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TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer has been redefining its signature look in recent years. The company’s CEO Jean-Claude Biver has an illustrious history of resurrecting and modernizing old watchmakers, starting with Blancpain, then Omega, and most recently Hublot. The bulky, avant-garde looks of Hublot are certainly starting to filter down to TAG Heuer under his leadership, especially in the Carrera collection which is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year. The brand’s latest pinnacle creation, the TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer exemplifies this new style, and features a rare “Viper’s Head” chronometer certification from the Besançon Observatory in eastern France.

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

All images by Ariel Adams

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

When we think of chronometer certification, the first and most obvious institution that comes to mind is the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) in Switzerland. But chronometer testing isn’t limited to COSC; other institutions such as the King’s Observatory (formerly known as the Kew Observatory) in London and the Glashütte Observatory in Germany can also issue chronometer certificates for watch movements that pass a series of accuracy tests. The Besançon Observatory in France is perhaps the most exclusive and least commonplace of the chronometer testing bodies, due in large part to the scarcity of watches which have been stamped with the “Tête de Vipère” or Viper’s Head, the emblem of the city of Besançon. According to TAG Heuer, only 500 watches have received this certification since 2006.

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

Rarity aside, the “Tête de Vipère” certification is otherwise very similar to COSC chronometer testing; watches are tested for 16 days, in 5 positions and at 3 different temperatures, and must achieve an average daily rate between -4 and +6 seconds to qualify as a chronometer. Unlike COSC, the Besançon Observatory tests the cased-up watch rather than an uncased movement, to provide a truer indication of wrist performance. The decision to have the TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer certified by the Besançon Observatory is likely no more than an attempt to increase perceived exclusivity, but the stamped Viper’s Head emblem on the movement’s bridge is nonetheless a cool element to this timepiece with an interesting story attached. This might even be a nod to the French culture of La Chaux-de-Fonds, where TAG Heuer is based; the third largest city in Switzerland located completely within the Romandie, the French-speaking part of the country.

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

The TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer is a large watch at 45mm, in keeping with the brand’s recent trend towards big, wrist-engulfing men’s watches. The case and bezel are made of blue ceramic, which offers superior scratch resistance to steel but is also brittle and prone to shattering if struck hard enough. The caseback, pushers, and crown are all made of stainless steel that has been PVD-coated black, to match the included matte black alligator strap which features a black rubber lining and blue contrast stitching. Water resistance is rated at a very respectable 100m, which makes this a watch that you could wear while swimming (not a claim many Swiss tourbillons can make).

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

The skeletonized dial of the TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer shows off a very geometric and balanced set of bridges, all black PVD-treated to keep the color scheme uniform. At pride of place near 6 o’clock is the exposed tourbillon, secured with blue bridges to increase visibility and draw the eye to this watch’s main feature. At 3 and 9 o’clock are the rhodium-plated chronograph counters, measuring elapsed minutes and hours respectively. The dial’s indexes and hands are likewise rhodium-plated and filled with Super-LumiNova to increase nighttime legibility. A domed and anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal covers the watch face – personally I would have preferred a flat crystal here to make this watch wear a bit smaller and fit easier under a shirt cuff.

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TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

Powering the TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer is the in-house Heuer-02T calibre, which to date is still the most affordable Swiss-made tourbillon chronograph caliber on the market (if “affordable” can in any way be used around the 15,000 CHF mark). This movement oscillates at 28,800vph (4Hz), offers a power reserve in excess of 65 hours from a single barrel, and was first released by the brand in 2016 with the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-02T (which we reviewed here). The sapphire caseback affords a good view of this movement, which looks modern and industrial thanks to its black-treated bridges and base plate, along with a skeletonized blue oscillating weight for the rotor.

TAG Heuer Carrera 'Tête de Vipère' Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer Hands-On Hands-On

At a glance the TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer isn’t dramatically different from the brand’s previous releases featuring the Heuer-02T calibre; the blue ceramic case and Viper’s Head logo on the movement are the only real standouts here. The connection with the Besançon Observatory is a decidedly French element that may attract prospective owners who passed on the existing Carrera Heuer 02T models, either out of a sense of exclusiveness (there are far fewer ‘Tête de Vipère’ chronometers in the world than COSC certified ones, after all) or for the link to French watchmaking history. The TAG Heuer Carrera ‘Tête de Vipère’ Chronograph Tourbillon Chronometer is a limited edition of 155 units and is priced at $20,400 USDtagheuer.com

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Comments

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  • Definitely not the worst offering from Tag — and certainly a decent price for a tourbillon.

  • BobHoover Tiangco

    Wow a skeletonized Tag carrera?!

    • MeaCulpa

      Well not really but kind of.

    • Mikita

      A skeletonized Hublot Carrera.

  • So replacing the GMT function with a tourbillon adds $16K to the price of the TAG chronograph GMT just reviewed? Seems like a steep price jump to me considering that the Chinese can produce a tourbillon watch for under a grand. I know that’s a bit of apples and oranges, but really more than tripling the price of a watch via the addition of a tourbillon (and elimination of the GMT hand) seem completely whacked to me. I guess that just another example of the Swiss demanding that a tourbillon, any tourbillon, can’t cost less than $14K and really should cost $40K and up. Sure they are nice to watch but when will the watch world grow up and see tourbillons for what they are?

