Toward the end of the 20th century, high-end watch brands began to slowly introduce “modern” tourbillon-based mechanical movements as exotic and interesting items to attract watch collectors during a time when most people were wearing electronic quartz watches. At some point, someone (whose identity I’d love to learn) decided that tourbillon mechanisms shouldn’t be hidden inside of a movement or through the back of the case, but exposed on the dial of a watch.

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In essence, the appeal of a tourbillon is two-fold. First is the complexity of their construction and design (the craftsmanship value), and second is the visual appeal of their operation (the “whiz-bang” value). Tourbillons – for all they are worth – are pretty darn cool to look at, and eventually by the early 2000s, they were the default “big money” status indicator. If you had a watch that contained a tourbillon, it was clear that it cost about $100,000 or more.

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Among the major watch makers, tourbillon competition started to get a bit silly over the last 15 years or so. Brands keen on offering “the most complicated” watches to attract high-end collectors started to produce ever more complicated timepieces that included flying tourbillons, multiple tourbillons, multi-axis tourbillons, multiple multi-axis tourbillons, etc… Each of these increasingly exotic (and expensive) timepieces brought with them loads of interesting design and artistic appeal, but little in the form of functional value. Eventually, the tourbillon needed to become a watch again.

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Why is the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon cheaper? What really makes it different than other Swiss tourbillons is the amount of hand-finishing. The value in the vast majority of very high-end watches is the amount of hand-decoration and applied art. The Heuer-02T movement is designed to be built without hand polishing or other decorative techniques that one might expect to find in a $100,000-plus watch. That fact alone should alleviate Mr. Stern’s concerns about “tourbillon devaluation,” but I understand his conservative approach to the issue. I should mention now that Jean-Claude Biver himself is a serious collector of Patek Philippe timepieces – a fact that is not likely lost on Mr. Stern.


Mr. Stern is probably correct that if the Swiss tourbillon is to remain an indicator of status and wealth, then having lower-priced tourbillons goes against such efforts. With that said, despite his best efforts, is that the future of the tourbillon? With the Chinese now producing tourbillons for around $1,000 and up, can the Swiss watch industry artificially maintain the tourbillon as the ultimate status symbol, or will they need to shift their approach to other elements of “Swiss craftsmanship” as the basis for valuing a $100,000-plus timepiece? Most Patek Philippe collectors will probably say that a “grand complication” chronograph-perpetual-calendar-minute-repeater is much more interesting to them as a super-high-end timepiece than a tourbillon. The Chinese aren’t making those yet – not even close.

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So what TAG Heuer is doing with this watch (in my opinion) is setting the bar for what a modern non-hand-finished Swiss tourbillon should be. And the bar is set pretty high. So let’s look at the overall features and tech specs of the movement. TAG Heuer’s caliber Heuer-02T has a flying tourbillon that operates at a frequency of 4 Hertz or 28,800 beats per hour. That is the same as most other modern movements, and not the slower 3 or 2.5 Hz speed of many other Swiss tourbillons. It is also an automatic, which is not particularly common for tourbillon movements.

The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon indicates the time, date, and has a 12-hour chronograph. The chronograph is column-wheel-based with a nice operation from the chronograph pushers. The Heuer-02T movement has a power reserve of 65 hours, and the movement is even COSC Chronometer certified. On top of everything else, TAG Heuer made sure that its tourbillon was accurate – which is really the ultimate icing on the chronometric cake.


You have to really know what you are looking at to see similarities between the CH 80 movement and the Heuer-02T. While the architecture is similar, there is quite a lot about the movement which is changed. Still, aside from the lack of date indicator and running seconds hand, which has been replaced with the spinning tourbillon (functionally they are more or less the same in that they both indicate running seconds), the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon offers all the nice functionality (and more) from what we loved about the CH 80.


On the wrist, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon is a stately 45mm wide by about 16mm thick with a length of about 52mm. It isn’t a small watch, nor is it trying to be. TAG Heuer understands that the whole point of wearing a tourbillon-based watch is to enjoy the mechanical ballet of the tourbillon in full spinning action. Watches such as this are large today in order to better be seen – not only for the people wearing it, but for everyone else. If you prefer smaller sized options you have plenty of choices, but if you want to wear something with “Biverian Boldness,” then this TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon will certainly fit the bill.

