Launched in 1968 as a chronograph for sailors, the Skipper ref. 7754 has long been one of the more idiosyncratic models created by Heuer, novel and rare enough to be sought after by Heuer aficionados. Now the brand has revived the model in a gently modernised format with the TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper. Based on the Carrera “Glassbox” introduced in March, the new watch retains the regatta-inspired aesthetic of its predecessor but is very much its own watch.
While not nearly as well as known as its auto racing-inspired stablemates like the Autavia and Monaco, the Skipper is very much in keeping with Heuer’s historical speciality of functional chronographs conceived for professional sportspeople. Despite being a fairly niche model, the vintage Skipper is memorable thanks to a distinctive aesthetic, which has been smartly transplanted into the new Skipper.
The new Skipper has a vintage-inspired aesthetic but is a clearly a modern watch, demonstrating TAG Heuer’s ability to successfully reimagine its historical models. It retains the key design elements that made the original memorable, namely the coloured sub-dials and orange seconds hand.
But the new model isn’t a remake, but is essentially a variant of the Carrera Glassbox. As a result, it shares the appeal of the Glassbox, including the case styling and in-house movement. But like the Glassbox, the Skipper feels a little thick at just under 14 mm high, a consequence of the movement inside.
Notably, the new Skipper has the model name in the 12-hour register at nine, which isn’t too obtrusive but it does throw off the balance of the dial ever so slightly. As a result, the dial now bears two model names – “Carrera” and “Skipper” – that explain the model hierarchy of TAG Heuer’s line-up: this is first and foremost a Carrera, but with the functionality and face of a Skipper.
If one had to nitpick, the only downside of the Skipper is the fact that it has no actual regatta-countdown function, a specialised complication that few watches have. But at US$6,750, the Carrera Skipper is priced well enough to be good value. That’s a modest premium over the standard Carrera Glassbox, and one that is worth it given the distinctive aesthetic and interesting history.
The very first Skipper
Today’s Carrera Skipper is a reinterpretation of the first Skipper model, the ref. 7754, introduced in 1968. The original was conceived to mark the victory of Intrepid, the vessel backed by the New York Yacht Club, in the 1967 America’s Cup. A variant of the Carrera ref. 3647 – hence the occasional nickname “Skipperera” – the Skipper ref. 7754 had a deep blue dial with coloured registers – teal for the 30-minute counter and the 15-minute regatta counter segmented into three five-minute blocks in orange, teal, and lagoon green.
Produced only for one year, explaining its rarity, the ref. 7754 was succeeded by other versions of the Skipper, most of which were based on the Autavia. These subsequent Skipper models remained in production until 1983, but it is the original ref. 7754 that gave birth to today’s Carrera Skipper.
The new Skipper is based on the original in more ways than one. Not only does it replicate the livery of the original, it is also based on the current Carrera model, just like the ref. 7754.
Like its vintage namesake, the new Skipper is essentially a variant of the current Carrera, which is the Glassbox. It shares the same case that does away with the bezel and installs a tall, domed crystal. This allows it to have the bowl-shaped chapter ring and raised minute track that define the Carrera Glassbox.
Though the lack of bezel gives the watch a recognisably modern face, the case retains the faceted lugs of the 1960s Carrera, albeit in larger format. The case is 39 mm in diameter and a height of 13.9 mm, which is compact enough for a modern-day sports chronograph in terms of diameter, but still quite thick on the wrist. Case thickness is a weakness of most TAG Heuer chronographs, simply as a consequence of the tall in-house movement found in most of its watches.
A familiar livery
Much like how the Carrera Glassbox reimagines the vintage Carrera, the new Skipper adopts the important elements of the vintage original while still being its own watch.
The dial retains all of the important bits of the ref. 7754, namely the distinctive colours on the sub-dials and hands, all of which are overlaid on the Carrera Glassbox dial. So the dial retains its bowl-shaped chapter ring, but is now in a dark, metallic blue modelled on the ref. 7754.
And like the original, the new Skipper has an orange seconds hand, but also additional orange accents on the tips of the hour and minute hands as well as the hour markers and constant seconds. The extra orange accents are restrained and have just enough colour to give the dial life without going overboard.
The two sub-dials are in the same colour as the vintage original, though the register at nine is now an hour counter instead of constant seconds as on the original. Instead the new Skipper opts for a “ghost” seconds register at six o’clock that also includes the date window. Naturally, the vintage Skipper did not have a date, but the addition of the date here isn’t too intrusive, perhaps because of the strong dial colours.
The most notable aspect of the dial is actually the 15-minute counter at three simply because the standard Carrera Glassbox has a 30-minute counter. This required a tweak to the movement.
Inside the Skipper is the TH20-06 derived from the TH20-00 movement in the Carrera Glassbox. A new and improved version of the workhorse Heuer 02, the TH20-00 was developed by the team led by Carole Forsetier-Kasapi, the chief of movement development at TAG Heuer.
The Skipper’s TH20-06 has a simple yet effective modification for the minute counter. In the standard movement, the vertical clutch has one protruding finger that impulses a 30-toothed minute counter wheel once a minute.
The TH20-06 instead has two fingers on the vertical clutch, thus impulsing the minute counter wheel twice a minute, double the rate of travel of the minute counter hand. This simple modification means the minute counter completes a full revolution every 15 minutes instead of 30. Notably, the modification can be seen in action as the vertical clutch is visible through the display back.
Like all variants of the TH20-00, the TH20-06 incorporates both a column wheel and vertical clutch, along with a substantial power reserve of 80 hours.
And like TAG Heuer’s other movements, and most movements in this price segment, the movement decoration leans towards the industrial. With that in mind, I would have preferred a closed back, perhaps one with a yachting-inspired motif.
Like several of TAG Heuer’s recent launches, the new Skipper pays homage to a vintage model without being a one-for-one remake. And the result is a success, because the new model instantly evokes the ref. 7754 “Skipperera” but equally looks like a modern-day Carrera Glassbox.
The new Skipper is probably the most appealing of all the Glassbox iterations, and considering the closeness in pricing between the two, this is a compelling proposition.
Key facts and price
TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper
Diameter: 39 mm
Height: 13.9 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 100 m
Functions: Hour, minutes, seconds, date, and chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hours (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 80 hours
Strap: Fabric strap with folding clasp
Limited edition: No
Availability: At TAG Heuer boutiques and retailers
For more, visit Tagheuer.com.
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