Rolex Daytona & TAG Heuer Carrera | Splurge v Steal


Throughout history the sport of racing
and watches have gone hand in hand. Motorsports have always been dependent on
highly accurate timekeeping, and at one point Sport and Racing coronagraphs were
vital in recording lap times. While this is obviously no longer the case this
style of watch has become emblematic of an era when the sport of racing was at
its peak. Since then two brands have been closely intertwined with the automotive
industry. Rolex and Tag Heuer. Rolex got into the game early in the mid 1930s
when famed racer Sir Malcolm Campbell set a new land speed record in 1935
wearing an oyster perpetual. Then Heuer came onto the scene later in the mid
century with its dashboard coronagraphs, and later transitioned to wristwatches.
So if you were to add a racing watch to your collection, which would it be? The
two models share a number of similarities and some differences, namely
the price, but we’re gonna break down everything you need to know about
splurging on a Daytona and getting a Carrera for s steal. In 1963 Rolex and Heuer debuted both the
Daytona and the Carrera. The Daytona was created shortly after Rolex started its
partnership of the 24 Hours of Daytona race later renamed
the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Within the same year the Carrera was born after Heuer
was inspired by Mexican racing legends Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez.
If only Crown & Caliber had been around in the 60s. I can just imagine the
excitement in the watch community when both of these models were released. Of
course both models saw success immediately and to this day they are
sought-after in both the new and pre-owned markets. First up the splurge:
The Rolex Daytona. Though the Daytona line launched in 1963
it wasn’t until 1965 that the Daytona name actually appeared on the dial. For
two years the collection was simply the Cosmograph. The first Cosmograph
reference 6239 introduced a number of firsts for Rolex.
One of the most notable is the now iconic panda dial. It showcased
contrasting black sub dials against a white dial and it was also the first
model with a tachymeter scale engraved on the bezel instead of printed on the
dial. The most iconic versions of the panda dial are affectionately known as
the Paul Newman Daytona because they were worn by the star. Instantly
recognizable for its quirky Art Deco designs this model is a true icon and
without Paul Newman it’s hard to know where it would be today. Over the next
couple of decades there were multiple references of the Daytona. Panda dials,
reverse panda dials, steel bezels, acrylic bezels, screw down pushers, and even an
updated Valjoux movement with a higher beat rate. Then in 1988 the most
important update to the Daytona came in the form of the movement. The earlier
models came equipped with a manual wound Valjoux chronograph, however with the
development of the automatic chronograph in 1969 Rolex knew they needed to update
the Daytona. Zenith, one of the first creators of the
automatic chronograph, approached Rolex, and it took nearly a decade of
development along with hundreds of modifications before the Zenith El
Primero movement was up to the standards. Eventually Zenith presented a design
Rolex deemed worthy for the Daytona. The El Primero movement for Rolex was
extremely modified. From removing the date to lowering the
beat rate from thirty six thousand to twenty eight thousand eight hundred
beats per hour, it felt like a whole new movement. By the
new millennium the Daytona received another mechanical improvement. Rolex was
beginning to upgrade all of its models with in-house movements, and then in 2000
they released a new Daytona series featuring their own in-house caliber
4130. The Daytona was quite the machine but had lost some of its heritage
visually speaking, and then in 2016 the Daytona got back to its roots. The use of
ceramic allowed for an all black bezel and more traditional contrasting sub
dials and even though it was more of a makeover than a new watch this was the
Daytona people have been waiting for. It still has the same 40 millimeter, 904L
stainless steel case, Oyster bracelet, and ever-reliable 4130 caliber with a 70
hour power reserve. After nearly six decades the Daytona still reigns supreme
in the world of chronographs. Next up: The steal. The Tag Heuer Carrera. The origins
of the career are inextricably linked with one man Jack Heuer. Jack is the
great-grandson of the brand’s founder Edouard Heuer, and he had just taken over
the company in 1962, and spurred the creation of the Carrera beginning with
the reference 2447. Early Carreras featured a completely uniform
dial as opposed to one with contrasting chronograph registers. In addition they
housed a Valjoux 72 movement just like the first Daytona’s. The Carrera remained one
of the most popular models in the brand’s catalog for two decades then
it’s fate began to shift. Jack Heuer retired in 1982, and with him the Carrera.
Three years later in 1985 another big transition came for the Heuer brand.
Techniques d’Avant Garde acquired them and they officially became Tag Heuer. Instead
of seeking to overhaul the company the new leadership wanted to do just the
opposite. They focused on heritage and tradition. They wanted to get back to
Heuer’s roots, and bring back the Carrera. Now Tag Heuer couldn’t bring themselves
to revive the Carrera, in earnest, without the man who’d brought it to life, so they
approached Jack Heuer about returning to relaunch the model and he graciously
agreed. And in 1996 the Carrera was reborn. The
initial reissue lacked any major aesthetic updates. The brand wanted to
make the model as close to the original as possible. From the dial layout, to the
old Heuer logo, however it did receive an upgrade under the hood. The new Carrera
now came equipped with Lemania 1873 hand-wound caliber. Soon after TAG Heuer
updated the Carrera with an automatic chronograph movement from ETA, still it
wouldn’t be until 2009 that the brand would introduce their first in-house
caliber to the Carrera collection and not without controversy either. The term
in-house may have been a little skewed, but nevertheless the caliber 1887 is a
great tribute to the Carrera. Here we have the Carrera Calibre 1887. This is a
41 millimeter watch with the classic angular logs of the Carrera. It has the
Tag Heuer calibre 1887 with a 50 hour power reserve. The dial is a clean and
great modern interpretation of the original, but the use of high polish on
all the indices makes the watch a little shiny.
Luckily the inner chapter ring tachymeter stays true to the Carrera
line. So which to choose? When it comes to choosing between the Daytona and the
Carrera the biggest difference is certainly the price. Both models have a
very similar aesthetic that stays true to the quintessential sport and racing
chronograph. Both brands also offer the models in a wide array of metals and
style options. The Rolex Daytona is truly in-house and represents some of the
premier watch technology in the industry. While the 1887 is a good column wheel
chronograph, it does lack the panache of the Rolex. At the end of the day both the
Daytona and the Carrera stay true to their brand’s DNA. If you want the racing
chronograph then it’s got to be the Daytona, but the Carrera is an affordable
modern-day chronograph with a great history. If you enjoyed content like this
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