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TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Baselworld 2015 is the first watch trade show that sees Jean-Claude Biver at the helm of TAG Heuer as “interim” CEO, and one of his most important new products for this year is the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 watch. I feel as though the genesis of this watch, its purpose as I see it, and how it will impact the TAG Heuer brand overall is something worth talking about, because without a little discussion, I don’t think this a product that most people will understand.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Let’s step back to the early 2000s, when Jean-Claude Biver was hot off of his sale of Blancpain to the Swatch Group and eager to do something new. He purchased the failing Hublot brand which was originally founded in the early 1980s. Thanks to the Big Bang watch and the hype machine that Biver transformed Hublot into, it became a powerhouse watch company and he later sold it to the large luxury group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy). Jean-Claude Biver didn’t just sell Hublot to a large group and leave, but rather, he stayed aboard as the CEO to keep running things and continuing to grow the brand.

Eventually, Jean-Claude Biver wanted to slow down a bit and transitioned to being the Chairman of Hublot and installed his long-time number two man Ricardo Gaudalupe as the CEO. And just when people thought Jean-Claude Biver was going to retire to enjoy his success and cheese making, he decided to oversee the entire watch making operation at LVMH that included Hublot, Zenith, and TAG Heuer. Oddly enough, that didn’t include the Louis Vuitton watch company or Bulgari.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

As the strategic head of the watch division of LVMH, Mr. Biver enjoyed a pretty interesting job having no official office or even title – which actually meant he still spent a lot of time doing Hublot things. Part of his mandate was to help TAG Heuer - which was originally purchased for its heritage and rapport with younger consumers. TAG Heuer, however, for a series of reasons, started to abandon its strong position as an entry-level Swiss luxury brand and kept creeping up in price. That turned out to be pretty bad for business in the long term, and it was decided that TAG Heuer needed to “return to its roots.”

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

In late 2014, TAG Heuer announced a reduction in its workforce and consolidation of its efforts focusing on some in-house movement production as well as using movements from third-party suppliers such as Swiss ETA (which it has been doing for a long time). TAG Heuer’s then CEO Stephane Linder was let go (he is now at Gucci, of all places), and without a strong leadership option, Jean-Claude Biver announced that he was stepping in. I fully anticipate his time as TAG Heuer CEO to be relatively short (perhaps a few years). His position at TAG Heuer was always meant to be temporary, and I think once he puts the brand in a good place, his intention is to hand over the reigns to those who will continue pushing the brand in the direction that he is now putting it.

So the real questions are: what exactly is Jean-Claude Biver doing to TAG Heuer, how will brand loyalists feel about it, and what of his experience and success at Hublot can we anticipate will be replicated (in one way or another) at TAG Heuer?

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 fits into at least part of that – and my feeling is that it answers the question Mr. Biver has been asked for a long time, “can you built a less expensive Big Bang?” Like it or not, that is what I can surmise is part of the near-term future direction of TAG Heuer. So what exactly did Jean-Claude Biver do at Hublot that was so successful? Two major things, in my opinion. First was to create news that allowed a lot of people around the world (interested in watches or not) to be aware of the brand, and second was to create visually fascinating and masculine watches that got people excited about contemporary luxury watch design. Again, not all of this has gained Mr. Biver praise from the traditional watch industry, but his success speaks for itself.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I suppose the bad news is that at least part of TAG Heuer’s future will be in the release of watches that traditional fans of the brand will not be receptive to. A lot of TAG Heuer fans are actually Heuer fans and keen on purchasing watches that remind them of the brand’s rich history of not only products but also of involvement in activities such as motorsports. 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.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer may not entirely abandon their mature fan base, but they must employ a totally different strategy if they are going to once again be the type of brand that attracts younger watch buyers. This means that TAG Heuer needs to be very “right now,” with a focus on things like the social media generation, fashion, music, and modern sporting events. I have to agree that such a tactic is in many ways much better for business than what they were doing before that simply wasn’t speaking loud enough to the people who are looking to buy really nice circa $1,000 watches.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

