TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Calibre HEUER02
The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 Twin Time/ GMT is a watch that four years ago seemed would never happen. On 5 June 2014 TAG Heuer announced that the Calibre CH80 (now known as the Calibre Heuer 02) would be indefinitely postponed in favour of focusing TAG Heuer’s in-house movement strategy around the Calibre 1887, itself later re-named the Calibre Heuer 01.
And yet here we are. Four years later not only do we have the Heuer 02 movement in full production across the Carrera and Autavia lines (yes, there’s another name that seemed lost four years ago), but we’ve also had a low-volume tourbillon model and now the first mainstream complication added to the Heuer 02- GMT functionality.
“GMT” is an abbreviation of Greenwich Mean Time, the baseline for setting time globally based on the time in Greenwich, England. But when it comes to wristwatches, a GMT function generally means that you can keep track of time in a second time zone, as well as the local time zone, making these watches perfect for international travellers.
The Carrera GMT is the flagship of the new Carrera Heuer 02 range, the first watches of which we saw in Geneva earlier this year. In fact, in a complete turnaround of that June 2014 announcement, we now expect to see the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 take centre stage, with the Heuer 01 moving into the background.
Despite the huge variety of movements used in the 1960s and 70s Carreras, a GMT complication wasn’t among them even though Heuer did have its own in-house GMT movement, the Calibre 14. The closest that we got- and technically, this is a Heuer Carrera GMT- was the quartz Carrera Twin-Time from 1978. But a true mechanical GMT “vintage” Carrera? No, not one.
But in the 2000s we have seen several Carrera GMTs, each powered by the Calibre 7 GMT movement, meaning an ETA 2893. We first saw this movement in the Carrera “Re-edition” range of 2000, as shown below. The next in the range of GMT Carreras resurrected the “Twin Time” name from the 1950s and have continued as a presence in the Carrera range for the last twelve years- but the newest Carrera GMT is something quite different.
The new GMT is based on the familiar skeleton “dial”/ modular case construction template laid down by the original Heuer 01 Carrera. Just like that watch, the new GMT is 45mm in diameter, and as yet there is no word on whether a 43mm model will follow.
Both the centre case and the lugs are stainless steel, finished in a combination of brushed and polished finishes. Visually what sets this model apart is the large black and blue ceramic fixed bezel, which has 1-24 markings, showing 24 hour time for the second time zone. Using black and blue-as against red and blue, which Heuer offered as far back as the mid-1960s, was always going to get tongues wagging.
Even though the red and blue GMT bezel was first used by Rolex, it has become so widely used by GMT watches that it became less a Rolex signature as a clear identifier of a GMT watch. Perhaps in reaction to this, Rolex introduced the GMT Master II BLNR in 2013 with its black and blue ceramic bezel. Now TAG Heuer has also used this colour combination in the past (the Formula 1 Calibre 7 GMT from 2014), but we still see this as a Rolex design cue and we’d prefer to see the more generic red and blue bezel used by TAG Heuer, if for no other reason than because we think it looks better! As you can see, in some light the separate bezel colours can be hard to distinguish, although this was far less an issue in daily use and more the impact of the lighting used to capture these photos.
While many of the Carrera Heuer 01 and 02 models feature contrasting materials on the centre case and lugs, we prefer the simple clean look of the models with matching metals, such as this one. Putting aside the headline black and blue bezel, the other key feature of this watch is the revised skeleton dial, with the counters now arranged in the traditional 3-6-9 format. As with the other Carrera skeleton dial models, TAG Heuer has opted to use the same coloured ring on two of the sub-dials and an alternate colour on the third- in this case, a dark blue. While this does help give the GMT logo prominence, we would have gone with three matching coloured rings to help the dial of the GMT stand out from that offered on other TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 models. Note that while this prototype watch carries “GMT” branding, the final production watch has “Twin Time” instead.
What does stand out is the lacquered, arrow-tipped red GMT hand, mounted between the hour and minute hands, unlike the Calibre 7 GMT models where the GMT hand sits beneath the other hands. As with the other Carrera Heuer 01 and 02s, the caseback features a sapphire glass showing off the in-house Heuer 02 movement. The titanium-carbide coated rotor is the same design as that used on the Heuer 01, but with white text instead of the red used on the Heuer 01. Both watches have the same red column wheel as another visual signature of TAG Heuer’s in-house movements. The GMT Carrera is available on either the rubber strap that you see here, or the standard Carrera H-Link polished/ brushed steel bracelet. While that’s an attractive option, it does wear heavily in our view, especially when combined with a 45mm steel case. For that reason, we prefer this watch on the rubber strap, which is a comfortable fit and teamed with neatly integrated end pieces. We have to say that the colour scheme on the watch looks fantastic on the wrist. Notwithstanding the earlier comments on the black and blue bezel, that duo of colours again appears on the movement plate and 6 o’clock sub-dial, giving the watch a harmonious look. And standing out like a beacon is the red GMT hand, which is exactly what you want.
That’s the positives, with the main question mark being legibility. The bottom line is that skeleton dials by their nature are harder to read at a quick glance than a traditional dial, and that holds true for the Carrera GMT. What you give up in legibility you gain in terms of a modern, technical look at the inner-workings of your dial, therefore giving buyers a clear choice. Lovers of the vintage Carrera wouldn’t choose a skeleton dial, but frankly this watch isn’t for them any more than a 36mm Carrera re-edition would appeal the majority of TAG Heuer’s customers.