TAG Heuer + Porsche Carrera Chronograph Review

For this special release, Timeless is excited to announce that we’ll have a custom-wrapped Porsche 911 in front of our Plano location from Saturday (2-13-21) to Monday (2-15-21)! Due to COVID-19 considerations, we won’t be having our usual Timeless Event party, but we will be taking appointments to see the new watch in-person or via Zoom Saturday and Monday. Of course, walk-ins are always welcome, but we want to make sure we still have some available for you to see when you get here. We’ll also have Dimitrios Vitalis from TAG Heuer available to answer all of your questions! To make an appointment, please e-mail us or call us at 214-494-4241.

TAG Heuer just announced a historic partnership with German sports car icon Porsche, and this new watch, the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph is the first product of that relationship. In many ways, TAG Heuer and Porsche go together in such a logical, self-evident way it’s kind of amazing they haven’t been collaborating on watches for a lot longer than they have. Perhaps most obviously, their most prominent lines both bear the name Carrera, but this isn’t merely some historical coincidence. Rather, both Heuer and Porsche were apparently so impressed with the Carrera Panamerica, a notoriously exciting and deadly road race in Mexico back in the ’50s, that they seemed to have independently chosen it as a major step forward for their companies. 

Porsche, of course, got the 911, easily one of the top ten most important sports cars ever made, and Heuer got the Carrera chronograph, arguably a watch more associated with motorsport than any other. That is, other than Heuer’s own Monaco, of course, which was made famous on the wrist of Steve McQueen driving, you guessed it, a Porsche in the classic film Le Mans (1971). But Heuer doesn’t get all of the credit here. TAG worked with Porsche independently of Heuer in the development of the Porsche-TAG TTE P01, AKA the TAG Turbo engine, for F1. TAG’s support for Porsche and McLaren resulted in one of the most dominant F1 engines of the period. It seems like no matter which way you look, TAG Heuer and Porsche have somehow been on similar trajectories for decades. As much as TAG Heuer is involved in motorsports, Porsche seems to be into watchmaking, with many watch designs already to its name. 

But the TAG Heuer Carrera Porsche Chronograph is quite different from Porsche Design watches, and similar collaborations with brands like IWC. The TAG Heuer + Porsche collaboration, at least this one, is much more TAG Heuer than Porsche. Whether or not you’ll view that as a good thing depends on whether you connected to Porsche’s rather hardcore industrial styling. Although I do like Porsche’s almost utilitarian approach to watch design, this new watch has a much wider appeal, taking Heuer’s popular new Carrera Chronograph and adding numerous Porsche-inspired touches throughout. The most important of these touches is the asphalt-inspired textured dial.

Oddly, this isn’t even TAG Heuer’s first dial designed to resemble a road (or track). Their recent Formula 1 X Indy 500, for instance, has a dial inspired by the famous Indy Brickyard. This dial, however, more closely resembles an ordinary street than a freshly-prepped racetrack. My suspicion is that this resembles the conditions of the original Carrera Panamericana, which took place on open roads as opposed to tracks, but that’s just my guess. Regardless, it gives the watch a much more aggressive, purpose-built look compared to the radial-brushed dials of its most similar Carrera chronograph brethren. It’s also a good opportunity to take a close look at the date, which is enclosed in a simple, but not reckless, engraved window into the subdial. I like that TAG Heuer took the time to give it a frame, even if it isn’t applied, since there are so many sport watches that seem to have a last minute decision to add a date and simply remove a small rectangle from the dial. Nonetheless, in a purpose-built model like this, particularly in such a dense area of the dial, I would suggest that future models skip the date entirely. It is, at least, quite subtle, thanks to matching the date ring to the subdial.

Contributing to that more aggressive styling (which is saying something as the non-Porsche Carrera chronographs are already pretty aggressive) are the red accents throughout. Most notable is the Porsche logo emblazoned in red on the black ceramic bezel. This replaces the, in my opinion anyway, useless tachymeter writing that this space would ordinarily occupy, so if you’re going to use conspicuous branding, this is a pretty good place to do it. Perhaps it’s my inner 911 fan speaking, but I think this is oddly my favorite part of the whole design. I love how red pops against black on the bezel, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have red “tachymeter” writing even on the non-Porsche models.

