There are few designs in modern watchmaking that aim to truly reimagine the warmth and feel of a vintage domed acrylic crystal for today’s audience. Although there is a plethora of models that work to directly emulate the style of ‘60s and ‘70s “glassbox” crystals, brands generally either copy this element wholesale from a vintage model or create a wholly modern crystal design. As part of its Watches and Wonders 2023 novelties, TAG Heuer revamps the domed crystal design found on early Carrera models for a new generation, creating one of the most striking Carrera silhouettes to date in the process. The new TAG Heuer Carrera “Glassbox” collection, including two variants of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm and the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm, combines dramatic new case design, newly updated in-house movements, and balanced new proportions to deliver a fresh new face for the series as it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Although the stainless steel cases of the TAG Heuer Carrera “Glassbox” collection are instantly recognizable as Carreras, these new models offer one of the most dramatic visual shifts for the line in recent memory. Although the new Carrera Chronograph 39mm is naturally significantly smaller than the Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm, both designs offer a similar overall style in images. As the name might suggest, the crystal is the heart of this new design concept. This tall, dramatically arched sapphire crystal extends from one edge of the case to the other, giving the series an unusual, truly bezel-less look in photos. Not only does this bold stylistic decision drastically alter the character of the core Carrera design with a more airy, futuristic bent, it also adds surprising functionality by allowing the dial to be read even at extreme angles. TAG Heuer mates this aggressive new concept to a classically Carrera-styled main case body, with the line’s signature inwardly-beveled angular lugs, broad polished case chamfers, and a set of robust pump pushers. Naturally, TAG Heuer adds a sapphire display window to the casebacks of both the Carrera Chronograph 39mm and the Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm, and rates both designs for a respectable 100 meters of water resistance.

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Each model in the TAG Heuer Carrera “Glassbox” collection stakes out its own visual territory through its dial design. The core of the series is the blue dial variant of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm, which presents the most balanced and modern look of the trio. Like several modern Carrera iterations, this model eschews the classic sunburst dial texture in favor of sharply grained radial brushing for its deep navy blue main dial surface. It’s a subtle change, but one that injects a sportier, more contemporary energy into the Carrera platform. Given that the crystal is the visual centerpiece of this collection as a whole, it’s no surprise that TAG Heuer has radically redesigned the outer chapter ring here to better interact with the new “Glassbox” design philosophy. The inner portion of this chapter ring contains the cleanly printed chronograph seconds scale and features a dramatic bowl-like curve that stretches 90 degrees from the flat dial surface to the vertical upper edge of the scale. From here, the outer portion of the chapter ring slopes back downward, curving to meet the crystal at the case side. This organic, rounded touch may be a visual far cry from the sharply angular Carrera designs of the past, but even this outer segment is tied back into the Carrera’s visual language with the addition of a crisp tachymeter scale. The rest of the dial layout is more familiar Carrera fare, including the striped baton handset, azurage chronograph subdials, and minimalist running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, but even these more traditional elements receive gentle tweaks to better fit the new design concept. For example, the applied split baton indices now feature a sloping curve to visually echo the adjacent chapter ring.

If the blue dial TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm is all about presenting a balanced mix of past and future, the black dial model instead presents a much more blatant homage to past Carreras with its dial design. While basic concepts like the dial hardware, radially brushed dial surface, and the distinctive chapter ring remain, there are a number of changes that pull this model more towards the Carrera designs of the ‘60s. Most obviously, there’s the “reverse panda” colorway, with raised silver azurage subdials that contrast starkly against their black surroundings in photos. There’s also the khaki-tone lume fill, which adds a touch of vintage warmth to the layout. Although it may not be the largest vintage-oriented shift to the design, perhaps the most distinctive choice here is the placement of the date window at 12 o’clock. This is an oddball among modern watch designs, but it carries precedent within the Carrera back catalog through models like the Heuer Carrera Dato 12 reference 3147.

