HANDS-ON: The new TAG Heuer Carerra Skipper merges the coveted reference with new Glassbox formatZach Blass
Once enough collectors discover a vintage reference, prices can really drive up as their collectability rises. Due to the age of a watch, and how perspective has shifted on how to appropriately maintain or service a watch, the available number of collector-grade condition watches can be rare. One such coveted, historic, and rare watch is the TAG Heuer ‘Skipper’ which has gone for as high as A$120,000 at auction. That, of course, is not in most people’s budgets. But A$9,800 just might be.
Exactly 40 years after its removal from the TAG Heuer catalogue, the ‘Skipper’ is now officially back and here to stay. This modern ‘Skipper’ merges the aesthetic cues of the original with the manufacture’s latest ‘glassbox’ format for the Carrera.
The story begins in the mid 1940s when Heuer struck a partnership with Abercrombie and Fitch. After two decades of working together, Jack Heuer had developed a close friendship with the retailer’s president Walter Haynes. This led to Heuer becoming the official timing partner of the America’s Cup boat Intrepid. TAG Heuer explains: “For the 1967 America’s Cup match, Heuer provided Intrepid with a set of hand-held yachting stop watches and equipped her crew with Aquastar wristwatches featuring an ingenious countdown timer comprising a red and white disc that rotated behind a series of five holes. Intrepid went on to win the event by a decisive four races to nil – in celebration of which Heuer produced the Skipper chronograph with a 30 – minute subdial that was adapted to count – down the 15 – minute regatta ‘pre – start in three, five – minute segments. Each of these segments was a different colour, with vivid orange being used to alert the crew to the fact that there was just five minutes to go; green to represent the colour of the boat’s rigging and light teal to replicate the colour of Intrepid’s deck.”
This Skipper watch was first produced in 1968, with 300 models made in Carrera cases. The Skipper would then later shift into the Autavia case, and, eventually, would stop being produced in 1983. Thus, excluding a limited edition from Hodinkee, this is the first time the Skipper has rejoined the TAG Heuer catalogue in 40 years.
It is a fitting canvas for this heritage revival as the design framework introduced at Watches & Wonders this year does a great job of blending vintage and modern style. In a robust-elegant 39mm case, the stainless-steel watch carries enough of a diameter to speak to the modern marketplace without ostracising collectors with smaller wrists or who generally prefer more classic sizing. With its 100-metre water-resistant case that’s 13.9mm thick and 46mm lug-to-lug, its size caters to the majority of wrists who are eager to get in on the ‘Skipper’ party. Now, some people may more commonly think of the Skipper inside the Autavia case-style. But the reference’s origins began in 1968 – kicking off with only 300 examples made in the iconic and faceted Carrera case – thus why this original vintage reference is so sought after. And that is exactly what this Glassbox Carrera offers: the handsome faceted Carrera case, along with a sapphire crystal that, in a way, emulates the bubble-warping aesthetic of acrylic-crystals past.
The dial largely emulates its muse, but is by no means a 1:1 revival. With its modern movement, the dial has switched from a two register layout to a three register layout – and the positioning of the indications has shifted accordingly as well. Whereas the 9’ register was originally reserved for the small seconds indication, this new model hosts a Skipper-branded 12-hour elapsed-hours register at the 9’ position in a tonally matching teal hue. At 3’, however, the same tri-coloured 15-minute regatta-timer register remains – a must considering it is the most iconic signature of the reference. These two registers also introduce a step to their design adding depth, where as the vintage model had fully flat registers. At 6’, previously unused space aside from the Swiss tritium text, we now have an unbordered sector small seconds register that shares the space with a framed white on black date complication. Was the date a must-include here? I personally could have lived without it, or at least would have preferred a more colour-matched disc. I think the ultimate compromise, however, would have been a roulette date wheel of sorts, where each numeral alternates between the three colours of the regatta-timer register.
Other subtle visual deviations include black text for the 3’ and 9’ register, utilising two digits across the regatta-timer and switching 0 to 15, while the outer minutes track is not a contrasting white as seen on the vintage model and is instead a continuation of the sunburst blue. But we still have the orange central chronograph seconds hand and a sunburst finish to the dial.
Affixed to the watch is a blue fabric strap with a leather under, secured to the wrist by its branded folding clasp with double safety push buttons. While the usage of a leather under makes it a little questionable for underwater adventures – remember that 100-metre depth rating – it is definitely an appropriate combo for comfort while yacht-racing or a smart-casual dockside soiree.
Inside and exhibited is the automatic TAG Heuer chronograph calibre TH20-06 with 80 hours of power reserve. The calibre is decorated industrially, but to a degree that makes it worthy of exhibition. Its column-wheel design ensures there is no stutter when the central chronograph seconds hand starts, important for true timing of events, and offers the oxymoronic butter-smooth and crisp actuation of the pushers.
After 40 years of its discontinuation, and a brief revival by Hodinkee in the form of a limited edition, I think it is great that buyers now have a next-generation Skipper that incorporates enough of its lineage to stir up fans of the vintage model without stepping on the toes of owners of the vintage model or the 2017 Hodinkee limited edition. It has a distinct and attractive look, rooted in rich history, and, it is not a limited-edition model – so there is the ability for many more people to get in on the Skipper action.
TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper pricing and availability:
The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper is available now for purchase worldwide. Price: AU$9,800 / CHF 6,600
|Case Dimensions||39mm (D) x 13.9mm (T) x 46mm (L2L)|
|Case Material||Stainless steel|
|Dial||Blue ‘Skipper’ dial|
|Crystal(s)||Sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback|
|Strap||Blue fabric strap with two-button folding clasp|
|Movement||In-house automatic TH20-06|
|Power Reserve||80 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph|