Hands-On With The TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Glassbox “Golden Panda”
If you follow our Fratello Talks podcast, you may know that I included the new 18K yellow gold TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph in a recent episode on our favorite releases of 2023. And that was even before it ended up in our office for this hands-on review. Now that I have been wearing it for a while, I can even be more precise: I love it.
Sixty years of the Carrera
The TAG Heuer Carrera traces its roots to 1963 and the reference 2447, which was designed by Jack Heuer and powered by the famous Valjoux 72 chronograph movement. In the following decades, Heuer (and later TAG Heuer) introduced many different variations. Gold models are on the rarer side, although Heuer made them early on (1964). My favorite execution would be the C-shape Carrera ref. 1158 CHN from the 1970s with the gold panda dial and Milanese bracelet. But those come at a certain price point as well. Expect to pay close to €30,000 or even more at auctions.
A gold Carrera for racing drivers
The original gold Carreras have an excellent backstory that links them to car racing. As you might know, Heuer had an agreement with the Formula One Ferrari team in the 1970s. But Jack Heuer also ensured that the Ferrari drivers were proud to be part of that agreement between the two companies, so each driver received an 18K gold Carrera 1158 in exchange for wearing a Heuer patch on his racing suit. The list of drivers contains some truly iconic names! Drivers like Niki Lauda, Clay Regazzoni, Gilles Villeneuve, Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, and others have proudly worn their gold Heuer Carrera watches. Aside from the Ferrari drivers, some from other teams were also good ambassadors for the brand at the time. For example, Jo Siffert, who was on the BRM team in 1972, received a Carrera in precious metal. A special mention should go to the version made for the Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson, who was a member of the March team at the time.
Ronnie Peterson’s Carrera 1158 CHN
A lot has been written about Ronnie Peterson and his 18K gold Carrera 1158 watch, which was engraved with “’Success’ Ronnie Peterson From Jack W. Heuer” on the gold case back. His watch fetched a whopping US$230,000 during a Sotheby’s auction in 2016. TAG Heuer bought it, and it is now on display in the brand’s impressive museum in Switzerland. In 2018, TAG Heuer created a replica of the watch as a unique piece with the same engraving in the case back and powered by the brand’s Calibre 11. This watch fetched €97,750 during the Bonhams auction on May 11th, 2018, and all proceeds went to the Ronnie Peterson Memorial Foundation, supporting young talents in motorsport.
More recently, the Carrera 1158 CHN on the gold Milanese bracelet could be spotted on the wrist of Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, in the 2023 Barbie movie. I have seen the film, and the 1158 CHN was not the only Heuer watch that Gosling sported in it. You could also see him wearing a gold Carrera 110.515 (1974) and 2448 NT (1960s).
TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Glassbox “Golden Panda”
At this year’s Watches and Wonders, TAG Heuer introduced the Carrera Chronograph Glassbox in a blue-dial version as well as a black and silver reverse panda. These watches have been very positively received, including by our team. Then, on October 18th, TAG Heuer introduced the Carrera Glassbox with a golden panda dial that I have here for review. Like the steel versions, this Glassbox model has a beautiful dial with a bowl-shaped seconds/minute track and tachymeter scale. It’s a very neat design aesthetic that TAG Heuer introduced for the Carrera Chronograph Glassbox models.
This chronograph in precious metal marks the 60th anniversary of the Carrera. However, it was a clever move by TAG Heuer not to make this a limited edition but a standard-production model.
The 39mm yellow gold case ticks a lot of boxes
TAG Heuer’s Carrera Chronograph in yellow gold (3N) has a 39mm case, which I believe will speak to many people. It might be that sweet spot today for chronograph watches as it will fit most wrists perfectly. The case also measures 13.9mm thick and 46mm from lug to lug. I think it’s a very modest size for a gold chronograph like this vintage-inspired Carrera Glassbox in 18K gold. It wears perfectly on my somewhat large 18cm wrist, which even underlines the vintage inspiration a little bit more.
