TAG Heuer might not be up there with the likes of Rolex, but no one's going to deny it makes mighty fine watches. With its penchant for sporty little numbers, retro designs, and excellent craftmanship, TAG Heuer represents an affordable gateway into the Swiss watchmaking segment. Over the years, two of its designs in particular have captured the public imagination: the Carrera and the Monaco. Although both watches have been around for several decades now, the brand is still not done with them - and neither are we.
In 2009, TAG Heuer announced it'd be welcoming a new addition to the Carrera family - the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph. Designed to show that the brand was still on top of its game and as capable of making its own in-house movements as it was borrowing other peoples, the series was met with a round of applause on its release - applause that, as prestigetime.com notes, soon died down when eagle eyed collectors noticed a stark resemblance between the Caliber 1887 and Seiko's TC78. TAG Heuer soon owned up to basing its design on Seiko's movement, which somewhat diluted the message of their earlier press release that stated the movement was 'designed 100% in-house by TAG Heuer'. But that aside, the Calibre 1887 is still a fine movement, and the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph is still a fine watch. If you're looking to add one to your collection, you've made a wise decision. Here's what you need to know before sealing the deal.
Decide on a Size
Deciding which size TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph to go for is about more than simply deciding what feels most comfortable on your wrist. It's about deciding which period from the series to align with. After TAG Heuer launched the 1887 Calibre, it made the decision to refine the Carrera into 4 distinct series to better showcase the new movement. As calibre11.com notes, this included the sporty 41mm Carrera 1887, the more luxurious 43mm Carrera 1887, the retro-style Carrera Heritage and the 2013 Carrera Ceramic Bezel 43mm. So, while we're basically dealing with a 41mm and a 43mm, we're also dealing with some very different heritages. Over the past 11 years, they've each been tweaked. Some have been part of the standard catalog; others have been limited edition. All are kitted out with the same calibre 1887 movement, with the same column wheel, the same double pawl winding system and the same fifty hours' power reserve. But while they're similar, 2mm in this case makes a difference. If you want a watch that harks back to the earlier period of the Carrera, a classic 41mm is going to be closer to your bag. If you prefer the modern trend for big watches, the 43mm watches are likely to be your better match.
Pick a Model
Deciding on a model is a tricky business, especially when you have such a huge variety to choose from. But it helps to have at least a good idea of the type of model you want before going into the buying process. As well as helping you set a budget, it'll help you understand exactly what the watch's capabilities, features and design is - and whether it's really worth the price.
The Early Editions
The first two Carrera Calibre 1887 models were released in 2010 under the reference numbers CAR2110 and CAR2111. The models would have been almost identical had it not been for their dial colors. Whereas the CAR2110 featured a matte black dial, the CAR2111 bore a glossy silvery white face. Both dials, irrespective of color, featured rhodium-plated hands and hour indices with luminous filling for enhanced legibility. Their sub dial layouts, meanwhile, both featured a simple second's counter at 9 o'clock and more detailed counters at 6 and 12 o'clock bearing guilloche patterns. Both also featured a second's scale (to be replaced the following year with a tachymeter scale). If you find a model in mint condition, expect to part with around $3,400 for versions with a steel strap. According to chrono24.com, pre-owned pieces will typically fetch between $2,000 and $2,800 (factor in another $2-3000 if you want one with a leather strap).
In 2012, TAG Heuer welcomed three more Carrera Calibre 1887 pieces to the family: the CAR2014 (featuring a back dial), CAR2013 (featuring an anthracite dial), and CAR2012 (featuring a white dial). For these models, TAG Heuer decided to utilize Arabic numerals for the hours. Thanks to their rose gold plating, it added a refined elegance that had been missing on the previous models. Fresh from the box pieces typically fetch around $3600, irrespective of whether they come with a leather or steel bracelet. Pieces that have been worn go for around $2700- 3000. In 2013, we were treated to the CAR2114, the first chronograph from the TAG Heuer Heritage collection to receive the Calibre 1887 treatment. With its sparkly white dial and fancy-pants good looks, it certainly made a splash, even if the tech was identical to the previous models. Choose one of these, and you can expect to come away from the deal between $3,300 and $3,700 poorer.
The Later Editions
TAG Heuer knows the pulling power of a sporty design. So it was probably no surprise when it eventually released the CAR2A10 and CAR2A11. At 43mm, their stainless steel cases represented a jump in scale on the previous 41mm versions, while the addition of a black polished metal bezel and rhodium-plated numerals that marked the seconds from 5 to 60 gave it a sporty little twist. The only feature that sets the CAR2A10 and CAR2A11 apart is their dials, which are anthracite and black respectively. Pricewise, you're looking at around $2900 for a leather strapped version and $3500 for one in stainless steel, depending on the condition.
With the reference CAR2A80, TAG Heuer decided to abandon the stainless-steel cases of earlier incarnations and opt for a durable titanium one instead. With its black PVC coating and its black leather strap, it's a statement piece that will set you back around $4000 if you want a mint condition version, and $3000 for one that's seen a little wear.
What we've seen is by no means an exhaustive list of all the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph's ever released. But the point is exactly that- there's a lot. If you want to add a piece that's going to do more than just take up space in your collection, make sure to do your research. It'll make all the difference between getting a watch you'll like, and getting one you'll love.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker