Heuer Carrera Chronographs:   
A Brief Overview: Then, Now and the Future:
A collaboration between
Matthias Liebe-Kleymann & Chuck Maddox USA!
Based on a thread from 19 June 2002,
Last Revised: 14 June 2005, 19:12 GMT.
Certain Rights Reserved.
Top, In The Beginning,
The 1960s, The 1970s,
The 1980s, The 1990s,
Now and the future...,
Addendum, Author's Notes,
Certain Rights Reserved

Top Up Down Bottom   In the Beginning:

Le Carrera Panamericana Rally Mexico

In 1950, Mexico was about to compete its section of the great Pan-American highway. To celebrate that event, it was decided to create a motor race on the 3,500 km distance of the highway from the border of Guatemala and the United States. From 1950 through 1954, "Le Carrera Panamericana Rally Mexico" was held five times. And five times the worlds greatest drivers traversed the vast expanse over terrain that varied from deserts, prairies, mountains and tropical jungles. A legend was born.

Introduced in 1963, Carrera was the first Heuer line of watches with it's own brand name.

Photo courtesy of Eric So

Although the Carrera was a evolution in terms of design for Heuer, its look was completely distinctive when compared to the commonly seen and sold chronographs of the 1940's and 1950's. Jack Heuer (pictured at left), the CEO of the company, wanted a watch with an excellent readability. So he printed the 1/5 sec scale on the "rehaut" (the inner bezel) of the watch. Tachymeter or pulsometer scales were not placed in the centre of the dial (a typical design feature of 1940's and 1950's chronographs), but formed an outer ring around the five minutes markers. The dial immediately looked bigger and cleaner.

It's fair to say that Heuer was already moving in this direction prior to the first formal naming of a Carrera model. The line was in continuous production until the late 1970's/early 1980's in one form, model, style or another. Design changed with the taste of the times from classical-elegant, round case, small lugs (until mid 1960's) to, well 1970's style - large and fancy cushion cases. The last vintage Carreras in the 1980's showed more modern designs like the contemporary Lemania, Omega or Porsche Design watches.

This article is an attempt to show the origins, the growth, the seeming death and rebirth of this classic "tool-watch" chronograph. The Heuer Carrera chronograph is sometimes overshadowed by it's contemporaries, but it deserves recognition and respect from the watch community.

Top Up Down Bottom  The 1960s:

-- A Heuer Carrera Catalog printed in 1964

In the early years Heuer used the classically designed column-wheel movements in the Carrera. Among them Valjoux 72 (three register: sweep second, 30 min.-counter,12 hour counter), Valjoux 92 (two register, sweep second and 45 min.-counter) and also the Landeron 189 without column wheel (one register: 45 min.-counter, date, no sweep second), this version is very uncommon, and rarely seen...

Here are a couple of '60's Style Carreras:

-- An uncommon Carrera 12 Black w/White Sub-dials.

-- Heuer Ad from October 1964 Issue of Car and Driver Magazine (click to open a large {500k+} version )

A recent Heuer Autavia acquisition by Chuck yielded a Heuer World Wide Service booklet. Generally Heuer shipped non-model specific booklets with watches it sold. Thus the booklet included with an Autavia 12 would be identical to one included with a Carrera 12. The nice thing about this is that this manual is generic enough that not only does it serve as a manual for any Heuer equipped with a Valjoux 72 movement, it also can be used as a manual for any make Valjoux 72, or 726 movement, and the instructions would essentially be the same for the Omega Speedmaster's and Tissot T-12's using c.321 and c.861 movements... A portal to a web page with scans of this document follows:

Heuer World Wide Service Booklet:

A rather uncommon Carrera Landeron 189

Matthias' Carrera 45 Valjoux 92


From an old catalog

-- Some shots from a Carrera 45 offered on the web

-- Heuer Leonidas Ad from Automobile Year No. 15 1967-1968 Edition (click on picture for 800 pixel wide version
1600 Pixel wide Version)

Later Heuer also used the more economically constructed cam switched Valjoux 773x movements like the one pictured here:


Valjoux 773x

Heuer during this epoch often produced watches with little rhyme or reason. Actually, that's a bit incorrect, Heuer during most epochs often produced watches with little rhyme or reason, and the 1960's were certainly no exception. It seems that if they could produce a certain model and thought they could sell it, they did produce it. So one sees some particularly weird Carreras floating around... For they were, well, odd times. So often it is difficult to tell for certain if a certain hand is proper or not.


Top Up Down Bottom The 1970s:


After 1969, while Heuer continued to produce and market manual wind and even quartz models, the main thrust of their efforts were with the newly introduced automatic movement Cal. 11/12 and later the Cal 15 was used.

Here is here how Heuer introduced the new Carrera in advertisement:


Well, truth is that Heuer didn't really “move” the crown. The Calibre 11 family was the first modular chronograph construction: a chronograph module made by Dubois-Depraz was attached to a Büren micro-rotor movement. To fit, the chronograph plate had to be rotated by 180 degrees. So the strange placement of crown and pushers was a technical necessity and not a tribute to the self-winding feature. So it was a change made out of necessity, not choice.

Jeff Stein, an avid Heuer collector, and as of February 13 2003 the owner of OnTheDash.com website discovered the "beta" version of this article and was kind enough to send the following scans for inclusion for this article:

-- click on the picture to open a full sized version of this picture in a new window...

-- click on the picture to open a full sized version of this picture in a new window...


Special thanks to Jeff Stein for his contribution to this article. I feel it adds greatly!


A search of information available on the race for the first automatic chronograph reveals several very useful articles available on the Internet. So we will not repeat those efforts in this article. Three very good articles are:
1969, World First Automatic Chronograph by Boon (no email address provided), The Race for the First Auto-Chrono Movement by Ignacio, and Christoph Ozdoba's A Brief History of the Automatic Chronograph.

A recent Heuer Valjoux 7750 acquisition by Chuck yielded a Heuer Automatic Chronograph Instruction Manual which covers both Heuer Valjoux 7750 Movement Chronographs and Micro-Rotor Movements. A portal to a web page with scans of this document follows:

Heuer Automatic Chronograph Instruction Manual:
The English language text begins on page 3 with a diagram for use with the Micro-Rotor movement on page 12.

Here are a couple of micro-rotor Carreras gleaned from the net:


Calibre 12

Two shots of a Calibre 12 Carrera

Another Calibre 12

Second Shot
One of the interesting things about Heuer is that since they were seemingly always experimenting with the looks of their watches either they innovated many things or were so quickly adaptable to perceived trends, oftentimes it becomes muddled as to who truly was first out there with an innovation. In addition to the aforementioned uncertainty with the honor of having announced the first automatic chronograph wristwatch movement, we also have a very early example of PVD coated Stainless Steel...

At this point it remains unclear who was the first producer of a "Black Watch"... Heuer or Porsche Design/Orfina…


Matthias' Calibre 15 Carrera


Perhaps the ugliest "Carrera" in captivity!

    Definitely Coyote-Ugly!, and most certainly a Frankenwatch...


A Cal 12 movement (Although it's in Matthias' Heuer Montreal)


The four different types of Micro-Rotor Movements…



first member of the family with a 19,800 hourly beat rate, only in production for one year - (two register: 30 min-counter, 12 hour counter, date, no sweep second)


better winding system, 21,600 beat rate (same layout as the c.11)


c.12 with with additional GMT hand


with sweep second in place of 12 hour counter.


There is no Cal 13, perhaps because in many parts of the world the number 13 is regarded an "unlucky number"...


Top Up Down Bottom The 1980s:

In the early 1980's Heuer also produced a cushion cased Carrera sporting a Lemania 5100 under the dial. It is significant in that it was Heuer's first use of a Lemania chronograph movement. This particular chronograph is one of Chuck's favorite and more frequent daily wearers. It's dial is exceedingly readable, even more so than all the Omega Speedmaster c.1045's (Lemania 5100's) save the Moonwatch case model (ST 376.0822), which is an exceedingly readable chronograph in it's own right...
Perhaps this is one of the last "real" or "Old Heuer" watches. Like most European watch manufacturers Heuer was hit hard by twin blows of the quartz-boom and the "Japanese watch invasion". In 1984 the company was sold to Akram Ojjeh TAG-Group. The brand name changed to TAG-Heuer and nearly all the old model names were replaced by numbers. TAG-Heuer continued to sell the old models with Heuer markings until stock ran out of those dials. When they still had ebauches and other components they would sell newly produced "TAG-Heuer" models with the new logo in place of the old "Heuer" logo on the dial. Some notable examples are the 510.5 series of "Pasadena" cased Lemania 5100 Chronographs, and the Pilot's Chronographs. The latter remained in the product line largely unchanged through at least 1995 when a switch was made in it's quartz movement. Once these components were depleted to a certain level these models were discontinued for the most part.
At this time Heuer produced at least two distinct versions of the 5100 Carrera, the 510.523 Stainless Steel version as shown at right.

