In 1971, TAG Heuer’s then CEO, Jack Heuer, who was the great-grandson of the watchmaker’s founder, embarked on a journey from the company’s Swiss headquarters to Maranello, the Italian town housing Ferrari. Jack walked into Enzo Ferrari’s office with a proposition: in exchange for visibility on Ferrari’s Formula 1 team’s cars and uniforms, TAG Heuer would provide them with cutting-edge timing equipment for free. Additionally, he offered Ferrari drivers an elegant variation of the Carrera, TAG Heuer’s iconic stainless steel chronograph, named after the challenging Carrera Panamericana rally race in Mexico. This specific model, known as the 1158 CHN, crafted in 18-karat gold with champagne dials and noir subdials, became particularly enticing to the luxury carmaker.
The golden Carrera swiftly became the preferred timepiece for legendary Ferrari drivers such as Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, and Clay Regazzoni. Mario Andretti opted for a slightly different variation without the black subdials. These drivers didn’t just wear the watches for display; they used them for timing laps. The strategic partnership was a success, leading to a notable boost in sales, as noted by Jack Heuer, who, at 91, still recalls the impact.
Over 50 years later, the endorsement from Ferrari’s golden age drivers continues to pay off for TAG Heuer. The CHN remains a classic piece in the brand’s portfolio, even making an appearance on Ken’s wrist in Barbie. While only a limited number of the original model were produced, the Carrera’s 60th anniversary prompted a reissue of the CHN, among other archival grails, with the new model priced at $21,500. TAG Heuer is carving out its place in the world of stainless steel sport watches, akin to Rolex’s Daytona, with the Carrera now enjoying renewed popularity.
The reissued Carrera faithfully replicates the 1971 original, a move that collectors will appreciate. However, the delicate balance for a watch brand lies in navigating its historical legacy. Modern updates, even minor ones, can be a challenge when dealing with timepieces cherished for their heritage. The new version introduces some alterations, such as the addition of a third subdial, likely to spark discussions among collectors. Nevertheless, the opportunity to own a version of a rare watch that often commands prices exceeding $30,000 at auctions is bound to delight most enthusiasts.
The 1158 CHN holds a special place among TAG Heuer’s coveted timepieces, earning the status of an all-time grail. According to Jeff Stein, an expert on the brand, it is a sought-after piece, creating a sense of camaraderie among those fortunate enough to possess the 1158. As the world of watches in 2023 embraces models that seamlessly blend sportiness and luxury, the reissued CHN, a lavish golden watch associated with Ferrari, perfectly aligns with the zeitgeist.