The Carrera 1887 is a bit more in line with TAG Heuer’s history of producing stopwatches and offers a two-digit minute-indicator-style ring of hour markers. This offers a good mixture of legibility but traditional elegance people look for in classic racing watches or instruments. The standard 1887 models have thinner hands with painted lume in the center (actually the only lume on the dial), while my limited edition TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph Nendo (a special limited edition for Japan that I bought because I loved it) has a unique set of red hands inspired by a 19th century clock. I do love me quirky limited edition watches meant to appeal to the Japanese market…
With the Carrera Heuer 01 collection, TAG Heuer wanted to take what worked well in the design of the 1887 (which as a model pre-dated the Heuer 01) and make it bolder and more aggressive with the intent that it would appeal to a younger demographic. As I said, this particular reference is unique because it is the most conservative of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 models given its more traditional, non-skeletonized dial. Like some other Carrera models, it replaces the Arabic numerals on the dial with large, applied baton hour markers (with luminant) and pairs them with proportionally larger hands. For low-light viewing, the Heuer 01 is going to win between these two Carreras given its superior volume if Super-LumiNova. The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01 also has a more three-dimensional dial, given the thicker applied elements such as the hands and chronograph rings.
As chronographs, the two watches are the same, each with 12-hour chronographs and even similar looking hands. In fact, if there were something that these watches do share that is identical, it might be the hands for the seconds and for the subdials. Another interesting detail is that the Carrera 1887 sports the last generation TAG Heuer logo, while the Carrera Heuer 01 has the newest generation logo. Other more vintage-style TAG Heuer watches often have the even more retro “Heuer” logo on them. So that also makes the brand unique for using a variety of different logos in their current collection.
Part of the Carrera design DNA is the red ring around the chronograph start and stop pusher, which, again, is a nod to racing stopwatches from when Heuer used to produce them. While the TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 has light hints of the design’s stopwatch DNA, the Carrera Heuer 01 has for the most part totally forgone this, as the design elements take on a more futuristic theme which I think the collection adopts quite nicely.
We finally come to the movements in these two TAG Heuer watches which are technically different but very similar. The least expensive TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph watches produced today contain the Calibre 16 movement, which is essentially a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph. Nothing wrong with this movement, but enthusiasts tend to like in-house-made movements if they can choose, and thankfully, TAG Heuer produces some of the nicest and most affordable in-house movements around.
Movements are so important to watches that the names of these two TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph models are differentiated by the movements contained within them. Ironically enough, the movements are only different cosmetically, each featuring the same architecture, performance, and of course functionality. So, regardless of whether you opt for a Carrera Calibre 1887 or a Carrera Calibre Heuer 01, you are getting a very good mechanical movement.
As I said, the movements are produced in-house by TAG Heuer, and offer the time, date, and 12-hour chronograph. Around the bezel is a tachymeter scale which measures speed and is used in conjunction with the chronograph. The movements operate at 4Hz (28,800bph) and have a maximum power reserve when fully wound of 50 hours. According to TAG Heuer, the movements have a power reserve of 40 hours if the chronograph is left continuously running (as some people like to do). The chronograph complications are superior to those on, say, the Valjoux 7750, and for a Swiss watch offer a lot of bang for the buck. The Calibre 1887/Heuer 01 have column-wheel-operated chronographs that have vertical clutch transmission systems. This allows for a more precise operation of the chronograph when starting and stopping – and generally just feels better to the touch.
If you are looking for a well-priced sports watch with a racing-inspired design and a masculine look then the TAG Heuer Carrera should most certainly be on your list. Build quality is great, and the level of detailing is impressive. These are watches TAG Heuer clearly has a lot of incentive to get right, and they are rewarded by enjoying a good level of popularity among consumers. With that said, a lot of modern watch buyers have yet to discover today’s Carrera watches. Vintage collectors love the more historic Carrera timepieces, but I truly think that, for whatever reason, too many of today’s contemporary watch buyers don’t consider the Carrera when selecting among timeless sport chronograph models. I’m not sure why that is, and TAG Heuer seems to be clearly be focusing on the younger demographic with its intently “edgy” and “millennial” marketing using timepiece models like the Carrera Heuer 01. That leaves the Carrera 1887 and other models in the more “mature” category, though I think I would just define them as being a bit more classic.
There are days when I’d pick up a Carrera Calibre 1887 and others that I would prefer to don a Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 – so, for me, each model is equally appealing. Then again, I am known for being a particularly open-minded type of watch wearer, and I think that most consumers who like the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph watch family will likely gravitate in one direction or the other – toward the more classic direction of the 1887 or the more contemporary direction of the Heuer 01. Prices for the watches are remarkably similar. Price for this TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm on the bracelet is $5,050, and the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Automatic Chronograph 43mm is $5,150. tagheuer.com
>Brand: TAG Heuer
>Model: Carrera Calibre 1887 Automatic Chronograph 43mm
>Price: $5,050 USD (as tested)
>Size: 43mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone looking for a decidedly classic yet masculine racing-themed sports watch with a great value-for-the-money movement.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent fit and finish as well as wearing comfort. Probably the most handsome way of wearing a stopwatch homage on your wrist. Continues the legacy of the traditional Carrera for today’s generation.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Luminant on the dial is limited. Many different models produced by TAG Heuer make choosing a model difficult. No micro-adjust for bracelet.
>Brand: TAG Heuer
>Model: Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Automatic Chronograph 43mm
>Price: $5,150 USD (as tested)
>Size: 43mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who wants the bold, assertive looks of the Carrera Heuer 01, but feels that the skeletonized dial is a bit too much.
>Best characteristic of watch: Mixes modern design elements with an iconic theme rather fluidly. Manages to be aggressive in design without being obnoxious. Legible display and comfortable case.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Might be difficult for the right consumers to find as many will gravitate toward a very classic or a very modern Carrera model. Those who appreciate more traditional looks might find the case design a bit “sharp” looking.