One of the things I have a feeling will occur at TAG Heuer is the deployment of a strategy that I will just call “Hublot-Lite.” That means an emphasis on wide-reaching marketing initiatives as well as products that are bold and easy for younger (or younger-minded) watch lovers to approach. In some ways, that is literally taking what worked with the Hublot Big Bang watch and all of its iterations and offering more accessible versions at TAG Heuer – that, my friends, is what the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 is all about, in my opinion.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Let’s discuss the TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 01 movement for a second. What you need to know is that structurally it is more or less an existing in-house produced TAG Heuer caliber 1887 automatic chronograph movement. However, it has been skeletonized a bit and given some new colors (such as the eye-catching red column wheel) and turned into the Heuer 01. It won’t replace the 1887, but just add some spice to it in models starting with the 2015 TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 01 watch.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I have to admit I was hoping the Heuer 01 would be more closely related to the still-on-hold in-house made and designed TAG Heuer caliber CH 80 – but we will have to wait for that into the future. It does feel a bit “marketing-ish” to make a new movement name out of what is essentially an 1887 in new clothing. I get it, but it doesn’t feel as satisfying as it should, However, the result is an impressive and highly wearable concept that offers so much of what people like about skeletonized versions of the Hublot Big Bang at a fraction of the price. For that reason, I think the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 will sell very well.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Let’s not forget that also upcoming for TAG Heuer are things like an Android-powered smartwatch as well as a (mere) 14,900 Swiss Francs tourbillon in the Carrera collection that uses the same case as this Carrera Calibre Heuer 01. Mr. Biver has a lot of exciting things planned which will offer affordable and interesting timepiece creations sure to get the buzz he wants for the brand. A lot of it is marketing, but it is marketing the Biver way, and even if you don’t like the result, it is entertaining to see it unfold.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With its black, steel, and red case, the 45mm-wide TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 watch didn’t look as good in pictures as it does on the wrist. The bold Big Bang-inspired skeletonized dial and hands are cool looking, and the overall design is fun and exciting like a TAG Heuer hasn’t been in a while. The magic of a mechanical watch circa 2015 is in the mechanical movement and smart companies know how to show that movement off to enthusiasts.

I will admit that if this watch was priced at $10,000 I would not have taken as long to talk about it nor would I have included the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 watch on our list of the Top 10 watches of Baselworld 2015. It is the relatively low price combined with what else Mr. Biver is doing at TAG Heuer which makes me feel that this is so relevant. Mr. Biver isn’t ignoring the upcoming world of mainstream smartwatches nor is he putting all of his eggs in that basket. Mr. Biver understands that the youngest generation of luxury watch buyers want it all.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

They want contemporary modern technology that is nevertheless a lifestyle indicator. They want cool traditional watches in an accessibly-priced package, they want a brand which participates in things which are relevant to them, and they don’t want a brand that tells them what to get but rather gives them choices. It is entirely possible that I am reading a bit deep into what Jean-Claude Biver is doing at TAG Heuer, but after meeting with him, seeing the new for 2015 TAG Heuer products and exploring their upcoming partnership and event plans, this all seems rather clear to me.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I am also someone who happens to like the Hublot Big Bang, but probably can’t see myself spending $20,000 or more on one as I don’t fall into that buyer income demographic. I am, however, really intrigued by something that is a fraction of the price and seems to offer a similar experience. I think a lot of other people are going to be as well. The 2015 reference CAR2A1Z.FT6044 TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 watch will be available soon at a price of 4,900 Swiss Francs. tagheuer.com

About the Author

Fueled by an unshakable love for horology and a general curiosity for intricate things, Ariel Adams founded aBlogtoWatch in 2007 as a means of sharing his passion. Since then, ABTW has become the highest trafficked blog on luxury timepieces, and Ariel has become a contributor to other online publications such as Forbes, Departures and Tech Crunch, to name just a few. His conversational writing style and inclusive attitude brings a wider appreciation for watches the world over, and that's just the way he likes it.

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  • Itai

    I will not buy my mechanical watch from a watch company that sells also smartwatches.

