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TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The time has come: the least expensive tourbillon watch yet from a major Swiss brand is officially here. Naturally, we were eager to go hands-on with it at TAG Heuer‘s massive Baselworld 2016 booth. This is the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T, a watch that is actually as powerful and surprising in the metal as it was when originally announced one full year earlier. Let’s see just what makes it so remarkable.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The initial news of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T was a big deal because it was a tourbillon watch from a major Swiss brand with the promise of an extremely competitive price. It was easy to overlook the actual quality of the tourbillon’s execution and welcome it simply as a tourbillon, finally at a relatively more affordable price.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

So, the big surprise at BaselWorld 2016 came when we entered our meeting room inside the TAG booth and first saw – and immediately reached for – the watch tray on the table, holding two versions of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T. First impressions: “WOW, do these look great in the metal!

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Seriously, I was afraid I would be a little disappointed by a hands-on experience with the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T. Part of me was expecting to see a watch that sacrificed too much “in the metal” in order to be able to boast a competitive price “in the ads.” I will have to retract my expectations, though, and say that the engineers at TAG Heuer really managed to make wonders and create a watch that doesn’t simply make you feel as though you went for a “low-budget,” cheap, and cheerful option. The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T is large and bold-looking, yes, and it does have Heuer twice in its name, which is still rather baffling… but the watch itself, once you take a closer look, is genuinely impressive.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

That’s a big claim, though, so let’s take a closer look. The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T comes in the same case design as the Heuer 01 (that I reviewed here) – so whether you liked it or not on the 01, your opinion will probably not be changed by the 02T. It is a very modern evolution of the Carrera case, one that maintains the rather long and straight lugs (bad news for those with smaller wrists), and features a black coated insert between them to make for a visually more seamless integration of the straps.

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We did see some smaller, scaled-down versions of the Heuer-01 chronograph, so there is a faint chance that maybe the tourbillon will also be installed in a sub-45-millimeter-wide case.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

For now, though, there is only one case size option for the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T: at 45 millimeters wide, it is unapologetically bold and modern in its design, and does sit rather high on the wrist. With that noted, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T carries its heft rather gracefully and remains very comfortable to wear, thanks primarily to the integration and clever rubber-padded material choice for the strap, as well as the standard, but still very comfortable TAG Heuer clasp.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The exterior’s rather generous proportions make for a funny combination with the tourbillon and, in fact, all other dial elements. It may sound like a weird thing to pick out, but the watch’s overall proportions is the part that was the most positively surprising (to me at least) about the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

In the computer generated images that TAG Heuer used to debut the watch, the one-minute flying tourbillon’s cage and balance wheel looked way too small in relation to the dial, the thick bezel, and the long lugs. However, in the metal, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T works well as a complete package aesthetically, one that almost appears to have been designed from the ground up to look like this.

Now that I have reviewed all our images that we took of this watch and have stumbled upon the one just above, I think I have figured out why this watch often looks so awkward in images. You see, in close-ups of the dial, the tourbillon looks petite and the rest of the dial just dwarves it even more. However, when you look at it as you normally would – and as is shown by the image above – things fall into place, and the tourbillon appears to be the same size as the other two sub-dials.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

As we previously reported here, though, “designed from the ground up” it wasn’t. Instead, the Heuer-02T movement, as it’s imaginatively called, is based on the TAG Heuer CH80 in-house caliber. Remember the CH80? The CH80 was originally codenamed Caliber 1969, and it was an impressive new movement that TAG Heuer debuted in 2014 in the genuinely pretty Carrera CH 80 watch. We covered the Carrera CH 80 hands-on here back then.

For financial reasons, TAG Heuer decided to drop the CH80 movement altogether and discontinue the watch very shortly after the official debut in 2014…

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer’s Chevenez manufacture – where the CH80 was originally manufactured

…TAG Heuer did, however, manufacture a batch of these movements and – you guessed it! – the CH80 now serves as the basis for the Heuer-02T. The brand has re-engineered the CH80 so that it now houses a tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position, where the running seconds subdial originally was.

