TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 & Formula 1 Ayrton Senna Special Edition Watches Hands-On
Earlier this year, three sporty Ayrton Senna special edition watches from TAG Heuer were announced to mark 30 years since the champion race car driver won the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time in 1987. More important are the watches themselves, which are cool-looking with a mix of different design touches, in addition to the more explicit Senna logo branding. The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Ayrton Senna Special Edition leads the pack, displaying an evolving look for the still young Heuer-01, and the quartz Formula 1 Ayrton Senna Special Edition models offer more affordable options in three-hand and chronograph versions.
Ayrton Senna is one of TAG Heuer’s most important ambassadors in the brand’s already strong motorsport connection and was promoting TAG Heuer watches before he died in the early ’90s. Then, back in 2015, TAG brought Ayrton Senna watches back with, again, a Carrera and a couple of Formula 1 models that we covered here.
Let’s talk about the new watches. All three of the new TAG Heuer Carrera Ayrton Senna Special Edition watches share a few elements, like black PVD-coated cases and generous applications of red. While not always the case for co-branded watches, those attracted to the overall look will also need to be pretty ardent Senna fans as his logo (why don’t more individuals have logos?) and/or name appears on the dial, bezel, and caseback of all the watches. Then, there are the Link-style (“S-link”) bracelets – on non-Link-collection watches, of course – that are associated with TAG Heuer watches Senna prominently wore.
Beginning with the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Ayrton Senna, this shows that the relatively recently introduced Heuer-01 is a growing collection with a fluid style and identity. In fact, there are some fundamental differences that distinguish this Carrera Heuer-01 Ayrton Senna from other Heuer-01 watches and even from other Carrera watches, making clear that more thought and effort went into its production than just, say, some new colors and a logo (or three) slapped on. While there is continuity with past Heuer-01 models in the skeletonized dial and thick ceramic bezel, the angular case and lugs of the Heuer-01 (as reviewed here in an early form) have been rounded off significantly.
The limited edition Jack Heuer variant is similar, but using a few key differences aside from the obvious dial colours, though these gaps can be tricky to see if you do not know what you are looking for. Of course, unlike the non-limited edition reference CBE2110.FC8226 version of the Autavia Heuer 02, this reference CBE 2111. BA0687 Jack Heuer edition of the Autavia is limited to 1,932 bits (because of Jack’s birth year). The watch is due to be released on or around Jack’s 85th birthday which is on November 17th. I recommend that anybody who is interested in this watch, and who might have missed my above linked-to review — mention it after reading this report. For the most part, what I mentioned about the non-limited variation applies to this limited edition model ranging from the caliber Heuer 02 in-house automatic chronograph movement, slick vintage looks, and decent value for the money.The major difference in the Jack Heuer Autavia versus another model is that the dial color — that, in this instance, is silver using black-colored sub-dials. While I only have the brand’s pictures of the watch useful for this guide, I have handled and worn this watch several times and can attest to its desirability. In my view, it actually edges out the non-limited edition Autavia as being the more appealing of the two — but in reality, they’re both good-looking timepieces.
The long, angular lugs are a defining Carrera feature, at least in my mind, and the change here was likely necessary to accommodate the curvy Link-style bracelet – which is important. It is important because this look is closely associated with Senna, and you’ll find it in some form or another in the various TAG Heuer Ayrton Senna watches. Like the case, it is brushed, black PVD-coated steel and this Link bracelet – with more angular edges than the old Link watches had – looks modern and cool. It is interesting how multiple well-known elements from different TAG Heuer watches have come together without feeling like a collage.
That said, the sporty minute-indicator-style of the hour markers and other TAG touches help keep the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Ayrton Senna unmistakably a Carrera. Even the skeletonization style of the dial is different from the standard Heuer-01, and together all these elements constitute a pretty fresh take on the Carrera. Take a look at Ariel’s comparison review of the Carrera 1887 Automatic Chronograph and the Carrera Heuer 01 to get a more in-depth look at the differences and commonalities between these two sides of the TAG Heuer Carrera coin.
With the introduction of a version in ceramic, as well as a welcome 43mm version of the TAG Heuer Heuer-01, it kind of makes me think we could have had a 43mm version in black ceramic, which would have been cool. Instead, we are back up to a formidable 45mm in black PVD-coated, brushed steel (water-resistant to 100m). A domed and anti-reflective-treated sapphire crystal, of course, protects the dial. The dial is horizontally brushed, and it’s cool how the automotive-looking skeletonization pattern incorporates the hour markers.
While the sportier Carrera chronographs, especially those with the five-minute-style hour markers such as this, can be a bit busy, the skeletonization and smattering of colors makes this dial even more so. Note that the chronograph hands are all red, while the hands for the time are silver. Senna’s logo in the running seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock and can be found again on the bezel along with the obligatory tachymeter scale. Honestly, it’s a little tough to see where the date is supposed to be read at first, but it’s at 3:30 with a white background, as on the other Carrera Heuer-01 versions.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 is powered, of course, by TAG’s in-house Heuer-01 movement which we have discussed in detail in previous articles and reviews. It features a column wheel for smoother chronograph operation and runs at 4Hz with a respectable 50 hour power reserve. It’s a good looking movement but you’ll have to try to appreciate it through, once again, the Senna and TAG Heuer logos printed on the sapphire crystal plus the large black PVD rotor – but what did you expect?
Moving on to the more affordable Ayrton Senna Special Edition watches that are in the Formula 1 collection. These are a quartz-powered three-hand model and a quartz chronograph. They share a lot of the same style cues as the Heuer-01 model, with black PVD cases and black dials paired with a lot of sporty red. Vertical red lines on the dials of both Formula 1 models apparently reference the tire marks of a speeding race car. In both cases, the Senna logo (that at a glance reminds me of the Japanese hot spring symbol: ) is, once again, in red at 9 o’clock.
The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Ayrton Senna Special Edition watches are both 43mm wide (water-resistant to 200m) and feature a minute track (and Senna logo) on the brushed steel bezels. No “S-link” steel bracelet here, but they come with black and red rubber straps that mimic that look. The Senna logo again appears on the steel casebacks.
The TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer-01 Ayrton Senna Special Edition (ref. CAR2A1L.BA0688) is naturally going to be a bit more than the standard version, and will have USD price of $6,200. The TAG Heuer Formula 1 Ayrton Senna Chronograph Special Edition (reference CAZ1019.FT8027) will have a price of $1,650 and the three-hand TAG Heuer Formula 1 Ayrton Senna (reference WAZ1014.FT8027) will be $1,450. tagheuer.com