With vintage Heuer values ever on the rise, TAG Heuer occasionally produces vintage-inspired models to offer a modern watch with some of that oh-so-sweet classic Heuer charm. Enter the new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18, a beautifully-proportioned chronograph that serves as a subtle reminder of both the enduring success of the Carrera design and the ethos of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Carrera design is over 50 years old, and it’s a considerable piece of Jack Heuer’s impressive legacy in the watch world. Like many, my modern Carrera tastes have a pronounced proclivity for the vintage-inspired designs, as they best capture the motorsport spirit and heritage that was born in the days of Heuer and inform much of TAG Heuer’s current-day mindset.
This new TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18, dubbed the “Calibre 18 Telemeter” in various online posts, uses a 39mm polished steel case and a nicely balanced two register layout, offering a 30-minute chronograph with central seconds. The dial is a silver sunray finish that looks excellent with the boxed anti-reflective sapphire crystal and muted anthracite sub dials with azurage finishing. The minute and hour hands are done in polished steel while the sub dial hands and seconds hand are finished in what TAG Heuer calls “black gold,” which is not gold but rather a polished dark grey plating that matches the tone of the sub dial coloring. Legibility is preserved by the presence of luminous tips on the chronograph hands.
The dial changes color between a warm silver and a near gold-tone depending on light and the entire character of the watch is changed by the pronounced boxed crystal, which manages to play with available light in a very pleasing manner while remaining remarkably glare-free. While this Carrera is larger than the vintage pieces that inspired it, at 39mm, it still manages to feel small enough to elicit a very specific vintage charm that mixes beautifully with the dial design and the boxed crystal.
The markers are applied, and there is a nicely executed date display at 6. Encircling the dial is a telemeter scale, which allows you gauge the distance of an event that can be both seen and heard (such as a lightning strike). When you see the flash of lightning, you start the chrono, when you hear the crack of the thunder, you stop it, the chronograph seconds hand will indicate the approximate distance in kilometers.
As suggested by the dial text, this TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 uses TAG’s Calibre 18, a Swiss made automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve, 37 jewels, and a rate of 4Hz. I doubt this is a watch that many will buy because of the movement, its appeal is almost exclusively in the strength of its design and the success of the execution therein.
The entire aesthetic is completed by the perforated black leather strap, which includes a fold over clasp that is great, though arguably too modern for the goal of a piece like this. Despite the clasp, the Carrera Calibre 18 is an absolute treat on wrist. I have a 7-inch wrist, and the 39mm sizing was small enough to telegraph its vintage inspiration while still feeling like a proper size for a sport watch. The manner in which the proportions, dial design, and crystal work together is why I found the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 so cool.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 carries a retail price of $5,450 USD, which means it’s basically in competition with all Swiss-powered entry-luxury chronographs. At that price point, there is even considerable competition from other models within the TAG Heuer family (cough…Monaco). Aside from price, you also have more spiritual competition from vintage-inspired pieces like the Tudor Heritage Chronograph (review here), the Breitling Transocean Chronograph (review here) and maybe even the lovely Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Chronograph. All of these watches surround the price point of the TAG, but I’m not sure that’s really the point to consider. The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 has its own appeal, and the call of the Carrera cannot be easily ignored. tagheuer.com