Downsizing to 36mm opens up a world of value – this TAG Heuer Chronograph is the solid-gold proof

Downsizing to 36mm opens up a world of value – this TAG Heuer Chronograph is the solid-gold proof

Thor Svaboe

I love vintage reissues, especially smaller sizes truer to the originals, but do you know what? When you appreciate the delights of 36-38mm watches, you’ll also find that the joy is threefold. There are real bargains to be found on the pre-loved market, the comfort is sublime, plus you also have a better chance of acquiring some of the new hard-to-get icons from the big brands. My first secret to share, somewhat reluctantly it’s true, is this solid 18K gold TAG Heuer CS3140 Carrera Chronograph from the late ’90s.

picture by @lunaroyster

I do pine for the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition that came out last year. With its spot-on vintage looks, nearly all the boxes are ticked for me, even if I’d love the 39mm x 14mm thick case to be slightly smaller, say 37-38mm.

TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Anniversary
TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Anniversary models 2020

With a solid 100m depth rating the 160 Years Anniversary edition delivers a stunning dial, great everyday wearability and is priced at a decent $6450 USD.  But the pre-loved TAG Heuer CS3140 Carrera Chronograph is a similar proposition, and the perfect way to make my case for going small. At 36mm, this might just represent the world’s best value, vintage reissue solid 18K gold chronograph.

This is hard for me, as I actually fancy getting one myself, so I’m sharing a purposefully well kept secret. My point was proven by the surprised-while-instantly-googling T+T editors when I brought this up in a team meeting. It only takes a look at Chrono24 to find the quite rare TAG Heuer CS3140 18K solid gold Carrera from the mid – to late nineties, available for $5000 – 6000 USD.  This is serious value and show how dropping to a marginally smaller case can bring instant rewards.

TAG Heuer CS3140 Carrera Chronograph
picture by @lunaroyster

Not only is this truer in size to the original 35mm iconic Carrera, it’s also powered by a very nice movement. Inside the CS3140 beats the manual-wind base movement of the Speedmaster cal.861/1861, the Lemania 1873. For me, this only increases the charm of this 36mm chronograph, true to its roots with a 21,600vph cam shifting chronograph movement, and a decent 40 hour power reserve from the days before we got spoiled by 70 hour+ specs.

The iconic Lemania calibre stays hidden under a brushed, solid gold caseback, while the silver dial is protected by a charming acrylic crystal. I will concede that the late ’90s dial laquerwork doesn’t give off quite the deep lustre of the new 160 Years Anniversary version, but there is the charm of a slim angled rehaut, and a fresh blue printed minute track outside the blocky gold indices.

I could imagine this on a slim, textured blue strap to pick up the sharp minute track, playing well against the 18K gold as a quite formal chronograph, the 36mm size making it a quiet presence under a shirt. And the sparkle of gold pushers and crown poking out will no doubt spark interest in any watch-savvy mate. The svelte, rather straight lugs will make this wear a bit larger than 36mm, more like a 37mm. In short, it’s an absolute bargain in 18K gold and I almost wish I hadn’t shared the secret before I’d snapped one for myself.