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For review, I checked out the “Black Phantom” version of the watch which is once again a tribute to Jean-Claude Biver’s legacy. At Hublot, he popularized the idea of the “all-black” watch that looks so cool in person and yet has little logic behind why it does. The trick to making an all-black watch work is in using various shades and finishes of black to allow for proper legibility. Jean-Claude Biver famously explained that the appeal of an all-black watch was because of “visible invisibility.” It’s actually true that, given the more or less monochromatic dark colors of the watch, it actually invites you to look closer, and more intimately at the dial.


Water resistant to 100 meters and produced here in black-coated titanium, the case is attached to a fitted and tapering rubber strap with a matte alligator print on it and a folding deployant clasp. I suppose a downside of the watch is that if you have smaller wrists [Like I do, as captured on the shot above – David] it won’t fit as well given the size of the case. I would say that the case size is about at the limit of what my (smaller) wrist can take, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the boldness of the design and the sheer majesty that is the fact that there is suddenly a refined Swiss tourbillon watch within the scope of what I could actually afford.


The dial of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon is in line with the current modern Carrera aesthetic DNA. Pulling from what worked well at Hublot, you have a highly complex, modern dial with a series of finishes and things to look at. Under 12 o’clock, we have what appears to be the top of the mainspring barrel, and at 6 o’clock is the flying tourbillon. I don’t even miss the hand-finishing you see in much higher-end tourbillons. TAG Heuer does a good job on choice of materials and finishes which helps the watch feel a lot more like something from the universe of a high-end car or motorcycle versus a traditional mechanical watch.


Around the dial is a tachymeter scale on the black ceramic bezel which is the ultimate nod to traditional chronograph watches. I have yet to personally use this scale in tandem with the chronograph, but it’s become part of chronograph history as popular watches such as the Rolex Daytona, Omega Speedmaster, and of course, TAG Heuer Carrera all continue to use this scale around the bezel of their racing-inspired chronograph flagship models.


Otherwise, this modern Carrera case is mostly simple with minimalist lines and sharp, contemporary angles (especially in the lugs). In fact, it is the design of the lugs which most speaks to the historic look of the Carrera collection which was first introduced in the early 1960s.

I noticed an audible sound to the movement of the automatic rotor – which is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. You can view the movement and rotor through the back of the case through the sapphire crystal exhibition window. I like that part, but it isn’t always the case that I want to hear it. With that said, I’ve spoken to other watch lovers who very much enjoy hearing elements of the mechanical movement in operation. It is just a matter of taste.


So why will they sell a lot of these TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon watches? I think it is because TAG Heuer stumbled upon a new tourbillon formula that works for an entire generation of watch lovers that until now have never been able to own a “real” Swiss tourbillon. If the market becomes flooded with $15,000 – $20,000 tourbillons like this, then things will inevitably slow down, but until then, the market for tourbillons of this quality and price is more or less untapped.

Nevertheless, it is probably a very good idea for TAG Heuer to produce their new Carrera Tourbillons in relatively small quantities so as to ensure the market doesn’t become saturated with them. If consumers are going to enjoy a good price, then they should not be afforded too much availability. Actually, even if TAG Heuer wanted to mass produce the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon, I don’t think they could. The staff necessary to produce these watches is limited by nature, and despite the lower price, it isn’t as though these tourbillons are easier to assemble than higher-end ones.


Whether the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon is a singular interesting project or the start of something new and more accessible for high-end horology is yet to be seen. I’m excited about this watch, and I really enjoy wearing it. It ticks off most of the right boxes when it comes to a modern high-end Swiss sports watch, while at the same time (in my opinion) doesn’t detract from what makes an even more high-end, hand-decorated fine timepiece appealing. TAG Heuer succeeded at creating a new niche segment without really disrupting others (in my opinion), and for at least that, the brand should be proud.

The entry level price of the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon is $15,950 for the reference CAR5A8Y.FC6377. This limited edition of 250 pieces reference CAR5A8Z.FC6377 TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon Black Phantom is priced at $21,300. There are other models as well in 18k gold and other finishes that will arrive soon. tagheuer.com

Necessary Data
>Brand: TAG Heuer
>Model: Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon reference CAR5A8Z.FC6377
>Price: $21,300 as tested
>Size: 45mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Modern sports watch lover who really enjoys exotic mechanical movements but isn’t willing to spend more than about $20,000 – $25,000 for one.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent execution of concept and price. Offers a lot for the money in the scope of Swiss tourbillon watches and maintains a cool modern TAG Heuer look. Its the tourbillon watch that you can hope to own, despite having to still save up for it.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Large size case isn’t for all wrists. Audible spin of the automatic rotor is a bit on the loud side. The most legible models are not the “Black Phantom” model.

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