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The Black Dial TAG Heuer Carrera 39mm ‘Glassbox’
ast night, in London, TAG Heuer followed up on its new TAG Heuer Carrera from Watches & Wonders with a brand campaign starring its marquee brand ambassador, Ryan Gosling. In front of a packed audience, TAG showed what it’s dubbing a five-minute short film starring Gosling, with an appearance by former-SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer and film director David Leitch (of Bullet Train and John Wick fame). To be honest, as far as advertising goes, this is a refreshing and creative approach to the craft. There’s a meta-textual bent to the narrative which finds Gosling on-set shooting a movie and unwilling to give back his Carrera once the cameras stop rolling. Instead of typing out the entire plot, I’ll let you have a watch for yourself:
The event and video cement what has been one of the bigger TAG Heuer releases in recent memory – the “Glassbox” Carrera which is an aesthetic refresh for the brand’s most popular model and one that’s tied to its racing heritage.
At Watches & Wonders, I wrote up an introductory review of the watch, but I was only able to handle the blue model for that story. I happen to really like that piece because it manages to present a fully modern design with slight hints of vintage flair but only if you’re looking hard to find it.
But the black model was a very intriguing proposition and was a piece I sought out on the trade show floor of the Palexpo as soon as I had the chance. Since then, I’ve seen it on the wrist of friends and contemporaries in the industry. While I don’t necessarily have a favorite between the blue and black models, I have at least had enough hands-on time with the latter to express my thoughts.
The first thing is the size. Just like the blue edition, it is sized at 39mm and wears more like a 37mm watch due to a very compact 46mm lug-to-lug measurement. This, to me, is the key to what makes this watch work so well. Over the last decade or so TAG Heuer (along with almost every brand in the industry) skewed large and skewed thick. This new Carrera is a shift in the right direction to the point where I really think the brand nailed this on the first try. From afar, especially when talking about the black dial edition – you could confuse this for a vintage watch. The perforated racing strap is a nice touch to the effect as well.
But let’s talk about the visual cues that differentiate the black dial from the blue. First is contrast, with a reverse Panda effect where the subdials are a silver tone against the black dial surface. This contrast leads to a major difference between the two new models: the date placement. To maintain this high contrast, TAG moved the date from six o’clock (where it resides on the blue version) to 12 o’clock. While this seems like a strange placement because the chronograph hand invariably blocks the date when stationary, there is precedent for the choice. Heuer utilized this date placement on the vintage Dato 12 ref. 3147N
It’s actually funny to see it resurface because it is almost universally considered to be a design flaw as opposed to a design quirk, but here we are. If I were to identify a silver lining it would be that the watch can almost read as no-date from some viewing angles. Other than that, it is actually a bit of a pain to read. But that’s basically my only gripe with this piece and it’s a small one.
In almost every other way, from thickness to wearability, this new Carrera just works. The redesigned rotor on the Calibre TH20-00 Automatic adds a premium feel to the movement and the watch overall which still packs great value at $6,450.
At the end of the day, I might still opt for the blue dial, but I can see many enthusiasts going after this one with its hints of patina and general retro look. And look, this is not the first time TAG Heuer has paid homage to the past, but generally, it has reserved those instances for literal re-editions. I had a chance to sit down with brand CEO Frederic Arnault ahead of the London event and he said something very interesting to me about those releases when he noted, “We felt the potential was limited by the fact that [these watches] were viewed as vintage re-editions,” adding, “The thought became, ‘how can we continue to modernize it to make it the watch of today?’”
So that’s really what this piece represents. It says TAG Heuer on the dial almost as a point of pride. And it feels like it’s both paying due respect to the past while re-invigorating the collection. The curved nature of the tachymeter scale feels fresh while the printing of the numerals themselves has the old-school feel. This is but one example of the balance this new collection showcases.
Ultimately, this is just the beginning of a new platform upon which the entire Carrera line can grow from here on out. And I personally think it’s a great start.