One of Chuck's Heuer Carrera 5100's Ref: 510.523 ...

Chuck's Heuer Carrera 5100's Ref: 510.511

(For the history of the company see: Brunner/Sich: "Heuer/Tag-Heuer", Editions Assouline, Paris 1997)

Some of the notable items of interest with these models is that neither the 510.523 or 510.511 possess a signed crown like most Heuer's of this era. I own three total of these two models, none of them, nor any other example I've ever seen for sale has had a Heuer or TAG-Heuer signed crown...

Additionally, while the 510.511 came most often on a "Jubilee" styled bracelet with five-element "half-moon" shaped links, the Stainless Steel 510.523 model came with a mainly flat link bracelet of a similar style to bracelets used on Micro-Rotor watches in the 1970's and the Carrera's other 5100 cousin's the 510.50x models, sans any PVD or bead-blasted finish. Also of note both of my 510.523's came with "TAG-Heuer stamped clasps. This would lead me to believe that the 510.523's production either started later than the 510.511 or ended later. Below is a catalog page from a 1985 Heuer catalog that represents a transition for the firm. The catalog is clearly marked "Heuer" and every single watch and reference within is of "Heuer" with the exception of the first page... 

Scans of these pages of the 1985-1987 Heuer Catalog and Price list courtesy of David Alstott who lent this catalog (and many others to Chuck over the Winter of 2002-2003)...

A glance at the price sheet, dated April Fools day 1987, shows the pricing of the Carrera models to be lower than the other 5100 models in the product line at the time, namely $415 on Bracelet, $380 on a Strap (click on the graphic for a larger version to open):

Heuer Automatic Chronograph Instruction Manual for Lemania 5100:

Top Up Down Bottom The 1990s:


The story could well have ended then and there. Under new management, Heuer was recast as TAG-Heuer. Old lines were dropped, new ones created. TAG-Heuer transitioned from a largely "Tool-Watch" manufacturer specializing in Chronographs, Stopwatches and sporting events timing, to a luxury watch manufacturer with an emphasis on "avanté garde" design. Hence the name "Techniqués d'Avanté Garde".

While the new product line achieved great financial success, it came with a cost. Many people who remembered and valued "the old Heuer" were not so keen on the direction that the new management were set on. For many years there was not a Carrera model, as the often plain, austere and older styling did not mesh well with the bold styling of the lines added after the TAG takeover like the S/EL and 6000. The Carrera line was largely forgotten except by those who had owned one, or perhaps wished they could find one to purchase. Eventually, towards 1997/1998, TAG-Heuer finally realized that the roots of the brand was still cherished and had retained great salability and launched a "Classics" series of watches. The first "new-old" model was the 1964 Carrera Re-Edition.

-- Chuck's 1964 Re-Edition Carrera Silver Dial. Note the lack of "Carrera" on the dial and the Silver not white color of the dial

At first three new Carrera "Re-Editions were offered for sale to the public in a case and style nearly identical to the original 1964 model, which is now widely considered a classic by most collectors:
  1. In 18k Yellow Gold
  2. In Stainless Steel with a Silver Dial
  3. In Stainless Steel with a Black Dial





For the most part the Re-Edition models are a fairly close approximation of the 1964 Heuer Carrera as shown in the catalog near the beginning of this article. Internally, the original models were powered by a Valjoux c.72 movement. A venerable and very popular column-wheel mechanical movement used by nearly every major watch manufacturer at one time or another including Rolex, with the only exception seeming to be Omega and Tissot. The Valjoux 72 was the counterpart and main competitor/rival of the Lemaina movement used in the Speedmasters of the same epoch known to most Omega owners/collectors as the c.321 movement. Valjoux ceased production of the c.72 movement at some point in the 1970's to concentrate on production of the 7750 family of movements which it considered to be the next big then. They seem to have been proven correct on that one.
So when TAG-Heuer sought to re-release a version of the 1964 model, they ironically choose the movement that replaced the original movement's main competitor, the Lemania c.1873, known to most Omega fans as the c.1861 movement which power the current Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. The level of finish on the movements of the Re-Edition Carrera and the Moonwatch are comparable, nearly identical.
So once again anyone could visit their local TAG-Heuer Dealer and purchase a "Heuer Carrera" to wear while driving a vintage car through Mexico... The Carrera Panamercana rallye is once again alive since it's revival in the late 1980's.
So how did the Classics line fair? The Carrera Re-Editions (along with their Monaco Re-Edition line mates) were tremendous sales and critical successes, and TAG-Heuer quickly added additional models to each classic product line. First were two new variants of the existing Chronograph line with "Daytona Rings" added to the sub-dials of a new Black and Copper dial version:


These models are identical to the previous Stainless Steel cased models with the exception of the dial and model number. The movement remains the Lemania 1873 used previously.