    • Bill3

      Then you’re soon going to be out of options

  • nunomaiaGMR

    I don’t mind this watch. I don’t like the skeletonized part but the rest of the watch design is very cool and I could see future iterations turn out very well. What I find offensive is that this costs around 5000 CHF with an in-house movement and at the same time TAG presents the following adorable vintage inspired design but with a Sellita plus chronograph module:for 5900CHF:

    http://www.calibre11.com/exclusive-tag-heuer-carrera-calibre-18-telemeter/

  • sgvasquezr

    The watch is void of any logical asthetic.
    It is loud, brash and juvenile.
    It doesn’t befit the price one is expected to pay.

  • TAGBLOT

  • This feels more like baby Mille than Hublot

  • Robbie82

    I don’t understand why they used the Carrera name.. Why not introduce this model as a new model in their collection. Call it the Tag Heuer Biver or something…

  • I_G

    It’s quite illegible for a sport watch. If it’s a sport watch of course.

  • 5803822

    Good article –  think it tells the right story – the watch  does have a Hublot look abut it and as per article,  should appeal to the new wave of younger watch buyers – the price is certainly in the right ball park and should be a BIG seller – would’nt mind one myself. but  looking at those lugs,I reckon this will wear large……………………..

  • thornwood36

    Why spend so much time on a watch you cant read ?

  • I_G

    Robbie82 TAG Heuer Beaver

  • DangerussArt

    I like the case / case back and the rear side of the movement a lot.  Put a sporty, non skeleton, non Hublot inspired dial in it and they’ll have something. I cant stand how illegible this is, and I despise that date wheel style, no matter what brand employs it.  I too feel this should have been it’s own tier of watches and allow Carrera to be the Motorsports tier. Did TAG really need a rap star / baller collection?

    While I have witnessed the success of his pet brand, I’m not sure it directly translates to this brand or actually hits his target demographic. Who’s buying all the classic and retro watches Fossil sells? His target demo. They like them, the watches are affordable and their near disposable nature plays well with Millennial’s fickle fashion whims. Same can be said for Seiko, and even Swatch – the tried and true long term sellers are subdued classic styles. And let’s make no mistake here – $5000 is a lot of money for a lot of his target.
    This feels like Ford looking at the million-dollar La Ferrari and saying “Wow! 27 year-olds really like that car”. Then building a Focus based La Ferrari look-alike selling for “only” a quarter-million. Does that sound like a plan for success?  Try this instead; shatter the price bubble. Make a series of great looking watches and price them around $1000. It can be done, independents do it all the time,

  • EranR

    It all makes sense now. Hublot have discovered that the secret to successful watchmaking is illegible dials, and the display of utterly technical and unappealing movements as if they were at the very least Breguet Tradition. And now Tag Heuer will have the benefit of enjoying similar success. Joy..

  • Robato

    More like, TAG HEUBLOT

  • Swell, the watch is not that bad really, and I’m sure it hits the nail right on the head in terms of the strategy Biver is attempting to deploy. I only fear that it will have a new iteration every week as they grab onto countless partnerships, resulting in the same watch re-hashed a jillion times with lousy co-branding logos and hideous colourways. Honestly, release this watch with subtle hints as a Gulf colourway and I might be interested.
    I’m sure we will be reading quite a bit about this development as it moves along.

  • Jason Switzer

    Epic. F-ing. Fail. I’m 32 years old. I have barely enough disposable income to really be into watch collecting as a hobby, and when I first heard that Tag Heuer was going to make their watches more affordable, I was ecstatic. Now that I see the direction Biver has taken TH, I am far less optimistic. I wasn’t alive when McQueen filmed Le Mans, nor did I get to experience all of the old Porshe Gulfs driving around the track like hell. But I appreciate all of that stuff nonetheless and I esoecially appreciate classic design. This new Carrera 01 is a monstrocity. The CH80 was a thing of beauty. The Monaco IS a thing of beauty (I wish they would rerelease the 40th Anniversary Blue McQueen as the “new” standard dial design, but I’d still take a CAW2111 any day of the week over any of the new offerings from Basel 2015). If Biver wants to build up TH to a younger audience, find a way to market the re-release vintage Heuer looking pieces to millenials. A lot of us live vintage-inspired designs (see the Tudor Black Bay or Heritage Chrono for examples). The only young people I see lusting after crap like the new Basel 2015 pieces are meatheads and douchebags. Hardly the types you’d like to build the foundation of your business on. There… I said it.

