems as though the strap is extended between them, all the way to the bezel. In reality, the strap only extends from close to the outer ends of the lugs and wraps around them by widening as the lugs end.

This not only makes the strap (and hence, the watch) appear rather wide, but also makes it about impossible to use aftermarket straps on the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 – sure, the demographic targeted by it may not be largely into experimenting with changing the straps on their watches, but there are some of us who would prefer a more traditional lug structure and the ability to change straps to an integrated design.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Issue 03 – Calibre Heuer 01

We are not leaving the question of "how new it really is" behind entirely: TAG says that the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 comes with a new caliber (under the same name) while, simultaneously, also communicates that the backbone of the Heuer 01 caliber is actually the caliber 1887. In any case, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 is an automatic chronograph watch with indications for the hours, minutes, running seconds at 9, central chronograph seconds, with 30-minute counter at 12, 12-hour counter at 6, and the date at 3.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews
UPDATE: Two more images showing the updated and considerably more legible date aperture and the TAG Heuer logo, now applied on the dial.

UPDATE: TAG Heuer – proving that they do pay very close attention to the feedback of watch enthusiasts – has confirmed that the date aperture will be moved over to the 4 o'clock position for improved legibility and the Heuer logo will also be removed from the underside of the crystal and instead will be a small applied logo at the 3 o'clock position – see the images further above to see how the final TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 will look like.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Heuer 01 movement runs at 4 Hertz (28,800 vibrations per hour) and provides 50 hours of power reserve. There's no way around it, the Heuer 01 caliber looks absolutely fantastic. It has most properties all great movements feature: the components are beautifully machined and plated to a rich black or shiny metallic color; the architecture of it allows for a deep look into the movement, through its numerous layers, all the way down to the balance wheel ticking away in the bowels of it, while the ample size and silent operation (loud movements do get really annoying sometimes) render it a complete package.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Thinking back about some of the feedback the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 received from some long-time fans of the brand, one (major) part of the watch deserves high praise from all: TAG has clearly put a lot of effort into making the Heuer 01 movement look stunning from both the dial and case back sides – this movement is of a quality that would have necessitated a $7,500-8,000 price tag a few years ago.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Issue 04 – The Complete Package

The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 is clearly intended to be marketed to two key demographics: first, fans of the brand who have been looking for something new with a new design from TAG but at a price that is at last more reasonable; and second, to that vast number of younger generation watch buyers who are getting into purchasing more high-end timepieces, are looking for a brand with a strong and relevant modern identity, but at a price level that is more affordable than the brand they wanted to enter previously... Not sure if from all this you could sense where this is going but, yes, TAG Heuer has every reason (and interest) in becoming the same success story as Hublot – but backed up by a much more competitive price point...

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

...and with this, we have arrived back to where we left off from – is there enough TAG Heuer left in the midst of all of this? I think there is, and here's why: looking at the larger picture when it comes to the history of the brand, TAG Heuer crafted its own success through some of its legendary collections (Autavia, Monaco, Carrera) and the reason it started to fade is because it stopped doing that. I will go out on a limb here and say that all Swiss luxury watch brands should have the guts to try and introduce something new that would interest a new audience and emotionally move the die-hard fans of the brand, and TAG has the guts to do so with the new Heuer collection.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Quality of execution, competitiveness of pricing, power of design are all present in the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 (and for that matter, in the Heuer 02 Tourbillon, as well) – now, TAG just needs to concentrate and not forget to keep on making some of the historic collections to keep fans happy; while forging its new chapter from the Heuer collection. Price for the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 is $5,250 USD or 4,900 Swiss Francstagheuer.com

Necessary Data
>Brand: TAG Heuer
>Model: Carrera Heuer 01
>Price: $5,250
>Size: 45mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: The one who wants the latest and greatest of everything, but is discerning enough to find the stuff with beauty that's not just skin deep.
>Best characteristic of watch: Great looking proprietary movement and interesting modular case design at a truly competitive price.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The rather "look-at-me design" (large size and skeletonized dial) might not age too well.