Think about it, a 60-second sub-dial has been ditched for a 60-second tourbillon: such an ingenious and also quite fortunate thing that they had chosen such a sub-dial layout for the CH80 years ago that today allows for such a symmetrical design of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The tourbillon appears small – perhaps too small, even – in photographs, but again, it actually works fine when seen live. Not something I had expected, but was ultimately very glad to see. The final size of the tourbillon has all to do with the compromise engineers had to consider: a relatively small tourbillon is of course considerably lighter, which in turn allows for a higher operating frequency (and hence better timekeeping), and/or a longer power reserve.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Making the right compromises have paid their dividends: the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T operates at 4 Hertz or 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour, which is a modern, reliable, and precise frequency. Furthermore, it offers a 65-hour-long power reserve, which again, is a lot for a tourbillon chronograph. Last but definitely not least, the Heuer-02T is COSC certified to run between -4 and +6 seconds per day – a rare feat for tourbillon watches, whose accuracy tends to be more often advertised than actually tested.

TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T $15,000 Tourbillon Chronograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

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  • ??????

    TAG Hublouer Big Bangera

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    I need to start going to the gym, so that I have the wrist to pull off this watch. Seriously though: very good work from TAG Heuer on this one, very much looking forward to trying it on soon.

    • You know at BaselWorld 2015 we got to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger and while his wrists were not overly large, his hands were huge and spread out from his wrists (his forearms where covered with a long sleeved shirt but you know they are like bowling pins). The point being, working out does not add that much to your wrist. Getting fat seems to though (I need to lose a few pounds, sigh).

      • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

        Ohhh… I had it all put together in my head. I start working out to expand my wrist and use the money I save by not going out for drinks to buy this TAG Turbo…

        Mark, you shattered my dreams! :'(

      • TechUser2011

        That is not completely accurate. You can greatly increase the size of your lower forearms up to the region of your wrist’s pointy bone. If you wear your watch above the pointy bone, then you can take advantage of this muscle mass if you exercise. That’s how many people wear a watch anyways, because they may type on a keyboard most of the day.

        • My point was the proportionally, as you gain muscle mass in the forearm, your wrist does not get as much of an increase as the portion a couple of inches below the elbow. Cheers.

  • sakibahsan

    Great achievement from TAG Heuer. I hope now they focus on working with some wearable and affordable annual calendar with symmetrical dials. The market is lacking in that department

  • Such a shame the CH-80 movement did not survive for larger production use. But TAG already has the Caliber 1887 (with an ETA 7750 look-alike sub-dial layout), so cruel economics pretty much killed my pick of the two calibers. Glad to see that they put some of them to good use here. Even at 32 mm, the movement does not require a 45 mm case. The could have trimmed it down to 43 or even 42 if they really wanted to. Maybe next year they will make a trimmer version which suits more wrists (sorry Larry, I know this is almost too small for you at 45, ha ha). Thanks for the review (and lots of links to supporting articles) David.

    • ??????

      Pity that CH-80 didn’t go in mass production… Beatiful and well-build caliber with best chrono layot.

    • Coert Welman

      The CH-80 with panda dial is one of the most beautiful modern Heuers (TAG branded or not) made.

    • Bossman

      Is the Calibre 1887 really in house? I thought Tag bought the rights to the movement from Seiko and then made it their own.

      • Yep – base design licensed from Seiko years ago. But not a straight clone of a Seiko, so it’s an in-house caliber in that they produce it themselves and in fact did a fair amount of the engineering. But yeah, that bit of history sticks with them like an albatross around their neck in the eyes of some. Cheers.

        • Boogur T. Wang

          Extra points for using the word ‘albatross’ in a post. (and in a correct literature/poetic context)

          • Call me Ishmael – no wait don’t – I’ve never read the book.

          • Boogur T. Wang

            “Ishmael” would be that whale book. If I remember right, that albatross reference is from the Coleridge thing – “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” or some such thing as that.
            I’m probably wrong about that, though.

          • Nope – looks like you are right and I’m wrong again (or always if you ask my wife). Another piece of classic literature I skillfully avoided in high school. And Monty Python would have asked if that was a laden or unladen albatross.

  • Rob

    Wouldn’t they want to put the focus on the tourbillon with this watch? It goes under with this busy design and huge size.

  • Bruce Wang

    Beautiful “simply” piece, simply because Tourbillon used to be pollutioned visually….well….for the asking price it is good to see damn complex details every time you check the hour but then this Tag Heuer “turbo” is “clean” enough and I like that, they dared to break the turbo price watch to low than 30K where it started from here and let’s see if any competitor will challenge them with their own turbos and “affordable” prices…..