The 18K yellow gold case has satin-finished sides and a polished finish on the top of the lugs. On TAG Heuer’s Glassbox models, the bezel is under the crystal and part of the dial. This dial is not solid gold, but it did receive a yellow gold plating to match the case. It’s 2N gold plating, which matches the 18K yellow gold (3N) color quite well.
The dial sets this watch apart
What I mainly love about this Carrera Glassbox in gold is the dial. It hits all the right notes for me. The vertically brushed finish is a feature that has also been applied to my precious Speedmaster Apollo 11 50th Anniversary edition in 18K gold. I prefer this vertical brushing over a sunburst finish. Then, the two sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock are in black with circular graining. I had to look twice when I saw this watch for the first time, but there was a third sub-dial for the running seconds at 6 o’clock. It is printed on the vertically brushed dial using minimal black markings, and the small running second’s hand is also black.
In the 6 o’clock sub-dial, we also find the “Swiss” designation and a date aperture with a gold frame. What surprised me is that TAG Heuer used a white date disc. Although it’s very readable for my 46-year-old eyes, I think there would have been aesthetically more pleasing solutions. For example, a black date disc with gold printing or a gold date disc with black printing could have been nice. That said, historically, a white date disc is correct for many of the 1158 CHN models, though the first execution had a black date disc.
All of the hour markers on this Carrera are applied, and most of the hands are plated with yellow gold (excluding the running and elapsed seconds hands). TAG Heuer used Super-LumiNova for the faceted hour and minute hands and the small pips next to the applied indices.
The beveled case back has a sapphire crystal, allowing a view of the automatic TH20-00 column-wheel chronograph movement. This caliber provides 80 hours of power reserve, ticks at 28,800vph, and has hacking seconds. The specs are solid, yes, but perhaps the movement is where my criticism toward this Carrera Chronograph ref. CBS2240.FC8319 lies. I think this caliber is the perfect choice for the stainless steel Carrera Glassbox models I mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, I expected something a bit more special for a gold watch.
There’s decoration like Côtes de Genève on the large upper plate and a nicely skeletonized rotor showing the shape of the TAG Heuer logo. However, the mainplate, which is visible from certain angles, could have used some nice perlage decoration. What surprised me the most, though, was the balance bridge. It just looks unfinished, and that’s putting it mildly. I would have loved to see TAG Heuer put a gold rotor on this movement, simply as a different execution of the TH20-00 for this luxurious gold Carrera. Another option would have been to use a gold case back with a nice engraving.
Some afterthoughts on the Carrera Chronograph Glassbox “Golden Panda”
But honestly, I enjoy wearing and looking at this gold chronograph so much that I can live with the above criticism. I have even less of an issue with the white date disc (as it’s readable), and I also don’t agree with some negative feedback that I saw on social media from people who don’t like the running seconds at 6 o’clock. This gold Carrera Chronograph is an incredibly cool-looking watch, and I think it’s the nicest model in the current TAG Heuer collection.
On this “Golden Panda,” you will find a perforated leather racing strap with a yellow gold tang buckle. This comfortable and soft black calfskin strap suits the watch perfectly. Perhaps some of you would have appreciated a folding clasp more, but I like a good tang (or pin) buckle.
The Carrera Chronograph is water resistant to 100 meters. Yes, the gold material or the leather strap might stop you from swimming with it, but the watch has proper water resistance anyway.
Even though this yellow gold TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Carrera model, it is not a limited edition. It is a daring move since brands often want a certain amount of FOMO around more expensive watches like this. But this gold Carrera Chronograph will be available to everyone (just not via TAG Heuer’s online boutique due to some shipping restrictions). The price of this ref. CBS2240.FC8319 is €21,750 (including VAT). The steel versions of the Carrera Chronograph Glassbox are priced at €6,500, and you can find our reviews here.
For more information about this Carrera Chronograph in gold, visit the official TAG Heuer website.
Lots of credit to our friend Jeff Stein’s On The Dash website for the Carrera 1158 information.