What do you think?
  • Interesting (6)
  • I want it! (3)
  • I love it! (2)
  • Thumbs up (2)
  • Classy (1)
  • Santiago

    Nice review David, thank you.

    You gotta give it to Biver and his success with Hublot because all the mid range brands are going for the Big Bang skeleton profile (Bell & Ross named their BR X1 “High Tech chrono” which means that perhaps they think their other chronos are low tech). But in this case the price is competitive enough to appeal the “I want an Hublot because I envy sport stars and famous rappers but I don’t have their money nor the taste for something better” market segment.

    I see they have changed the rotor and some bridges to further depart from its Seiko origin, but I don’t know if that and changing the colour of the column wheel will be enough. However as long as they do not sell it as their new in-house movement it’s ok because the caliber is in fact a pretty good one.

    Construction looks good as always in TAG, so it will do well I think. Not my choice but hey.

  • Frits van der Veer

    Hi David, Thanks for the review.
    I have seen photographs of this watch (supposedly the final version) with the date at 3.5h in stead of 3h. Can you please confirm that the date will be at 3h at the final (for sale)version?

    I must admit that i like this watch. the first TH i like. With the date at 3h that is.

  • resonator resonator

    I’m having a hard time not buying one of these just so I can modify the heck out of it. What a great base to play with.

  • LapYoda

    Surprisingly competitive price from Tag Heuer with an outstanding-looking skeletonized chronograph movement; it definitely steps up their game! Ironically, it makes me hate the Michael Kors fake chronograph “homage” even more, since this Tag is what the MK wishes it could grow up to be.

    • egznyc

      Wasn’t that MK an homage to Hublot’s Big Bang rather than to the TH Heuer 01? Oh wait, what’s the difference (other than several grand)?

      • LapYoda

        In the design of its case, I thought the MK was trying to look like a Tag rather than an Hublot, but with this model blurring the lines between the two brands… well, I just can’t tell any more.

  • resonator resonator

    Of interesting news, just discovered the first ever Urwerk creation is being auction off on the bay right now, Thing is beautiful in a whole other way. Bidding is fairly heated so it’ll be interesting.

  • ZL

    I thought some side-by-side comparisons might be useful (for design, not size).

  • Ulysses31

    It’s ugly. No flow, no subtlety – just a bunch of blocks bolted together. You shouldn’t have to pay 4900CHF for something that looks like a cheap Chinese chronograph from eBay. The modularised, utilitarian approach might be there to save money and allow for cheaper variants, but that isn’t something I want to see in a luxury watch. I want to see something that goes above and beyond the realms of common sense, something that took a great deal of effort, skill and craftsmanship to put together. Yes, the watch itself is well-made, but this is no grail watch and never will be. Too many Hublot design elements are a real turn-off.

  • I think the date display is a joke. Obviously JCB’s Hublot influence is showing. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you. I’m not that crazy about skeleton Big Bangs, so this is far from my favorite TAG Heuer. This has the Bionicle (figurine) look that my son used to love when he was 10. Maybe that generation is now the market TAG is courting. To me, it just looks busy for the sake of looking busy. I agree with U31 overall but I’m glad that JCB is concentrating TAG on keeping to a somewhat affordable price and returning to their core segment of the market. Too bad it has the 7750’s “6,9,12” subdial layout since it has a column wheel and I assume bi-directional winding (unlike the 7750 it resembles from the subdial layout).

  • BIG CHRONO

    Being borderline retarded, I cannot fathom how this is unique, better, or offers good price/value ratio compared to all other watches of this style, @ every price level.

    • I think JCB’s line is “We must be First, Unique and Different.” (at least 2 of the 3 being the same thing).

