I eat, sleep, and breathe watches, but I don’t care much for cars. Divisive, considering the fact I’m writing about the TAG Heuer Carrera release – the watch that has become a symbolic token of the intersection between watches and motosports. Working in the watch space, I knew the time would come where I'd have to face the inextricable link between the two; the car thing hovered over me like a free floating pit of anxiety that I knew I would have to face head-on despite my shortcomings in the driver’s seat. But when TAG Heuer calls and asks you to come Ice driving in Lapland, in a Porsche, you fight the anxiety, you rally.
The run up to the trip was rough. My ice track-related nerves were building so intensely that it felt like I had a pressure gauge inside me waiting to explode. I had never driven anything remotely as fast as a Porsche, and now I was subjecting myself to a motor-powered slip ‘n slide. I told myself to focus on the watch and use this trip to experience the Carrera in optimal performance mode – just as Jack Heuer would have wanted me to.
TAG Heuer is synonymous with motosports. Its history spans from Heuer patenting the first dashboard chronograph used in automobiles to being the official partner of the current Red Bull Formula 1 racing team. Today, the brand is very much looking back to the golden era of 1960s racing, a period that is of great interest to enthusiasts but that has also greatly impacted the wider market as demonstrated in the huge demand for nostalgia revival across all heritage watch brands.
There are three Heuer watch icons spawned during this golden era: the Autavia (1962), the Carrera (1963), and the Monaco (1969). The Autavia is a pure motorsport watch, worn by racing legends Derek Bell, Jo Siffert, Jochen Rindt. At the other end of the spectrum we have the Monaco, which is thought of more as the creative’s watch, sported by Steve McQueen, Stanley Kubrick, Sammy Davis Jr., and most recently, Jacob Elordi.
And then we have the Carrera, which falls somewhere between the two, a mix of both worlds. Sporty and elegant, for both the hardcore motorsport guy and the playboy, seen on the likes of James Hunt and Mick Jagger. It’s a watch that meets in the middle and bears a strong legacy in both the watch and design spaces. The design language of many vintage Carrera references was influenced by minimalist mid-century design. Heuer had a sensitivity for the progressive modernist movement that was taking place at the time and looked to Mies van der Rohe and Bauhaus for inspiration, evident in the design signatures of the classic Carrera: the facets to the lugs, and the very clear and legible dials.
Carrera is a name important for both Porsche and TAG Heuer. Although they came at their Carrera products independently, the two have had a close relationship since the beginning of the ‘60s. The connective tissue between them can be seen by way of the great Porsche racing drivers from the ‘60s and ‘70s who wore Heuer behind the wheel. Last year finally saw the brands officially cement their long history with the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph, and now they are back with their second collaboration.
The most noticeable feature on the new limited edition Carrera has to be the “racing yellow” color used throughout the case, caseback, and dial, also echoed through the yellow stitching on the textile-inspired leather strap (used to mimic the seat upholstery of Porsche car interiors). TAG Heuer's VP of Design and Product Maria Laffont noted that the color of this specific model was “at the center of the [design] story” for this watch. “Not only does it tell the sporty [narrative] but it’s also extremely impactful,” a point I seconded after having taken in the visual spectacle, only moments earlier that day, of a fleet of GT4s in Porsche’s racing yellow color.
Another link with Porsche in the design detail of the watch is the dial color, a deep black with a subtle glittery sheen which takes inspiration from the metallic bodywork of cars. The sub-dials have a grainy texture in order to give an asphalt effect and the oscillating weight seen through the sapphire glass caseback is in the shape of a Porsche steering wheel.
The watch strapped firmly on my wrist, I set out on the track in the new Cayman GT4. Unbeknownst to me I was about to be driven around the course by TAG Heuer Ambassador Patrick Dempsey. Many of you may have very little passing interest in “McDreamy” (he was a lead actor on longtime-running show, Gray’s Anatomy), an extremely handsome actor but also hardcore gearhead and racer. He’s the sort of culture/motor-racing hybrid that makes sense for the Carrera identity: good-looking, charming, and fast as hell.
After some serious drifting around the track, it was my turn to drive him; not ideal for somebody who learnt the term “throttle” two hours prior to getting in the car. One lap around the track successfully completed, with celebrity in tow, lap two was more cause for concern. My failure to steer left whilst accelerating at high speed towards the snowbank on my right ended up with Dempsey taking the wheel and steering us to safety. I had to admit mild defeat, but hey, this was my first time driving a very serious car on ice and I wasn’t about to come down on McDreamy for his savior complex.
My driving skills leave a lot to be desired, but getting behind the wheel and attempting to drift across glacial terrain in a Porsche GT4 was an experience. It helped me to kick start my appreciation for the motorsport culture behind some of the watches I have aesthetically iconized for a very long time. I’d never driven anything so powerful, but once the adrenaline kicked in, my nerves quickly dissipated. Something tells me, even as an extreme beginner, that I might be back for more.
Produced as a limited edition of 1,500, the TAG Heuer Carrera x Porsche is priced at $7,050.