  • Dartagnan_x1

    So many haters… I saw the watch in person, and I like it. I think it’s what 21st century TAG Heuer should be. The staid Carreras and Aquaracers need a powerful refresh in both price and design, and this is just the first of many radical designs to come. For too long TH watches just incrementally increased in price without regard for what the brand initially represented. Who here remembers TAG Heuer Formula 1s for $500? Before the recent price refresh, the price of a Formula 1 was almost three times as much. 
    This timepiece may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is my belief that this new direction will yield great results for the brand. Now, about the red, green and blue Formula 1s – those I could do without! In honesty, they were made pre-Biver, but still….

  • captaina16

    Please somebody define entry level pricing? Hard for me as a retired guy to get this entry price for something that is hard to define as what? Surely not a classic. Perhaps sport technical? I don’t know. Somebody help me or help Mr. Biver. I kinda used to like Tag but now…………TBD.

  • CG

    After much visual contemplation I do like the red accents but better on a different watch! As a long time Tag buyer, you can count me out if this is the future of Tag design and ethos. They may be striving toward that younger buyer but they don’t have the buying power to sustain such a radical change. For me this is a total rethink in the wrong direction, aimed far away from the traditional Tag consumer. Sad to say I’m done with Tag if this design trend continues.

  • Evitzee

    I’m not in the TH demographic but this thing is just a hot mess.  It’s really just Hublot lite, but a lot of people don’t like Hublot’s style which really was/is a rip off of the AP Royal Oak Offshore (regardless of what Biver claims).  I see no indication that the younger set want’s that same look.  Personally, I think Hublot is a damaged brand now.  It’s made a ton of money for those involved but, like Blancpain, he’s left it in a vulnerable position going forward.  Yet he seems to be taking the same tack with TH.  He may well pump a lot of revenue out of the repositioning but long term it will go the same way as Blancpain and Hublot.

  • Shawnnny

    The Tag Heuer Justin Bieber Limited Edition

  • shinytoys

    As I sit here with my Heuer Autavia on my wrist, I can’t help getting sentimental over days gone by.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of TAG Heuer, just not nearly as much as I used to be. Case in point is the new Carrera reviewed above. I like it, it’s racy  and mechanical, it makes my 2 wheel racing heart sing like my M.V. Agusta, but it does look a lot like a Hublot. I would also like to be able to read the face of the watch at a glance. Damn that piece is busy with not a lot of contrast on the hands or faceplate. Yeah, I must be getting old. I’m lifting my glass and toasting the days when the ONLY name on the face plate was HEUER.

  • Robbie82 Or the “Little Bang”

  • These will probably sell well and that is Biver’s real goal anyway. Do they seem to epitomize TAG Heuer to me? No way. Do they look busy and “mechanical”? Yes and in that same illegible way as a skeleton Hublot or some crappy Invicta. This may well be the watch that 14 year old boys lust after. But at around $5K USD, this is priced out of range for first time mechanical watch buyers. I understand JCB saying he wants to bring TAG back to its historical price segment – but this watch is far from it. If this was under $2K it would be an outstanding seller and proof that TAG is serious about the price segment (and then follow up with non-chrono watches at $1000 or so).
    As well noted, this is a a baby Hublot and maybe it will sell to those who wanted but can’t afford a You-Blow and are willing to accept this instead. I hope this is the high end of mainstream TAG pieces and that less eye-bleeding and more affordable pieces will be coming soon.
    There are some $5K Heuer pieces that I really like and think are more or less worth the money. But this one is made to appeal to a younger demographic than me – and I wonder if they will part with the cash for it or not.

  • MarkCarson Yeah, but a “historical” price of ~$2k back in the early ’90s would be around ~$5-8k today right? So he’s (JCB) “historically” correct!