      • BIG CHRONO

        Monsiuer Biver is residing in an alternate reality, wherein he dictates all things watches, & any dissenters are “decrowned”.

  • Shirley Furby

    It’s a slab on the wrist. Not a well finished slab. As a junior Hew-Blo I guess it succeeds. A conglomeration of disparate parts that lacks cohesion. Now let me tell you what I really think. Actually I like skeleton watches but this even misses the mark there in that in making it a skeleton they forgot to actually expose the working parts. I would rate this as a Biver failure.

  • Emre

    Slightly better than that piece of junk michael kors jetmaster 🙂

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Breaks my heart (not really) to see this marque bring out some illegible offering such as this.Will this marque be announcing Justin Bieber as it newest “Ambassador” ?

    Nice strap and clasp.

    • egznyc

      Of course, the Beiber wouldn’t be caught wearing this other than in rose gold and lots of little diamonds all over.

  • Flávio Maia

    Hublot wanna be…

  • WINKS

    Who let the dogs out?

  • sfbaydawg221

    This thing is so hideous, I had to look away.

  • Tonepeli

    Being an avid fan and owner of Tag timepieces, this watch is visually Interesting but in a negative way…the skeleton dial does not work for the Tag Heuer. It cheapens the brand considering that it is an attribute overly done by the so called ‘fashion’ watches… Don’t like the nearly ‘invisible’ date numerals… However, I do like the strap, the movement and the back cover exhibition design. One can actually appreciate the details of the movement here.

  • It’s not required that I enjoy everything a brand offers. I don’t really like the Monaco either. Had this design not been so hell-bent on the skeleton dial, it might have turned out a bit better looking:

    • At least you can see that date. Thanks Russ.

    • Larry Holmack

      I prefer your version of this watch way more than the real thing. It’s just hideous!!!

  • SuperStrapper

    I don’t think it’s awful, but then again I’m not a Hublot hater. The similarities are obvious, and completed expected considering who’s at the helm right now. People seem to be getting unnecessarily butthurt as though this is the only kind of watch that Heuer is releasing these days, which we all know is preposterous. This is just one of several new models the brand has released, and it has a style that some will like and others don’t. There is no way that pleasing all of the people all of the time is anywhere on Biver’s radar with a single offering. I do think the price is ambitious. I thought TAG was supposed to get back into being a more obtainable brand. Considering the sum of all its parts, this watch should be available for sub-$5000. Considering the exchange these days I would be spending closer to $7k. I can do so much more in a watch with that kind of money.

  • DanW94

    The movement with the red column wheel and the skeletonized black rotor is visually appealing, but the dial side leaves much to be desired. I also think that strap is hideous.

  • Fady337

    Someone bring my glasses, I can’t figure what date it is….

  • mtnsicl

    That should be called Tag Horrible!

  • Beefalope

    Just when I thought that TAG finally stopped sucking.

  • otaking241

    I honestly don’t think TAG had been doing anything that wrong with its watches other than pricing themselves out of their market. I always admired the basic model F1, Link, Aquaracer and Carrera as attractive, well-made watches that could be had in the $700-$1500 range–a nice gift watch for graduation or other major life event. Unfortunately the cost of entry is much higher now and they don’t look like as good of a deal unless you get them steeply discounted (and they oblige with outlet stores, further detracting from the brand’s perceived value).

    Now we have this hyper-aggressive watch that wants to be a “Poor Man’s Hublot” but, lacking a distinct brand identity and design language, looks much more like a “Rich Man’s Invicta” (granted, I tend to think of Hublot as the “Stupidly-Rich Man’s Swatch”). I can’t decide if this would look more at home on Rodeo Drive or at a mall kiosk in the Valley, and I think that should be a cause for concern.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Let me list why i hate this offering from Tag.

    1…The face is like out of a nightmare, totally illegible
    2…The strap looks just cheap and cant see it ageing well
    3…Nice movement but nothing special
    4…Skeleton is old hat now ……move on
    5… I dont own a Porsche’
    6…This doesn’t fall either into first watch or collection piece.
    7.. Other things.