    • Et tu, Beefcake?

      I imagine a first step would be the intervention of people like yourself (I tip my hat) and the leading watch industry writers?

      • I’m all for mass produced tourbillons (they are fun to watch), but the price should match the cost of production (which honestly is more on par with a chronograph than a grand complication).

        • Et tu, Beefcake?

          Exactly!

    • BNABOD

      The case is ceramic on this one. Did not think it was ceramic on the gmt?

      • OK, in that case I’ll give them $2K for the case upgrade – so the whilrwind upgrade is now only $12K.

        • BNABOD

          about sums it up 😉

    • mtnsicl

      You’re paying for the H-blow look. With really blows!

    • mtnsicl

      You’re paying for the H-blow look. Which really blows!

    • Travis Cannata

      To be fair, I imagine the depreciation will probably be close to 20 or 30% buy Basel 2019.

      • Every little bit helps, but still the price difference is insane.

  • Matthew Rowe

    Tourbillons mix with chronographs like oil and water.

  • Yan Fin

    Why it does not spell “Automatic Tourbillon”, there is still enough space ? “Ugliest” is implied.

  • SuperStrapper

    The GMT is better watch. This isn’t terrible though.

  • BNABOD

    I think it looks nice but still way too big. Love the blue on this one but as Mark pointed out the jump in price from the gmt or the regular model is just too much. Here is the kicker, when you start going down in price on tourbillon watches they instantaneously become average, they become less interesting and by default less prestigious. So while it is nice to be able to get a non China made tourbillon for less than 40 grand here it ends up making them what they are even more……useless

    • Mikita

      Honestly, you can get Angelus U40 skeleton tourbillon for same price at any Arnold & Son / Angelus retailer, which is more attractive watch from superior manufacture and made in incomparably lower quantities compared to TAG.

      • Jon Heinz

        Seriously dig the U40 as well.

      • BNABOD

        it is 28 grand for the U40 and this one will drop I suspect to maybe around 10-12 so not exactly the same ball park

        • Mikita

          You can get discount for U40 as well.

  • Mikita

    Hublot-like dial, Hublot-like integrated lugs, Hublot-like strap and Hublot-like buckle. Even the case finishing looks Hublot-like. So is there anything from the Heuer? I’m feeling that three brands – Hublot, Zenith and TAG Heuer – will be indistinguishable soon.

  • WINKS

    More ‘tête de con’ than ‘tête de vipère’…

  • Playboy Johnny

    I don’t like mall watches.

  • commentator bob

    What I really like about these Tag COSC, and now Tête de Vipère, certified tourbillons is that they have gotten the Swiss watch industry to STFU about tourbillons.

    Sure the Chinese have tourbillons under $1,000, but the Swiss pretend the Chinese do not exist (unless they are buying), and the Chinese tourbillons keep horrible time and break.

    A $15,000 “Swiss Made” tourbillon that is COSC certified, on the other hand, suddenly made all the $100,000 obnoxious

    “hand crafted” Swiss tourbillons (that like the Chinese ones keep horrible time and break) as irrelevant as they always should have been.

  • JosephWelke

    Much talk about the Viper’s Head Mark but no clear pics of it. Pity.

  • Farkbinder012

    I must have and I will have. So there.

  • babola

    Even if I ever develop taste for a tourbillon watch in the future, I’m sure as heck it won’t be a Tag.

  • Pete L

    Interesting article. Would have thought an actual close up pic of the vipers head stamp a good idea considering the amount of info on it?

  • R Ramki

    I feel casually mentioning ceramic as brittle and prone to shattering needs to stop. A statement such as that especially with words like brittle make it seem like you would break it into pieces if you sat it down too hard on your desk.

    I have owned a few and have even dropped some of them and haven’t had issues, knocking a DSOTM on a hard edge I was sure it would’ve taken a gash but no it remained pristine. I do understand that relative to SS it has a higher chance of cracking but this is being exaggerated on modern watches.

    If you can, please quantify or use some tangibles to explain, otherwise it’s just casual crucification of a material which is increasingly seeing usage in the industry.

    • Bon Vivant

      I agree, cracked ceramics were an issue 5-10 years ago, most high end luxury watch producers like Omega have perfected their ceramics to the point that cracking is no longer an issue.

    • TAG Heuers #dontcrackunderpressure.

      *ba dum tss.

  • Mikita

    TAG Hubloer ‘Tits de Viper’ Bigbangerra

  • Bon Vivant

    While the ‘Tête de Vipère’ certification is an improvement from COSC, I suspect TAG avoided submitting the watch for the new METAS master chronometer certification, which includes testing the cased movement and 0/+5 chronometric range, because it can not come close to the 15,000 gauss anti-magnetism standard incorporated in METAS. So far Omega is the only brand that can pass.

  • Osama Abughanim

    Is Tag Heuer becoming a Hublot homage !!

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