  • MarkCarson Robbie82 “Meet…Mini-Bang”

  • DangerussArt Yeah but T-H has already thrown their hat into the “haute luxury” arena and cannot retreat to Hamilton/Tissot/Oris/whatever else levels.
    Gotta pay for the C. Ronaldos, D Guettas (?) and something something hawt young model…

  • Let’s ALL get ONE thing straight: STEVE MCQUEEN…though pulled out of his grave as the icon of “new cool” (zombies are soooo trendy now, right?), wore a 5512 Submariner as his daily beater!
    No Monaco, no Explorer II, nada. 
    Sub. Simple. Sweet. Spot on.

  • JPonce

    As I was revisiting some of the Star Trek episodes on Netflix lately, this watch reminds me of Borg… I think TH just got assimilated!

  • flaviothepage

    Tag Heuer has been “hublotonized!”

  • joshgraves

    This is way too busy in the skeleton format.  There is a reason we don’t see a lot of skeletonized chronographs.

  • WimadS

    JPonce wait for the green version… 😛

  • WimadS

    MarkCarson If TAG is going on the Hublot tour, I at least hope they keep the original alive (1887 carrera / classic fusion). I’d probably be able to live with that. I still absolutely love the classic fusion, but everything else hublot is just appalling…

  • antjay

    MarkCarson Robbie82  Pop ?

  • bichondaddy

    Well…the artist in me sees a watch that is too busy and does not have enough contrast to allow the person wearing the watch to quickly view the time correctly.  I love chronographs…and have a couple of skeley’s, so I don’t hate them……and I love Tag….but man….this one just doesn’t do a thing for me.  
    Sorry guys….Tag isn’t Hublot.!!!

  • Grinnie Jax

    TABLOT Carbang

  • Grinnie Jax

    Actually, anybody expected something else from Biver? lol

  • It’s priced competitively for an in-house chronograph movement, which actually looks pretty good.  So good in fact, that this watch should be worn upside down only.  It’s too bad that it sticks to the tired dial layout of out sourced movements, perhaps the greatest opportunity for design innovation that proprietary movements bring about.

    PS: how’s someone supposed to read the date?

  • WallabeeKingpin

    Chaz_Hen what is your point? that you have a sub? would you like a medal?

  • TomBew

    $5k
    Too Big – will hang off of all but large wrists
    Dated Movement
    Illegible Dial

    Does Omega sell any watches into the target demographic for this thing? … think about it ….

    My perception is that LVMH is going to have an extremely hard time keeping up with Swatch Group movement improvements.

  • iamcalledryan

    Doesn’t look much like a TAG, and the date wheel is a disaster. Apart from that I see potential.

  • DG Cayse

    Monsieur Biver has created his demographic and will continue to sell to it until it proves an empty hole.
    Will his previous success follow him? It will be interesting to see.

    I do find it interesting that there are very few specific comments about this piece as to the technical aspects.
    While I find the reverse fairly clean and easily understood – the ‘front’ is almost illegible. Lume? Power reserve?
    Durability? Wearability? 
    The gist of what the Tag Huer marque has stood for.

    Some may find this nothing more than a piece for a simulateur who could not afford a Hublot.

  • DG Cayse

    Jason Switzer Well said…..:golf clap:

  • DG Cayse There is a previous post on the caliber 1887 which may answer some of your technical questions: https://www.ablogtowatch.com/tag-heuer-carrera-calibre-1887-chronograph-watch-for-2013/

  • notech47

    Almost impossible to read. The back of the case is its best attribute. If it sells well, I would be surprised.

  • Josefina Patiño Núñez

    Está muy gris le falta un no se qué !!

  • antjay

    You know you have made it when a major player uses your designs as the inspiration for a homage . Congratulations Invicta !

  • BNABOD

    too big, too cluttered, too unreadable, too Hugrotesque, too expensive. Now make a Racing inspired Carrera in 41mm with the new 1969 at 2K and I am all yours

  • Bill3

    Go and see it in the metal…It looks great and is perfectly legible.