  • Sevenmack

    A beautoful movement ruined by a cluttered mess of a dial. This is one time when TAG should have outsourced dial design. May I suggest Bulova based on the Precisionist Wilton.

    • How is a dial with 37 numerals on it LESS cluttered than one with four numerals?

      • Sevenmack

        Because of that thing in design called organization, among other things. The entire dial of the TAG is poorly organized for legibility. And that’s before we get to choice of color for the watch: The dark bezel and the dark dial is virtually unreadable, while the Wilton is easy to read in almost any setting.

        So yes, the Wilton is less-cluttered than the TAG. But to each their own.

  • iamcalledryan

    I actually prefer the RG bezel/markers.

    My main gripe with this is the dial; it has the vibe of a skeleton, but none of the pay-off. Instead of seeing the dial-side of the movement, there are ‘ribs’ and structures that are purely about aesthetic. I get that this is a modern watch, but would prefer more utility in the design..

    • DanW94

      Totally agree, ditch the tachy and the faux skeletonization and you’re on the way to a more cohesive design.

  • SuperStrapper

    I like this watch. I know there will be a never ending stream of limp dick remarks about Hublotism, but I see a different personality here, and a well thought out design that still noticeably tells us it is a Carrera. I’m not a fan of the black and gold colourway, which is easily avoided. I also think the flared strap is an aesthetic miss, but again that is easily remedied. Looking forward to trying one on soon.

  • Ulysses31

    It’s a tough one. There’s definitely a Hublot influence but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing here. I like the crisp bezel and hour markers. Not very fond of such a blatantly multi-part case, particularly the lugs. Gold is too blingy, but the all-black model looks decent. The simplified Tag motif used on the buckle and elsewhere is a bit too similar to Tudor.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Never been a fan of this brand ,…………… and this piece hasn’t changed my mind. This is sooo pointy and just plain ugly. A 45mm would sit quite comfortably on me on account I have hands like shovels. Any lume on the dial ? After sundown this is just a junk of metal.

  • cg

    After owning and trying to wear a few 45mm to 50mm…. 42mm is my limit as is 10k anymore. nevermind how handsome beautiful or intriguing a watch may be…. But this Tag is an aesthetic disappointment to me. Too black…. gold too pimped by the black. Stainless is without character and even more black! What happened to a traditional Tag red accent somewhere?

  • You know what would be great? If watch manufacturers stopped labeling the tachymeter bezels. Dive bezels don’t say “Bottom timer” on them, GMT watches aren’t emblazoned with “Dual Time” across 20 percent of the bezel. Why do they insist on continuing this trend with superfluous text on chronographs?

    That being said, it’s a fantastic looking TAG; I hope they introduce a non-tourbillion version with the same overall aesthetic and a price point that is more TAG-like.

    Edit: Oh, they did. the Carrera 01. Let’s get a hands on review of the Titanium Grey Phantom, please. Or just send me one, and I’ll do the review gratis.

    • Larry Holmack

      Yes…the tachymeter is totally out of place on this watch. And BTW…who actually needs to use them anymore? They are only there for decoration now days. If you’re racing, you have computers that keep track of all that….and you concentrate on how your car handles.

  • Marius

    I like the modern design and the interesting movement. However, for me, this watch has two problems. Firstly, I would never spend $15,000 of my own money on this watch. I would rather buy a non-tourbillon from a more prestigious brand, such as a Blancpain Bathyscaphe Flyback chrono, an AP Royal Oak, or the new Breguet Type XXI. Also, I’m not very sure about the Tag built quality. My first watch was a Tag and it had a very poor built quality; I sold it after six months.

    Secondly, I don’t think that the general Tag public will be very impressed by a tourbillon. Sure, people who really want to have a Swiss tourbillon might buy this watch, but I doubt that the average Tag customer cares about this sort of escapement. If the average Tag buyer had $15,000, he/she would rather buy a Rolex, an Omega, or a Hublot.

  • FrankD51

    Whatever you think about TagHeuer as a brand, or the size, or the dial layout the fact that a major manufacturer has come out with a $15k tourbillon has blown the cover on the entire industry who have always claimed tourbillons are so difficult to produce that they just had to charge a $100k entry price for the privilege of owning one. The tourbillon has always been a marketing gimmick, even Breguet saw this as a marketing opportunity. I’ve never owned a tourbillon and have owned just one Tag some years ago, and I’ve never been that great of a fan of the brand, but I would give this watch a second look the next time I’m in the Caribbean and can check out the local dealers. I think it is one of those watches that looks better in the flesh than in pics.

