This year, for Watches and Wonders 2023, TAG Heuer is turning the bling up to eleven with the next generation of Carrera Plasma. The original model, released in 2022, featured dazzling lab-grown diamonds set into a mostly-aluminum case and a frosted diamond dial, but played it safe (as these things go), maintaining a traditional bezel and being paired with a no-frills black leather strap. Even though it was nominated for the GPHG Jewelry Watch Award, it still felt like it could’ve been more. With the new model, the brand has pulled out all the stops for an even more fantastically embellished watch that will only set you back 500,000 Swiss Francs (150,000 more than the original!). Herewith, the TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde Chronograph Tourbillon 44mm, with 124 diamonds totaling 15.5 carats.
The case is where the magic is really happening. Constructed entirely of anodized aluminum (the first version had a tragically diamondless ceramic bezel), the new Carrera Plasma features the same Carrera form with sandblasting and a black DLC coating creating a canvas for 48 lab-grown diamonds to be set in the case itself. The bezel features a further 26, while the new, matching aluminum bracelet rounds things out with 34 more and a steel folding clasp. The visual effect is exceptionally modern, a truly avant-garde take on more ostentatious blinged-out watches, which gives the impression of flowing shards having radiated from the twinkling dial. Standing out above all the rest, though, is the 2.5-carat diamond crown. Like the other lab-grown diamonds, this is made with TAG Heuer’s partner Capsoul, and grown in the shape of the crown. For such a vivid case, you might expect underwhelming water resistance, but TAG Heuer hasn’t skimped, and the Carrera Plasma has a go-anywhere-do-anything 100m so you can stare at all the sparkly diamonds without worrying about your watch.
The dial is identical to last year’s model, which is fine because I’m not sure TAG could’ve done more here. The diamonds here total 4.9 ct, split between the 12 applied lab-grown diamond hour markers and three polycrystalline plates used for the dial proper. The main dial features a lighter plate than the two darker 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph subdials; these plates are created by growing a vast number of diamond crystals as one. The matte black lacquer hour and minute hands feature Super-LumiNova, while the central chronograph seconds hand is rhodium plated. The use of black lacquer and matte finishing should improve legibility compared to using rhodium plating on all three. At 6 o’clock, of course, is the tourbillon in lieu of a running seconds register.
Less resplendent but more horologically intriguing is the in-house Calibre Heuer 02T Nanograph visible through the sapphire-glassed caseback. This movement was released announced in 2015 and officially released in 2016 (and we went hands-on a few months later). Built on the base of the short-lived CH80 movement, the Heuer 02T was one Jean-Claude Biver’s early moves during his tenure as the head of TAG Heuer. In 2019, the movement was updated to include a carbon nanotube Nanograph hairspring, which is easier to mass produce than its silicon counterparts (lower rejection rates due to broken parts) and more shock-resistant (because of its native elasticity). In addition to the TAG Heuer shield rotor and the checkered flag bridges, TAG says this special version of the movement has extensive hand-finishing, presumably the anglage visible throughout. The tourbillon cage is crafted from titanium for the middle section and carbon fiber for the top part, all in an effort to keep the weight down to a minimum, which in turn helps increase power reserve and chronometric performance. Speaking of which, the movement runs at 28,800 vph with a power reserve of 65 hours and is COSC-certified at -4/+6 seconds per day.
Looking at this new model, the original release truly feels restrained and unfinished, as if TAG wasn’t quite sure about the idea and wanted to test the waters. Now, the Carrera Plasma finally feels complete, with a bezel and a proper bracelet that allows the design to flourish. Let’s hope the next iteration has diamond chrono pushers. Unsurprisingly, production will be limited, though it’s unclear what the final numbers will be. The CHF 500,000 price tag will surely filter out most people, though. The TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde Chronograph Tourbillon 44mm will be available in September 2023. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.