In addition to these two chronograph models, TAG-Heuer choose to add two models (with attendant dial/strap variations to complement the chronograph models...



These new models are "Classics" in name and styling only. There are no direct or indirect relation to any models that Heuer produced in the 1960's or 1970's... At the time Heuer concentrated entirely on Chronographs, stopwatches and sporting event timing. These new models sported fairly commonplace ETA movements in Carrera cases with newly designed dials for the Classics line.

-- Photo provided by Jorge Merino


Top Up Down Bottom Now and the Future:


TAG-Heuer is at an interesting crossroad's... The near monopoly which Swatch Group holds on the production of watch movements, with Swatch owning not only ETA and Valjoux, but the recent addition of Lemania to their juggernaut has had ripples across the entire industry... Shortly before the turn of the millennium the luxury goods manufacturer Louis Vitton Moet Hennesy purchased TAG-Heuer which had been briefly traded publicly on the stock market. With the bulk of Lemania's production going to Omega for use in it's Speedmaster Moonwatch line it was often very difficult for TAG-Heuer to secure the necessary movements to meet demand on the Carrera Re-Editon models, although they remain in the lineup. Other Classics line models, the Monaco and the newly added Monza models sported ETA movements with Dubois-Depraz chronograph modules. The difficulty of obtaining Lemania movements, caused LVMH to purchase the Zenith Watch company as the Millenniums changed to secure the capability to produce their own movements.

The latest announced model of the Monza sports a Zenith manufactured movement based largely on the famous "El-Primero" movement that was a competitor in the virtual dead heat race to produce the first automatic Chronograph movement. It's a bit ironic that while it can be argued that the Breitling, Hamilton-Bruen, Heuer consortium was the first to cross the line and that both the Zenith and Seiko camps have their advocates as well, that it's quite possible, even likely, that soon we'll see a Heuer Carrera sporting a movement based on it's arch-rival, once again.

Where this saga ends is hard to say. TAG-Heuer is a very successful company. In many ways, namely profitability, more successful than it ever was prior to TAG-Heuer years. It has a good reputation amongst first-time buyers in the luxury Swiss watch market. In fact if you ask many first time buyers they consider their TAG's to be every bit the watch that Rolex is, but not as staid in it's designs.

But in the hearts and minds of many in the watch industry and hobby, TAG-Heuer has strayed so far from it's roots that many people who have been interested in watches for sometime never even consider the Classic models. Many feel that it would be a good strategy for TAG-Heuer to center it's sales strategy on two product lines... The TAG-Heuer line which would consist of the bulk of the existing product lines: 2000, 6000, Link, Alter Ego, Kirium, and Specialist lines, and a revived "Heuer" line which would consist of the existing Classics line with Heuer dials/crowns/clasps/etc. and new "homage" models, perhaps based around Zenith movements.

One piece of recent news that serves as a beacon for potential hope in this regard is that TAG-Heuer has recently secured the services of Jack Heuer, the driving force behind the original Carrera all those years ago. It is the hope of many that Mr. Heuer will forge a revival of the aspects of no-nonsense design that he championed previously.

In many ways, the story of the Heuer Carrera is about coming full circle. Like the great Mexican road race that served as it's inspiration, the Heuer Carrera has been about inspiration, growth, decline, memory, rebirth and growth. Coming full circle to embrace and incorporate aspects of it's competitors and rivals. The potential for TAG-Heuer to move to a new tableau is there, the pieces and components are there, the finances are good, once the current economic uncertainty is overcome their positioning is good, and they have the man who started it all is back in the fold. Let's hope they move wisely with an eye not only on the short-term but towards the horizon as well.

Just as this article was nearing completion, TAG-Heuer announced a new edition of the Carrera. This model is not a re-edition as it is unlike any previous Carrera ever produced:

Caliber 17 (not the Zenith - that's a Caliber 36), MSRP is 2,150 Euros.

