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Review: TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper for HODINKEE

This surprise collaboration between TAG Heuer and the website HODINKEE from 2017 sold out in an instant. We go in depth to see if it lives up to the hype.

In June of 2017, TAG Heuer and HODINKEE dropped a major surprise on the watch collecting community with the release of a limited edition Carrera Skipper to be sold exclusively through the HODINKEE Shop. This wasn’t just TAG releasing one of their watches online though, this was a true collaboration, with heavy design influence coming from HODINKEE staff. Vintage Heuer stewards will no doubt recognize the Skipper name, and indeed, the new LE draws heavily from the reference 7754 “Skipperera” from the late ‘60s. All 125 examples of the watch were sold before noon on the day of release.

Whatever your feelings on the current state of TAG Heuer, there’s no denying the character and charm found in vintage Heuer models before being acquired by the TAG Group in 1985. The Skipper for HODINKEE captures that feeling in a unique way, as it’s not a direct recreation, but rather, a re-imagining that incorporates design cues from not just the 7754, but also the 3147. The result is something so natural you’d swear you’ve seen it before on the likes of OnTheDash. But this is a very modern, very wearable watch, and to find out just how good (or otherwise) it is, we made this a daily driver and put it through its paces.

Historical Context

HODINKEE Skipper at left, the original at right. Credit: HODINKEE

There’s a lot to unpack with the newest Skipper, including the rather unusual origins of the original. The Skipper ref 7754 is among the rarest of all vintage Heuer watches, let alone of the Carrera. There are less than 20 known to have been brought to market, according to research done by the Heuer collecting community. The impetus for its creation was a racing yacht by the name Intrepid, who’s victory at the America’s Cup in 1967 spurred Heuer to create the Skipper. While the Skipper family was in production through 1978 in a variety of forms, the very first reference 7754 was the shortest lived.

One of the many unique traits found on the Intrepid was color of the deck. The distinctive light green color was chosen for its ability to resist distracting reflections (according to a study done by MIT). It also made for the perfect dial accent color for Heuer (unofficially, at least) in the Skipper watch, which was designed in 1967, and released to the public in 1968. The ref 7754 housed the then new Valjoux 7730, making it a dual register chronograph, with a running seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock, and a minute register at 3 o’clock broken into 3 5-minute segments that counted down from 15 to zero (this was a regatta timer, after all).

Heuer Carrera ref 3147 "Dato 45". Credit: HODINKEE

Each of those three segments in the minute register was a different color: the first 5 were green; the second 5 the light green taken from the Intrepid; the third sector, and final stage of timing, was orange. This tricolor register was set against a dark blue, providing a vivid pop of contrast along with the orange timing seconds hand.

There’s another watch that needs mentioning when it comes to understanding the design of the new Skipper, and that’s the Carrera ref 3147, or that “Dato” as it’s called thanks to it’s date window positioned at the 9 o’clock hour marker. The new Skipper may have taken the ref 7754 as inspiration, but you’ll notice the new variant lacks a running seconds sub dial, and features a date complication in manner that mirrors the Dato ref 3147. This is a layout rarely seen on watches of any era, and coupled with the selective use of colors, packs a lot of character into a period correct sized package.

The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper for HODINKEE

The Skipper for HODINKEE is a watch that begs a closer look upon first encounter. It is at once simple as well as intricate. From the lugs, to the crystal, to the proportions – it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the design here. Let’s break it down.

The steel case measures 39mm in diameter and isn’t hiding a single brushed surface anywhere, even between the lugs. It’s a case that doesn’t get int its own way, meaning it provides a seamless transition to the crystal and dial, the pushers and crown, and the multi-faceted lugs. The case itself can be found throughout the Carrera family, and serves more than adequately within this application without tarnishing the limited nature of this watch.

Around back you’ll find an exhibition window giving you a view of the automatic Caliber 18 inside. It’s a familiar view to chronograph Carreras, and apart from the “LIMITED EDITION FOR HODINKEE” etching and unique numbering you’d have a hard time picking it out of a crowd. Our preference would have been for a solid caseback, but alas, off the shelf parts keep the price within reason here. The lugs of the Carrera are a defining feature and they bring another dimension to the Skipper. The split angle along the top of the lug catches light differently depending on the angle.

