Preserving the past with a colourful contemporary attitude – Happy Tuesday with the TAG Heuer Carrera Review of the new 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition
One of my watch industry pet peeves is when brands keep on releasing the same watch over and over again with minute changes under the garb of a limited edition celebrating something or the other. It’s not to do with one specific brand, pretty much most are guilty of that. This trend has lent its unwavering arm to crush my enthusiasm, and I now often find myself being less excited when brands seem to take advantage of an anniversary without putting in the effort of actually releasing something new and disruptive. So when I found out about the announcement of the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition, my first thought was, didn’t they just release a limited edition watch to mark the same event? Then when I sat down to write the TAG Heuer Carrera review and actually studied the watch, not only did its youthful aesthetic bring about a smile, its balance of colours and what inspired it made me sit up in awe of it.
The new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition may be a Zenith El Primero lookalike on first glance — the new Zenith Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition specifically — but it sets itself apart from that or even the TAG Heuer Silver Limited Edition from earlier this year by the tasteful introduction of colour that harps back to Heuer’s own distinctive heritage from its now-defunct ‘Montreal’ lineup of watches.
And somehow the execution of it is so right that it doesn’t feel like a copy of the release from earlier this year, but rather a stand-alone issue that is sure to send Carrera fans in a buying frenzy.
Before we proceed further with this TAG Heuer Carrera review though, for the sake of sanity, I have shortened the names of the watches here because frankly, it seems the way TAG is going with naming their watches, they might just end up with a paragraph by the time they release a millionth limited edition of a Carrera or a Monaco. So, the new watch is now simply called the Montreal Edition, the Carrera version from earlier this year is called Silver Edition, and the vintage Montreal watch this is inspired by is called the 1972 Montreal.
Let’s start this TAG Heuer Carrera review by placing it in context with the Silver Edition and the 1972 Montreal.
The Silver Edition
The Silver Edition (reference: CBK221B.FC6479) that released just before Covid-19 spread globally marked the 160th anniversary of the original Carrera lineup that was inspired by the legendary Carrera Panamericana. It was a big deal, and to my pleasure, the re-edition was a spot-on remake of the original. The Silver Edition gets its name from the original monochrome starburst silver-dialled model from 1964, often referred to as “2447S” among collectors, while the Carrera name comes from the Carrera Panamericana races, one of the most treacherous road races in the world. The Silver Edition was a chronograph watch that is most strikingly remembered to this day amongst collectors for the simplicity of its three azurage (concentric circles) sub-dial counters.
So the release of the Silver Edition makes perfect sense, and the re-edition has been executed to perfection. You can read more about that in our review here.
This brings us to the latest commemorative re-edition, the Montreal Edition (reference CBK221C.FC6488). If you ask me if this is simply the same watch with some new colours, unfortunately, I won’t be able to give you a straight answer; it’s both yes and no. Technically this Montreal Edition is in specifications the same watch, down to the movement and the case size. But aesthetically, it is an entirely new watch that has fused the DNA of two separate collections and is designed to take the brand’s racing heritage from the 60s & 70s and bring it to your wrists today.
Is the mishmash supposed to work? No. Does it work? Yes. How? It does a great job of bringing to the mix only the ‘spirit’ of another vintage Heuer watch, the 1972 Montreal.
The 1972 Montreal
During the good old days of just Heuer — a reason why I like this new release, even more, is that the dial reads Heuer just like the original — “Montreal” was a separate collection of Heuer automatic chronographs that launched in 1972. And the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition is a new version of this 1972 Montreal timepiece — the White Heuer Montreal, reference 110.503 W to be specific — that has been reinvented inside the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition body to suit the modern age.
The year 1972 saw not one but four references being released, and while the Montreal Edition is based on the white dial version, they had another one with a blue dial (reference 110.503 B) that in my opinion was the best of the four and should have been used instead of the white one.
So where does this leave us? Reference 110. 503 W meets the updated version of “2447S”, reference CBK221B.FC6479, to create a new reference CBK221C.FC6488 that is different but same.
Simply put: the Montreal Edition packs the essence of the 1972 Montreal inside the body of the Silver Edition.
To decode this release, let’s for the moment ignore the funky coloured dial. It’s beautiful and too distracting. Instead, to better understand if this ‘soul mixing’ actually works or not, let’s look at the differences and similarities between the new Montreal Edition and the 1972 Montreal.
- Unrelated case sizes: the 1972 Montreal was not a Carrera, and had a completely different cushion-shaped or barrel case body design. The Montreal Edition is round and a more wearable 39mm compared to the larger 42mm case of the former
- Differing colours: both make use of red, blue, and yellow on the dial, but in very different ways: the 1972 Montreal had a bi-compax dial layout with two sub-dials in black whereas the Montreal Edition has three sub-dials that are in blue
- Different movements: The 1972 Montreal had the in-house movement Heuer Calibre 12 while the Montreal Edition features the in-house calibre Heuer 02
- Date vs no-date: The 1972 Montreal had a date window at 6’o clock while the Montreal Edition is sans date
- Different dial layouts: The 1972 Montreal’s dial was much more busy as it featured both a pulsations (in blue) and a tachymeter scale (in red). The Montreal Edition is sans those but pays homage to the idea by including a peripheral seconds track in the same colour combination of red and blue
- Sub-dial layouts are different too: While both versions feature a 12-hour chronograph counter at 9’o clock, the internal layout is different
- Hands: The shape of the chronograph hands is different as well
- Logo placement: The Heuer logo is above the collection name (Montreal) in the original while the Heuer logo is below the collection name (Carrera) in the new release
My Reaction #1
In my humble opinion TAG Heuer shouldn’t have added the name Montreal to this watch release. It’s not a Montreal watch by any standards. It simply ‘lifts’ the colour combination to provide the brand with a segue to release yet another limited edition. I would have preferred if they simply called it the ‘Fun’ Carrera or the ‘anti-COVID-19’ Carrera because that’s what it is; it’s fun, it’s summery, it’s ‘beachy’, it’s youthful, it’s stylish, it’s very nice in fact, but it’s not a Montreal.
- Colour palette: The use of the original, perfectly balanced red, yellow and blue colour palette of the White Heuer Montreal or 1972 Montreal is retained in the Montreal Edition
- Proportions: The Montreal Edition retains the original’s well-proportioned architecture that is now simply scaled down and revealed in the 39mm diameter case that beautifully frames the matte white dial and the three stunning blue “azurage” counters
- Red: The colour (red) of the chronograph seconds hand is the same
- Text: Retention of the text ‘Swiss’ at 6’o clock
- Branding: Retention of the Heuer branding rather than naming the new release TAG Heuer
- Sub-dial layout: The colourful layout of the sub-dial at 3’o clock with three yellow lumed markers is the same
- Pushers: Similar piston type pushers
- Run: The 1972 Montreal even though was not a limited edition, it nonetheless had a short lived production run (featuring the in-house movement) and the Montreal Edition is again a shorter run given it’s a limited edition production of only 1000 pieces
My Reaction #2
So we got eight differences and eight similarities, pretty balanced out I reckon.
“The Heritage Department selected the white Montreal design to mark TAG Heuer’s anniversary year because the piece is pure beauty and the colourful dial is full of joy. We played with the existing design codes and brought them to life in a bold new way, merging them with the Carrera spirit and breaking the rules in true TAG Heuer fashion”Catherine Eberle-Devaux, TAG Heuer Heritage Director
To their credit, TAG Heuer has used enough similarities to perhaps warrant the use of the name Montreal, but I still don’t see why they couldn’t just release this as a standalone Carrera. The TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition from earlier in the year was a much more faithful re-edition of the original “2447S” and its nomenclature made much more sense. But looking at the similarities and differences I do see the new watch’s place in TAG’s lineup.
The movement — Heuer 02 — used is an automatic manufacture chronograph movement. The 6.95mm thick movement is comprised of 168 components and beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’000 A/h) allowing for a very impressive 80-hour power reserve. The relatively thin for a chronograph movement features a vertical clutch and a column-wheel; the former improves the precision of the start-and-stop functions as well as the running of the chronograph second hand, while the latter provides more accurate and precise functionality. Albeit not hand-finished, the movement does feature Côtes de Genève patterns and a redesigned oscillating weight adorned with a lacquer-filled engraving which I am sure the collectors are going to cherish. One can admire the Heuer 02 movement in all its glory through the steel screw-down sapphire case-back that also boasts of a special numbered limited-edition engraving.
The dial shows the functions of hours, minutes, central chronograph seconds hand, 12-hour chronograph counter at 9 o’clock, 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock, and permanent second counter at 6 o’clock on a white opaline dial. That’s a white dial mind you, not silver or off-white, or cream, but white. This on the one hand provides the watch with a clean, cluster free look, and on the other hand further enhances the burst of colours. The facetted rhodium-plated central hour and minute hands contain yellow Super-LumiNova® that goes well with the colour theme. The red lacquered central hand again keeps in sync with the overall theme of the watch. And this is what really sets the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition apart, the brilliant execution of colour.
The movement and dial are presented inside a 39mm diameter polished steel case with a polished steel fixed bezel, topped with domed sapphire crystal with double anti-reflective treatment. I am impressed with the inclusion of this domed crystal which while increasing the overall height of the watch also charmingly adds a more vintage vibe to the watch.
A sports watch without a decent water rating is an oxymoron in itself. This new version beats this notion and water resistance is a good 100m (10 ATM) on this one. Available from this month, the casual sporty watch ironically comes on mismatched dressy blue alligator leather strap (with a polished steel folding clasp) that feels forced. The watch’s colour segue reminds me of the recent Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition, and using the kind of strap options they have, can really elevate the fun, summer appeal of the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition.
Anyway, the watch is limited to 1000 pieces globally compared to the 1860 pieces of the Silver Edition, so whether be it on an alligator or NATO or calf-leather, if you like the watch, the strap option should be the last thing on your mind.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
On the whole, writing this TAG Heuer Carrera review made me realise that the watch almost has a toy-like appeal to it, and while I appreciate that, some may not find that all too appealing for a luxury product. Then when you throw in the price point of AUD 9’800, it suddenly isn’t an object that’s meant to be played with anymore. Also, some may dislike the straight and long lugs that make this watch wear larger, while some might argue the bright colours are not for them. And some might even find the use of blue and yellow too heavy, with it being used in the border and the sub-dials.
Personally, I can’t validate any of the above negatives bar one; if I can see a valid downfall with this watch, it’s only that it’s a little bit expensive. I know it’s comparing apples and oranges, but that’s Datejust and Aqua Terra money. It’s Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition, a James Bond watch money. It’s more than what I personally paid for the Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 50th Anniversary Limited Edition less than one year ago. It’s roughly 3’000 AUD more than both the new 2020 Breitling Top Time or the Superocean Heritage ’57. Most of these are limited editions and score points for their individual merits.
Ignore that, and I think not only is the Montreal Edition one of TAG Heuer’s better offerings of late, it is also one heck of a beauty that should not be missed by any watch enthusiast or collector.
To keep things simple, I’ll cut to the chase: ignoring the ‘Montreal’ in the nomenclature and the price, I think the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition is a very youthful offering that’s got a great deal of balance between vintage charm, colours and contemporary aesthetics. It’s a good looking sports watch and at 39mm in diameter it simply hits the sweet spot when it comes to sizing. It is a fun, clean dialled watch that can be worn as a daily watch and it’s something I can foresee my wife and I fighting over if we decide to buy it.
And what’s more, writing this TAG Heuer Carrera review has made me want a Montreal in my collection. So I say to the brand, please, please bring on a new, contemporary, updated Montreal for the fans and collectors. Hint: the reference 110.503 B in the blue dial with white counters.
Leonard Cohen, the famous Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist once quipped: “Some say that no one ever leaves Montreal, for that city, like Canada itself, is designed to preserve the past, a past that happened somewhere else”. I think this quote pretty much summarises the new TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition.
Just like the above quote, once you set your eyes on the new TAG Heuer Carrera, you won’t want to ‘leave the Montreal Edition, for that watch, like the Heuer part of TAG Heuer itself, is designed to preserve the past heritage of the Swiss watch giant, a colourful past that blends the 1972 Montreal timepiece with the TAG Heuer Carrera of today.’
For more information on this and other TAG Heuer watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated in our TAG Heuer Carrera review are courtesy Courtesy, ©TAG Heuer.