-- Photo provided by Jorge Merino

As you can tell by looking at the other various models we have presented in this article these are unique watches to the Carrera history. As pointed out by Jorge in his post, the movement is not a Zenith El-Primero based movement, but rather (because of the arrangement of the sub-dials a ETA2890-A2 with a DuBois-Depraz piggyback Chronograph movement module. It's interesting that TAG-Heuer is calling this movement the Caliber 17, perhaps a tip of the hat to the earlier c.11-15 movements that also had Dubois-Depraz inspiration... Chuck discusses the ETA-DD piggyback movement in his article on the Omega Speedmaster Reduced which you may read by clicking on the supplied link. It's a shame that TAG-Heuer didn't incorporate a Zenith based movement in this Carrera, for it would be a world beater. The ETA/D-D movement is significantly less desirable. But hopefully Zenith will be able to increase production and we may yet see some Zenith-Carreras.


Top Up Down Bottom Addendum:


One of the more difficult things to do with vintage Heuer Chronographs is authentication of a watch. Since Heuer produced watches with many variations of dials, hands, etc. it is often difficult or nearly impossible to be certain that certain aspects of a given watch are correct.

However once in a while a watch comes along that it pretty easy to spot as a "Put-Together". For example this watch recently appeared for sale on eBay from a UK seller:

A "de-construction" of the dealer's text:

Heuer Carrera 1973 automatic Lemania movement (well... The Lemania 5100 movement dates from 1973 I doubt the watch does), this watch has everthing, chronograph, date and day (I don't see day do you?),G.M.T.hand what else do you need? black original dial with orange second and G.M.T. hands (well there is actually only one GMT hand and it isn't orange) (main timekeeping hands are wrong {non-original} too),steel case and screw back,this has same movement as I.W.C. Porche design (IWC never used a Lemania 5100, but Orfina-Porsche Design did) it is very rare model (yes, the 5100 based Carrera does seem to be),it has (non-original) blue internal bezel,new glass (also non-original) and was recently serviced,it comes on a Heuer steel strap I'm unsure if its original but it looks good on this watch. (Yes, I de-construct all dealer ad's in this manner…) Also looks like this watch has had a very rough life...

-- Funky 1980's style Heuer Carrera 5100

Aside from it's rough condition, there are a couple of things wrong with this example. The main timekeeping hands are incorrect, the under Plexiglas crystal has been replaced with a totally useless non-rotatable Compass/Slide Rule outer bezel of unknown origin (could be Breitling, Citizen or Seiko, or gosh! I don't know... Pulsar maybe? It's very screwy). I'm uncertain about how restorable this example is, but if my (Chuck's) personal experience is any indication, my Heuer Carrera 5100 has been at Pro-Time (TAG-Heuer's national repair facility in New Jersey) since early May and it's nearly August for a crystal change and the addition of two links. So I would think restoration of this example would be a rather lengthy project. Buyer beware!


Carrera Panamerica Mexico Scans courtesy of Ralf Beinenz      

Top Up Down Bottom Author's Notes:

This article is a collaboration between Matthias Liebe-Kleymann and Chuck Maddox based on a series of replies to a query for information on Heuer Carreras posted on the TimeZone Omega Forum on 19 June 2002 by Henrik E. Due to the timing of the posting, in the wee hours of the morning, and due to Matthias being located near Frankfurt he replied to the query first with textual information that compromises much of the copy in this article. By the time Chuck (who's located near Chicago in the USA) was aware of the post there were merely a few minor textual additions and a number of graphics. In the discussion which follows we decided to pool our resources for this article.

Much of the copy was written by Matthias, a sizable chunk of the graphics also were provided by him. Much of the text did originate from Chuck's keyboard based on his experience, information gleaned from various websites and documents on the subject. The remaining graphics, with the exception of the previously credited photograph by Eric So and scans by Jeff Stein and Ralf Beinenz, were provided by Chuck who also handled the HTML work and hosts this article. Special thanks to Jorge Merino for his rapid response to Chuck's request for a scan of the new Carreras just announced and for his additional scan of two Lemania c.1873 based Carrera Re-Edition chronographs . Chuck would also like to thank Walter Joerg for his assistance with the Heuer-Leonidas scan...

Special thanks are due to Chris Wooley who also provided photos and or insight on the topic at hand... Without which the article would look and read significantly different, Richard Sexton who helped with back-checking some of the information presented in this article and David Alstott who lent Chuck a wide variety of materials during the winter of 2002-2003 that included the 1985 Heuer catalog which was reproduced for the 1980's section.


Top Up Down Bottom Certain Rights Reserved:


Permission for personal, educational or non-commercial use is granted as long as this notice and the document remains intact and unaltered. The authors retain all other rights not specifically mentioned here... For all other use please contact the authors.

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