    • smoothsweeper

      7. Looks like the Mchael Kors Jetmaster

      • DanW94

        Does that mean the Tag Heuer is the homage to the Michael Kors?…lol
        Bizzaro world indeed…

      • hal

        There are some Tags that I really like, I even own a Carrera Caliber 16 Day/Date and would love to have a Monaco in my collection, but this really reminds me of that Michael Kors thing… ugly!

  • JimBob

    Maybe you could put a NATO strap on it and wear it with the dial side against your wrist.

  • Raymond de Mystère, fils

    The horror! Busy, busy, busy. No class. In your face. Nouveau riche. Vulgar. Over-the-top. Like a cheap Chinese skeleton. Sometimes less is more…

  • Raymond de Mystère, fils

    I hate to admit it, but now I see why Archie Luxury loathes Tag Heuer.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      I cant abide that man

  • CG

    They’re doin’ Mescaline over there at TH… or they bought xray specs from the back of that Dr. Strange comic book! Totally unwearable since you can’t decipher the damn thing…

  • iamcalledryan

    Frankly I like it – It is what Micheal Kors recently attempted and next to that abomination this looks stellar. The price point is solid. Date display is v bad.

  • egznyc

    I like a well executed skeleton dial but this ain’t it. Maybe it’s next to impossible to do right on a chrono because it just becomes illegible with the little subdials. On the other hand, not a bad looking movement, really. And for far less than a Big Bang 😉

  • Eran

    Without legibility there is no accuracy, what used to be a cornerstone of Tag watch design. Instead we get trendy Hublot-esque hideousness, a skeleton movement that frankly isn’t more attractive than my $100 Kenneth Cole automatic, and an overall appearance much less attractive than my $300 Armani Meccanico skeleton. What’s worse – I’m sure this will be super-successful commercially which means they will carry on doing this for a number of years now – until the novelty goes away, trend changes, and Tag DNA dead so nothing to return to. In other words, a valuable historical brand thrown away in favor of a few profitable years.

  • WmOrt

    Illegible – worst date display I have seen in at least a decade
    Too big
    Crazy lug design – actually make this abortion wear BIGGER!!
    Proprietary straps – does TH live in some fantasy world in which they actually sell enough of these things to interest the aftermarket – or are they just interested in overcharging their Customers for straps?
    1887 movement??????

  • henry

    When I look at this watch, I think Transformers, like the movie. It’s like Biver watched the movie and thought the style imbued in the robots and their mechanical demagoguery will sell. I think it just might.

    As far as I can tell from the pictures and the video review, the fit and finish of the watch is demonstratively better than what I expected from a Tag. The lines are nice and clean on small parts. Maybe it will feel the part when held in hand, because majority of Tags do not look or feel their price. That’ll be a pleasant surprise.

    Once quality has been controlled, then comes the sales. How are they going to sell this thing? If Tag can pull some customization magic like they do with cars or even Nike shoes, this thing may have some legs to go on. In fact, it’d be fun to just play around with different possible combinations.

    I’ve never like Tag because it’s been so mediocre for so long, but I like how they’re trying to shake the boat. For that, a big kudos to Biver and co. 45mm is bit large, but I imagine there are smaller designs in the line.

  • JFL

    You know there is a design problem when the back of a watch looks actually a lot better than its dial…
    Let’s face it, this one is illegible… and plan ugly.

  • DB

    I will be different from all of you gripers……………….

    I think that it looks great!

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  • Jackyl

    Luv this watch. Lucky they removed the logo on the glass and moved the date down at 3:30. Perfect watch for modern consumer without the crazy price. Good on you Mr. JCB for opening the door to all consumers.

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  • Alessandro Montanari

    Likes it! And a nice gesture to keep the prize reasonable. Tag starts to grow on me.