TAG Heuer's flagship Carrera family has experienced a remarkable year in 2023. Celebrating the line's 60th anniversary, the Swiss brand has unveiled a series of unique commemorative novelties throughout the year. However, the highlight of these celebrations was recently announced at Watches and Wonders 2023: the introduction of the new "Glassbox" case concept. This innovative approach aims to capture the vintage charm and allure of a domed acrylic crystal while infusing it with a modern twist, rather than simply emulating the appearance of the original '60s Carreras.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" achieves something truly exceptional within the diverse Carrera catalog. It seamlessly bridges the gap between the classically vintage-inspired, Heuer-branded side of the series and the sleek, contemporary TAG Heuer-marked executions. Alongside this visual evolution, the watch also introduces a new generation of in-house movements, further enhancing its appeal. The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" represents a harmonious blend of style, sophistication, and forward-thinking design, striking the delicate balance between classic subtlety and captivating distinctiveness.
When you fasten the 39mm-wide stainless steel case of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" to your wrist, you'll experience a combination of familiarity and freshness. The case design features the characteristic sharp-angled lugs, robust pump pushers, and sleek brushed case sides that are familiar in the modern Carrera collection. Its presence on the wrist closely resembles the brand's current 39mm-wide Heuer-stamped "reissue" Carreras. However, at first glance, the watch creates a different impression, thanks to its extravagant and highly domed sapphire crystal.
The absence of a bezel and the crystal's sweeping arc, which almost reaches the vertical plane of the case sides, lend an airy and retro-futuristic feel to the iconic Carrera silhouette. If George Jetson were a TAG Heuer enthusiast, this timepiece would undoubtedly adorn his wrist. Despite its distinctive appearance, the watch remains tasteful and not overly conspicuous. While there may be minor concerns about potentially bumping the crystal's edge, it still delivers the familiar Carrera experience when worn. Moreover, the "Glassbox" concept enhances the watch's usability by allowing the tachymeter scale to be read at nearly a 90-degree angle, offering practicality in addition to visual drama and intrigue.
The dial of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" continues the brand's tradition of blending classic elements with avant-garde features. Each variant of this design takes a unique direction, and the "Panda" colorway, featured here, exudes the most vintage-inspired aesthetic. The radially brushed black dial surface, striped baton hands, and khaki fauxtina lume fill set the stage for a vintage-style design, but TAG Heuer adds a modern touch to temper this nostalgic look. For instance, the silver azurage subdials employ raised outer rings to create visual depth.
The split-baton applied indices feature a gently curved profile, mirroring the curvature of the crystal and producing captivating reflections from various angles. The most notable change occurs on the outer chapter ring. Describing this intricate element as "curved" would be an oversimplification. Resembling a wave or a sand dune, this outer ring is concave on its inner side and bulges outward to meet the crystal on the other, resulting in an organic and impressively sculptural visual shift that distinguishes the "Glassbox" from the standard Carrera formula when worn. The chronograph seconds scale is printed around the inner side of the ring, while the outer side retains the Carrera's classic tachymeter scale.
Another significant visual change in this new model is the inclusion of a bright white date window at 12 o'clock, creating a contrasting element. This unique placement is specific to the "Panda" dial option and draws inspiration from early references like the '60s-era Heuer Carrera Date 12 ref. 3147, which also featured this unconventional date display. While such a placement is uncommon in the modern watchmaking landscape, it provides a visually balanced layout, albeit requiring a slight mental adjustment. During my brief time with the sample, I occasionally found myself instinctively glancing at 6 o'clock and 3 o'clock before recalling the date's position at 12 o'clock.
Beyond its visual transformation, the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" serves as the debut timepiece for the second generation of the in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement, now known as the TH20-00. Although there are few specifications that differentiate the TH20-00 from the already excellent Heuer 02, such as its substantial 80-hour power reserve, 28,800 bph beat rate, and column wheel, there is a notable improvement in power reserve efficiency with the introduction of bidirectional winding. Visually, the changes are immediately apparent.
The TH20-00 features a more robust and solid construction compared to the fairly skeletonized design of the Heuer 02. With fewer cutouts and a broad plate adorned with Côtes de Genève, the overall finishing is clean and sporty, predominantly characterized by striping across the plates and bridges, along with the new shield-motif cutout rotor. This redesigned rotor presents a simpler and more graphic appearance compared to the brand's previous wheel-spoke design. It features a raised brushed segment outlined by a lower matte blasted layer. Although the rally-style perforated black leather deployant strap represents a more traditional Carrera element, it blends seamlessly with the overall design, preventing it from feeling excessively radical on the wrist.
While the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" is part of a broader series of 60th-anniversary celebrations, it offers a genuine glimpse into the future of the Carrera line. By combining familiar classic elements with a strikingly sleek and futuristic aesthetic, it presents itself as a natural evolution of the core design. The availability of the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 39mm "Glassbox" is currently through authorized dealers, with an MSRP of $6,450 USD as of press time.