Back in the 1940s, Jack Heuer, great-grandson of the founder of the Heuer watch company, was but a young lad making his way through school. When Abercrombie and Fitch, then a legendary outdoor outfitter, approached his family business for a sportsman’s watch based on “solunar” theory — which posited that the best times to fish and hunt could be determined by the position of the sun and moon, and by the tides — the then 15-year-old worked with his high school physics teacher on the math that would govern its timing. The resulting watch, the Solunar, featured a subdial above 6 o’clock that rotated once per day to indicate the times for high and low tides at the wearer’s location.
Unfortunately, fishermen and hunters were set in their ways and continued relying on solunar charts rather than the Solunar watch. Though the timepiece was a commercial failure (with only roughly 1,000 pieces produced), it provided the inspiration for another watch that has since become a darling of the auction world, a symbol of Heuer’s innovation (and a reminder of Abercrombie & Fitch’s waning star), and a vintage watch beloved by collectors the world over — the Abercomrbie & Fitch Seafarer. Jack Heuer simply repurposed the tide indicator and crossed it with that most useful of complications — the chronograph — combining the two in a waterproof case powered by a hand-wound movement.
The Seafarer debuted in the 1950s and would stay in production (in various guises) through the mid-1970s. It was the relationship between Abercrombie president Walter Haynes — who would travel to Switzerland twice a year to pick out new watches for the A&F catalog — that led to Heuer’s involvement with the America’s Cup. In the late 1960s, Heuer became the official timing partner of the yacht Intrepid, a 12-meter vessel of the New York Yacht Club that competed against Dame Pattie of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in the 1967 edition of the famed race.
The crew of the Intrepid were provided by Heuer with a set of yachting stopwatches by Aquastar that featured a special countdown mechanism in the form of a rotating red and white disc — a system familiar to fans of yachting timers. Intrepid would go on to clinch the event by four races, defending the Cup against Australia and securing the name Intrepid in the annals of yachting history. In celebration, Heuer produced a new watch, the Skipper dual-register chronograph, whose minutes totalizer was modified to count down the 15-minute regatta pre-start configured in three five-minute segments.
As is the case with other yachting watches, each segment was given a distinct color for easy differentiation. Notable to the Skipper were the colors used in reference to the Intrepid: green pulled from the vessel’s rigging, and light teal to recall its deck. Orange was also used to represent the last five-minute segment, providing welcome legibility during the pre-start chaos of a race.
From this original 1968 model, Heuer would go on to produce several Skipper watches, the last of which featured in the brand’s catalog in 1983 two years prior to Techniques d’Avant Garde’s purchase of a majority stake in the company. While later examples were housed in Autavia cases, the original run featured Carrera cases. Now, 40 years following this iconic watch’s introduction, Heuer is debuting a new version in its recently reworked Carrera case, upsized to 39mm but retaining the bright colorway that has become an icon within the tool watch world.
Heuer aficionados may recall a 2017 collaboration between the brand and HODINKEE that resulted in a gorgeous, vintage-inspired Skipper. This watch, limited to just 125 examples, combined the colors of the original reference 7754 Skipper — of which only roughly 20 examples are known to the market — with the reference 3147 “Dato 45,” a chronograph with a 30-minute totalizer at 9 o’clock and a date window at 3 o’clock. The big news surrounding the new TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper is that it’s a core catalog piece and will “serve as the ‘flagship’ for a whole series of further maritime models that will mark TAG Heuer’s return to the world of yachts and yachting.”
The new “glassbox” Carrera case — so called due to its sapphire crystal, whose profile resembles that of vintage acrylic models from vintage sport watches — has proven an excellent housing for all manner of interesting Carrera models and colorways. The new Carrera Skipper is thus less a reinvention of the wheel and more of an exercise in nostalgia, though its fun and compelling color scheme certainly excites, and is admittedly evocative of summer: Housed within the 39mm stainless steel housing, it boasts a circular brushed dial in sea-inspired blue punctuated by triple totalizers: a 12-hour counter in “Intrepid Teal” at 9 o’clock, a 15-minute regatta timer in “Intrepid Teal,” “Lagoon Green,” and “Regatta Orange” at 3 o’clock, and a running seconds counter above 6 o’clock that nearly blends into the watch. Applied. rhodium-plated indices and an orange-tipped sword handset — plus orange lume plots and other accents — tie the design together.
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Because the new Carrera case lacks a traditional bezel, the glassbox crystal extends all the way to the watch’s periphery, giving plenty of room over to the dial. As the dial itself features a curved flange at its edges, TAG Heuer is able to combine tachymeter and other timing scales with traditional 1/5th-seconds scales without overcrowding a watch’s design — a smart, subtle touch that lends newer Carreras a distinct feel. In the case of the Skipper, there’s no chronograph-specific scale other than the 1/5th-seconds track with dart-shaped 5-minute indices, making for a particularly clean look.
Powering the Carrera Skipper is TAG Heuer’s automatic Calibre TH20-06 movement with bi-direcitonal winding and an 80-hour power reserve, which is viewable via a sapphire caseback. Looking over the dial, you’ll notice that this movement provides a date function, which is present just above 6 o’clock within the running seconds totalizer. While there was no date function present on the original Skipper from 1968, the presence of one in the new watch is what we in the watch press somewhat disparagingly deem “a concession to modernity,” but often simultaneously applaud when executed correctly.
Paired to its blue fabric strap with polished steel folding clasp and water resistant to 100m, the new Carrera Skipper is a welcome addition to the brand’s core catalog, representing the first time in 40 years that a Skipper will be commonly available to all and sundry. Priced at $6,750, it’s certainly “entry-level luxury” and a departure from much of TAG Heuer’s more entry-level pricing. But with its freshly redesigned case, thoughtfully designed dial, in-house, column wheel-powered movement with 80 hours of power reserve and much more, can you really argue with said price?
As the first piece in a new collection of forthcoming yachting watches, TAG Heuer has certainly set a high bar.
- Diameter: 39mm
- Case Material: Stainless steel
- Water Resistance: 100m
- Movement: TAG Heuer Calibre TH20-06 automatic
- Price: $6,750
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