Transitioning from the case to the dial, we have the generously domed crystal, recreating the look of vintage models with great effect. At pretty much every angle you’ll see the subtle distortion around the edge, and laying flat highlights the “glassbox” case. It looks like plexiglass, but it’s actually sapphire.

The dial is where things get really interesting and more bespoke compared to the rest of the watch. The base is a deep navy with a very soft sunburst texture emanating from the center. The color was taken from another limited edition Carrera for the German market and works perfectly in this application is it closely approximates the base dial color of the original. Against this, the polished, applied hour markers pop nearly as much as the single sub dial.

Signage is minimal here, mimicking almost exactly the ref 7754 with just three words finding their way onto the dial. At 12 o’clock, we have the old school “Heuer” shield logo underneath the “Skipper” text. At 6 o’clock, a very small “Swiss” can be found. Both are are pure white, jumping off the dark dial without interfering with the more colorful elements. That “Swiss” at 6 o’clock is the only part that differs from the original, as it’s missing the “T” above it, which denoted the use of tritium at the outset of the hour markers. While no longer tritium, those plots are still present in the new Skipper.

The date window located at 3 o’clock stands out proudly, taking no shame in its presence with a fully polished and faceted frame around it. This is exactly as it appears on the Dato ref 3147. As controversial as date windows can be, this execution provides a level of balance to the dial as a whole, and makes no apologies in the process.

Heading to the other side of the dial, we’re met with the star of the show, so to speak. The large sub dial for the timing minutes, and home of the three individual sectors, this time broken into 10 minute segments. The colors remain mostly true to the original, with green, light green (seafoam?) and orange. The colors pair with one another beautifully, their appearance, along with the layout, make the watch unlike anything else on the market today. The only other color found on the dial is the bright orange timing seconds hand. There is no running seconds hand or sub dial, as that gear has been removed from the movement on the new Skipper.

One final detail hidden away is the minute track against the rehaut, which also features ticks for the timing seconds hand to be read against. This element almost disappears in daily use (thanks in part to the high dome of the crystal), but is a welcome addition in terms of functionality.

On The Wrist

The new Skipper wears beautifully thanks to its 39mm case size, and angled lugs which tuck the strap neatly against the wrist. This is also a relatively light watch, which, along with the favorable diameter, make the watch a breeze to wear everyday. At 13.6mm thick, this isn’t exactly a svelte watch, but it carries most of that thickness at the top due to the high crystal, and doesn’t really present itself in daily wear.

Another reason this watch is so easy to wear are the included straps. Three straps were included with the watch: a navy perforated leather strap with deployant clasp; a grey NATO, and an orange NATO. Additionally, an optional moss green leather strap was available at a discount when purchasing. That last one is important, as it not only looks the best with the watch, it wears the best with the watch. The moss green is light enough to provide contrast with the dark blue dial, but dark enough to compliment the case appropriately.

This isn’t a subtle watch on the wrist, but it also doesn’t scream for attention in the way other modern watches do, especially ones with entirely polished cases. While easy to wear everyday, it presents itself as a watch geared very much for recreational activities or weekend excursions. If you’ve got a mojito in your hand, it’s hard to picture this watch being out of place.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Carrera Skipper for HODINKEE is a beautiful and creative take on a pair of classics from the glory days of Heuer. Sure, there’s plenty of off the shelf components to be found, but they all play into the hand of what this watch is trying to be. Nothing feels forced here. That said, the list price of $5,900 feels appropriate given the limited nature and well constructed design. We’ve seen resale prices go beyond the $10k mark on StockX, so there’s clearly a demand for these watches.

There’s not much we’d change about the new Skipper, and if you should come across one at retail price, you’d be hard pressed to find a more unique watch for the money. Once things get over $10k, you run up against some serious competition from the likes of Rolex, JLC, and even independents like Habring. Is the HODINKEE connection worth the premium? I’m a biased source on the matter, as I was a contributing writer on their team for over 6 years, but if recent prices are anything to go by, the answer to that seems clear.

If you’re keen to get your hands on the Carrera Skipper for HODINKEE, but aren’t prepared to pay resale prices, keep an eye on this space, as we’ll be offering this very watch for its retail price of $5,900 in the near future. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter (at the top right of this page) to be the first to know about this and other promotions, as well as get the latest content from the blog.

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