By far the most unique dial in the TAG Heuer Carrera “Glassbox” collection belongs to the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm, however. Rather than the compact, pleasingly busy layouts of the 39mm models, TAG Heuer looks to accentuate the broader dimensions of this piece with a more open, airy presentation. Without a tachymeter scale, the chronograph seconds display is moved to the outer segment of the chapter ring, resulting in far more negative space than the 39mm-wide models. However, this shift does create a somewhat inelegant border between the radially brushed navy blue main dial and the featureless metallic blue inner chapter ring, which may deter some enthusiasts. Likewise, the tone-on-tone subdials with raised brushed silver outer rings lead to a cleaner, more visually open look overall, while blazing orange accents on the central chronograph seconds hand and the outer scale add a compellingly racy contrast to the design. Of course, like most tourbillon-equipped watches, the Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm works to visually frame this exotic escapement with its dial. Overall, the tourbillon display here is clean and athletic, with a trio of radially brushed skeleton arms forming the tourbillon cage while a chamfered and polished outer ring draws the eye towards 6 o’clock in photos. However, the way this tourbillon window cuts deeply into the chapter ring at 6 o’clock may draw the ire of some enthusiasts.

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To power the two Carrera Chronograph 39mm models, TAG Heuer turns to the significantly revised in-house TH20-00 automatic chronograph movement. TAG Heuer refers to this new movement as an “evolved version” of its previous flagship Heuer 02 chronograph movement, and while most of the updates seem aimed at improving operating efficiency, there is a fair amount of visual tweaking here as well. The Heuer 02 has been in production for less than three years, so it’s surprising to see a significant revision this early in its lifespan, but new features such as bidirectional winding are welcome additions. The overall performance figures should be familiar to fans of the brand, as elements like the vertical clutch and column wheel chronograph actuation system, the beefy 80-hour power reserve, and the 28,800 bph beat rate are all shared with the base Heuer 02. Visually, the TH20-00 simplifies some of the ornate skeleton bridge work of the Heuer 02 in favor of broader, sturdier semi-skeletonized plates topped with Côtes de Genève. It’s the rotor where the most dramatic change happens, however. Gone is the Heuer 02’s multi-spoke racing wheel-inspired skeleton rotor design, replaced by a bolder and more graphic cutout rotor based around a TAG Heuer shield outline motif. There’s also more complex finishing to top this new rotor, including a matte base surrounded by raised, vertically brushed elements for impressive visual depth in images.

TAG Heuer equips the Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm with its in-house TH20-09 automatic tourbillon chronograph movement. Just as the TH20-00 is an updated Heuer 02, the TH20-09 is a warmed-over Heuer 02T movement and offers many of the same technical advantages over its predecessor. Unlike the TH20-00, though, the TH20-09 is COSC chronometer-certified for accuracy but enjoys the same robust 80-hour power reserve and 28,800 bph beat rate. Visually, the TH20-09 is something of a mystery (TAG Heuer was unable to provide images of this new movement prior to press time), but it likely takes the same new visual direction as the TH20-00. TAG Heuer fits all models in the Carrera “Glassbox” collection with classic calfskin leather deployant straps. For the black dial Carrera Chronograph 39mm, the brand opts for a sporting perforated rally-style strap in black, while both the blue Carrera Chronograph 39mm and the Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm with dial-matching solid straps in navy blue.

Crystal designs aren’t often the source of significant innovation in the modern watch industry, particularly when aiming to evolve the concept of domed acrylic crystals to the modern market. With the TAG Heuer Carrera “Glassbox” collection, however, the Swiss brand has created a dynamic and compelling new generation of designs for its flagship nameplate centered around a genuinely intriguing new crystal concept, backed up by updated in-house movements and high-quality execution. The new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm will be available through authorized dealers in April 2023, while the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm will follow in May 2023. MSRP for both variants of the new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm stands at $6,450 USD as of press time, and the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Tourbillon 42mm will be priced at $21,000 USD. To learn more, please visit the brand’s website.

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