How TAG Heuer designed its new Carrera Chronograph

Guy Bove, creative director of TAG Heuer, doesn’t take inspiration from other designers, and certainly not from other watch designers. Instead, the man in charge of leading the design of TAG Heuer into the 2020s is much more likely to get ideas from his personal art projects.
A fascination with the relationship between form and light, speed and movement, he says, informs his approach. “When I sketch for fun it often happens to be motorcycles, boats, robots, things that move. How much speed does an object give off?” That’s why, for Bove, inspiration can be found everywhere. “If I walk down the street, I’m really looking for something specific that other people might not pick up. I’m checking out cars that go by. I’ll be noticing window displays, architecture. And fabrics too. Anything that moves.”

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Just take a look at his new TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph – particularly the bezel. Attention was paid to the way in which light plays on its surface, giving the watch a real presence on the wrist while also being aesthetically pleasing. “One of the reasons for that I think is because one of my hobbies is photography,” says Bove.
Cars, especially their sculptural details and the way in which they make light and shadows dance across their surface, informed the design of the new case and bezel. “If you look at the new Carrera, you can see that the bezel goes from one end of the watch all the way round to the other.” This, says Bove, is so that the line between the bezel, the lugs and the case of the watch is fluid like the chassis of a beautiful sports car. “It’s the first Carrera to do that. The lugs used to stop very abruptly at the bezel and now they sweep around and you get a sense of motion.” What’s more, the bezel of the watch has an ‘overhang’ so that a shadow falls subtly over the case. “It’s something you find quite a bit on the edges of cars.”
The Sport Chronograph is part of a host of new TAG Heuer Carrera models that play a starring role in the brand’s 160th anniversary. These include a remastered version of the 1963 original, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Edition, and a homage to the 1974 Heuer Montreal, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Edition.
While the Sport Chronograph is a more forward-looking piece, it too is indebted to the past. “We went back to the very first Carreras to see what it was that made them exciting,” says Bove. “It’s the simplicity of the design elements, the overall shape of the case, the indexes, the numerals and so on, and then moving the design language forward.”

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Like a fine wine, the new Carrera Sport Chronograph reveals its beauty and nuance to the owner over a period of time. “There’s really a lot of detail most people won’t ever necessarily see but hopefully they’ll sense it, and that’s important to me too as it creates a strong bond between the owner with the watch over time,” says Bove, of these blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details. “On the Sport Chronograph, for instance, there’s a gap between the bezel, inner bezel and dial. You don’t necessarily notice but it creates a shadow on the dial.”
There’s also an updated typeface to add clarity and legibility, while retaining the confident and emboldened character of the original. “I spend a lot of time on the typefaces of the collections,” says Bove. “I make sure the typeface reinforces whatever character you’re trying to bring out in that product and that it suits the watch. Even watches in the same category might have different typefaces and different font cases. There’s a distinct design language there.”
Softly spoken and thoughtful, Bove cuts an elegant figure. Indeed, at the international watch shows he is always reliably well dressed in one of his softly tailored grey or blue suits. While the Carrera was born in the pitstop of the Sebring 12 Hours Of Endurance race – it was here Jack Heuer first heard about the deadly Carrera Panamericana race from which the watch takes its name – let’s face it, most of us will be wearing the watch day-to-day rather than in the cockpit of a race car.
Hence the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph which skews even closer to the simplicity of the 1963 original albeit with some subtle contemporary updates. “We designed the case to look faster and longer than it actually is,” says Bove. “The thin bezel and long narrow lugs make it the most elegant watch of the whole collection. But at the same time, you know it’s a sports watch.”

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Precision, intricacy, subtlety and fine detailing – they are all qualities in the new TAG Heuer Carrera collection that he has worked so hard to get right. “I would say that the direction we are going in at the moment is deceptively simple,” says Bove. His interest in combining art and science is something that he shares with Jack Heuer, who famously drew inspiration from all creative fields, not just watchmaking. “If you actually look at all the details, they are actually extremely difficult to get right. But they work together very effectively.”

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