    • I think the Chinese blow up the $100K tourbillon excuse years ago with their under $1K whirlwinds. But from a Swiss angle, your is well taken.

  • This looks so much like a Hublot it hurts. The gold is pure bling. A hideous watch that will only appeal to Fast and Furious fans. And Hublot fans of course.

    It’s definitely NOT a Carrera. It has sprouts and ribs and things on the dial that serve merely an aesthetic purpose. As someone with an unpronounceable name has said before: TAG Hublouer Big Bangera.

  • Juan-Antonio Garcia

    Tourbillions, they are a gimmick, they are useless, blah, blah, blah. They are beautiful. I could spend hours watching one just ticking away. So, bravo to TAG for taking the plunge and delivering one to the masses (me), maybe now more will follow. Now, where am I going to get those 15k? Kidney, anyone?

    • Larry Holmack

      I was going to offer one of mine!!!!

  • Gokart Mozart

    The watch to be honest I am not a fan of, but the movement is a different matter. With the Montblanc and Frederic Constant cheap perpetual calenders, and now this, is it time the companies are realising people like the complications without having the traditional haute horologie finishing to go with them. Maybe it will make other companies think about being more realistic with their pricing and and cut down on their PR and advertising. Don’t forget not only is it a tourbillon it is also a Chronograph.How much ids the next cheapest tourby with a chrono? Zenith at $70,000. Any body know.

    TAG have been clever with the finishing of the movement. They have made it matt black to suck in the light and to make it difficult to tell how good the finishing is. Not having polished and beveled edges etc wil make it alot cheaper due to less hand finishing required etc. it would be interesting to see a traditional finished version of this movement in a dress watch case. ( Iknow it’s a TAG but surely Tag owners wear suits once in a while)

    Once you get into the fine finishing the costs just ramp up, this is a good way of keeping costs down. Maybe there is space for both traditional high end watches and these types of watches with high end complications from mainstream companies.

    Personally, I would go for a different watch but that is more to do with the size and style, me being conservative in my design preferences and size.

    What next a Tissot quarter repeater?

  • TechUser2011

    This is simply an awesome watch. Completely modern look, modern design aesthetics, and (apparently) modern agile engineering that allowed them to leverage the CH80 to become a tourbillon. On the down side, it also has a modern size of 45mm which seems too big for me. Nonetheless, I will probably have to buy one of these. I would guess wearing a tourbillon on a daily basis would be like having a work of art on your wrist that can enjoy all day.

    The photos in this article don’t seem to do the watch justice. Watch the hands-on video with Ariel, where he moves the watch around and catches the light in different ways. Completely awesome watch, in particular the all-black version.

  • Michael Kinney

    Wow! What architecture. The last shot with the gold bezel blows me away. Stunning legibility and depth. And….4 Hertz, 65-hour-long power reserve, COSC certified…game over. One of the most impressive pieces I’ve seen in quite a while. Nicely done review as well.

  • Richard Baptist

    love this watch! I just like the depth of the dial, the power reserve, the fact that it is in titanium. It almost has a steam punk look. There is so much to love here. Again the photographs do not do it justice, look at the videos, look at how it twinkles as the different elements catch the light. Look at the depth of the dial. A total stunner for a great price. With that said, for that price don’t expect hand finishing and/or haute horology, to bring it in at that price I’m sure compromises were made, but for a 65 hour cosc certified movement I’ll work with what they give me.

  • speedy

    I don’t know about this one. Regardless of the fact that I don’t like the aesthetics (which is a mere matter of taste), I find the exercise a bit pointless. I find the tourbillon to be the most uninteresting complication of them all (it just turns, and doesn’t bring anything useful), except when it is an excuse to manufacture great-looking thin bridges, light delicate parts, etc. So I actually get the idea that a tourbillon is relevant only when associated with haute horlogerie finishing.

    On the other hand, I can only applause the idea of making cheaper versions of famous complications, but I am far more interested in a Frederique Constant perpetual calendar or a Breguet Type XX Flyback under $10000.

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