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Watchmaking at the cutting edge

The Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is the latest in a long line of watches that showcases the TAG Heuer pedigree, writes Bilal Shadani

Tag Heuer, the longstanding powerhouse of chronographs with a history spanning as far back the early 1900s, is no stranger to innovation; Edward Heuer, the founder of the company, patented the oscillating pinion mechanism in 1887, which is still used today by major makers of mechanical chronographs. In 1911, Heuer received the patent for the first ever dashboard chronograph, designed for use in automobiles and aircraft, and if that wasn’t impressive enough, the first ever wrist-worn chronograph was also a Tag Heuer creation, introduced in 1914. Considering the strides made in just the early 20th century, the Tag Heuer pedigree highlights only the most technologically advanced designs when it comes to their chronographs; the most recent in a long line of creations to showcase precisely this, is the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph.

Stéphane Bianchi, CEO of the LVMH Watchmaking Division and CEO of TAG Heuer, said: “This new interpretation of the TAG Heuer Carrera with its advanced in-house technology underscores our legacy in achieving watchmaking excellence and proves that we remain true to our values of performance, disruption and avant-garde.”

Released with the greatest stealth during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva – the industry’s greatest trade show for watchmakers – this technologically incredible chronograph utilizes an entirely new model of hairspring made of carbon composite, also patented by Tag Heuer. Naturally, the watch is all about showing off and celebrating the technology utilized in the chronograph that also pays homage to TAG Heuer’s history via the Carrera case and name. For Tag Heuer, this watch is the result of four years of development, impacting its entire identity as the technology makes its way across the brand’s product lines. For the rest of the industry, it’s significant simply due to the revolutionary use of carbon, as an alternative to the usage of silicon.

When asked about how long it took to complete the final design for the Carrera, TAG Heuer Product Director Guy Bove said: “There are many different parts to this project affecting case, movement decoration, and of course the hairspring at the center of it all. It’s difficult to give a number when you realize that the hairspring took four years to develop! But an estimate would be more or less a year on the casing and dial, and much more to make the hairspring work perfectly.”

The name alone tells a tale for anyone keen on listening – Carrera connects this chronograph to TAG’s long history of chronographs while the Calibre suggests a handmade watch made with superior technical prowess. Unsurprisingly, this chronograph is primarily an evolution of the Carrera Heuer 02T, a watch that shook up the industry in 2016 by offering a Swiss tourbillon chronograph at a never-before-heard-of price.

By taking the best parts of the foundation of the previous 02T watch’s 45mm case (rendered here in a blacked-out titanium with a carbon bezel), TAG Heuer has taken the most iconic parts of the 02T and taken every aspect of the movement to the next level. The chronograph’s entirety is decorated with hexagon motifs, a reference to the nanoscopic hexagonal structure of the carbon used in the hairspring, the dial and rotor have both been openworked so as to accommodate a greater view of the movement, and the aluminum balance wheel is set with both white gold weights and white Super-LumiNova – so that you can see it beating away in the dark. Neon green accents add further spectacle, adorning everything from the tourbillon cage to the column wheel.

It is quite fascinating to note the range materials that went into this little mechanical marvel are surprisingly new, though not entirely shocking considering Tag Heuer’s history in innovation. The use of carbon here is all about performance; as the heart of any mechanical watch, the hairspring is key to overall precision and a vital link in its reliability. Carbon-composites offer a lightweight, low-density alternative that’s virtually unaffected by gravity or shock – a constant concern with more fragile metal and silicon hairsprings. As a result, the carbon-composite hairspring in the Carrera is virtually unaffected by both gravitational effects and shocks, and makes perfect concentric oscillations due to its geometry, thus offering better precision, rendering it easier to assemble for their watchmakers, and has outstanding thermal behavior when paired with the aluminum alloy balance.

TAG Heuer continues to push the boundaries in watchmaking, steered by Product Director Guy Semon, CEO of its brainstorming TAG Heuer Institute. “The innovations [at TAG Heuer] can be likened to a stairway, with each innovation always leading to another,” says Semon. “The carbon-composite hairspring is a first step that will lead us to yet more in-house improvements still in the process of being developed.”

Guy Bove added: “Like its predecessors, the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph is a force of disruption in haute horlogerie, thanks to its visually exciting blend of modern, high-tech aesthetics and precise, elegant proportions.”

Not many manufacturers are using carbon fiber in this way and that it’s going into a chronograph mechanical watch for less than $100,000 is surprising. In fact, this watch might very well be the first of the next generation of watches. With regard to what the future holds, Guy Bove said: “Another revolution is always just around the corner at Tag Heuer! Nothing I can mention now but you will know it when you see it!”

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