Another change is the move from simple indices to large, luminescent Arabic numerals, and this may be one of the easiest ways to tell this and other Carrera chronographs apart at a distance. These numerals are said to closely resemble those found in Porsche gauge clusters, but they’re also somewhat reminiscent of the Carrera Calibre 16 Day Date, one of the best-looking modern Carreras. To that point, it’d be great to see them offer similar hour markers without lume in future models to capture that cool chromed-out look of the older Cal. 16. In some ways, due to these numerals and the red accents, this new Porsche watch is perhaps the successor to that popular model.

I’ve always been a fan of the Carrera case (perhaps my favorite element of the line of watches in general), with particular fondness for its angular lugs. They have a certain crystaline-esque quality to their shape that I find very appealing. The size of this new TAG Heuer + Porsche Carrera, on the other hand, is a bit too large for my wrists at 44mm. While substantial, this is an acceptable size for such an openly aggressive watch, but it does mean that people with smaller wrists might be turned off. Perhaps they’ll offer a version of this in the 42mm case down the road, but that would probably mean giving up this cool black ceramic bezel, and I’m not sure that’s a compromise I want to make. Given the choice, I might just end up wearing a watch that’s a bit too large for me because I think the bezel is just too integral to its sporty design. With a more understated dial, however, the 42mm case could work quite well.

The rotor, too, has been redesigned for purposes of this collaboration, and to anyone that’s sat behind the wheel of a 911, the influence is self-evident. You also find some special edition writing in addition to a Porsche logo on the right side of the rotor. What I like most about the rotors used on Heuer 02s in general, however, including both the special and regular editions, is that they’re highly skeletonized and don’t obstruct an attractive and unique looking movement. The movement itself, so far as I can tell anyway, is unchanged from other Heuer 02s in these next-generation Carrera chronographs, but that’s not a bad thing. It retains its unique TAG Heuer character with a sharp, industrial design, far removed from the gently curved bridges found in most Swiss watches.

TAG’s in-house movements tend to resemble something more like a car’s engine, which is a kind of beauty achieved by sheer functionality, or, at least, the impression of it. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, as the brand has already released some pretty amazing movements, like the V4, specifically designed to invoke these comparisons. I particularly like the bright red column wheel, here seen at 12:00, as an unnecessary but welcome visual flourish highlighting that yes, the Heuer 02 is a column wheel (and vertical clutch) chronograph. The Heuer 02 remains a highly competitive movement at this price point and shouldn’t be overlooked by those who have dismissed TAG Heuer in the past.

When it comes to collaborations between brands, I think there usually two potential types of people that will be interested. There are those that like one or both brands enough that merely being a collaboration itself is sufficient to warrant a purchase. Then there are those like myself, who basically decide on a watch based on its independent merits, without considering the brand tie-in at all. Not being a particularly brand-conscious individual, I can only evaluate it in the second sense. Consequently, I find the TAG Heuer + Porsche chronograph a compelling alternative among an already strong lineup of next-generation Carrera chronographs. It’s not necessarily “the one to get,” but if you found yourself looking at those recent releases and wishing they were either sportier or more unique, then this new Porsche model may be for you. It is, after all, just $300 more (in a bracelet-to-bracelet comparison) at $6,050, or $5,850 on strap, hardly a significant increase at this price range.

In some ways, this new model is as much a green light for a new partnership as it is a watch. Both companies have been quite clear that this is the start of a long-term collaboration between them, so we can look forward to many more TAG Heuer + Porsche watches to come. What this watch had to do, then, was attract sufficient attention to the partnership and provide an aesthetic foundation to build on. In that regard, it has certainly succeeded. While it’s a good looking watch, I’d love to see TAG Heuer and Porsche explore more of their vintage roots in the future, perhaps using that 42mm Heuer 02 Carrera that was recently released, or possibly by incorporating some of that bold Porsche Design approach to cases. The future remains to be seen, but they’re off to a good start.

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