Heuer Carrera 300SLR
by Robert-Jan Broer, 4th of June 2011
Named after a race (Le Carrera Panamericana Rally Mexico) that was being held five times from 1950 to 1954, Heuer introduced the Carrera in 1964. This line of watches started out with sleek looking chronographs in the 1960s to the bold and chunky chronographs in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Without looking too much to the past of the Carrera line (as others did this perfectly already), it is fair to say that they've been very interesting both design and movement wise. Starting out with legendary movements such as the Valjoux 72 in the original models (together with Valjoux 92 and Landeron 189 movement based models), switching to Heuer's caliber 11 family - including caliber 12, 14 and 15) and Valjoux 773x from 1969 to the 1970s and using Lemania's work horse caliber 5100 in the 1980s, watch aficionados should consider the Heuer Carrera as a very interesting line of chronograph watches.
Heuer became TAG Heuer in 1984 and reference numbers replaced their model's names until they came to their senses again in the late 1990s and started re-issuing their classics, starting with the Carrera.
Mercedes Benz 300SLR
Since then, various Carrera models have been introduced, both chronographs and non-chronographs. In 2010, TAG Heuer introduced the 300SLR, a limited edition of the Carrera Caliber 1887, restricted to 5000 pieces only. 300SLR refers to Mercedes Benz's racing car developed in 1955 for the FIA World Sportscar Championship season.
Also, the 300SLR was used during the Targa Florio in Sicily and the Mille Miglia. Stirling Moss won the Mille Miglia in 1955 with this sports car, assisted by co-driver Denis Jenkinson.
Unfortunately, to say the least, the 300SLR was also involved in a terrible racing accident during the 24 Hours of Lemans in 1955 where 83 people lost their lives because of an accident with this car. Because of problems with the brakes, the 300SLR hit another car and ignited and launched like a missile and landed in the middle of a large group of spectators. Mercedes Benz withdrew from further motorsport activities until the 1980s.
Nevertheless, the 300SLR was (and still is) a beautiful sports car and has been 're-issued' just like the Carrera watch just a few years ago (2007).
Picture by Mercedes Benz
Heuer 300SLR Movement
Truth to be told that I was never that interested in TAG Heuer - or simply Heuer - that much, until I recently met with the Caliber 1887 and 300SLR limited edition chronograph. I can't explain my lack of interest other than that there are other brands that I was more focused on. It is almost embarrassing, but it was also the first time I was able to look at the column wheel chronograph movement that raised a lot of dust, caliber 1887. It has even been called 'Caliber 1887'-gate by some.
Based on the design of Seiko's 6S37 movement, TAG Heuer developed and produced this caliber 1887 movement. Even TAG Heuer's CEO JC Babin was active here on Watchuseek to answer questions from worried TAG Heuer fans. In the end, I'll leave it up to you if you want to consider this movement in-house, but I personally do so.
The 300SLR does not have a transparent case back, but the 'regular' Caliber 1887 model does, so at least I was able to admire it on the latter model. Even though I consider this caliber 1887 as a pretty looking movement, I am not a big fan of transparent case backs that much unless it is something really special. Call it overkill of looking through transparent case backs, but I prefer a nice engraving or a bit of information on the watch on the back. However, I can imagine that there are enough people who would love to look at the watch's movement.
Just knowing that there is something good inside, is enough for me. As long as I can look up the movement in a catalogue or on the internet, I am fine.
A nice thing to see is that TAG Heuer is very transparent when giving specifications about this movement. The movement has a 50 hour power reserve, but the TAG Heuer website clearly states that when you are using the chronograph function (during all times), the power reserve decreases to 40 hours. Most other brands remain vague or unclear at all about this.
Heuer 300SLR Dial
The dial is the most important aspect that captured me about this timepiece. The brown sunbeam dial takes you back to the old days of wristwatches with chronographs and races with interesting cars. Orange tips at all chronograph hands combine very nicely with the brown dial and we see this combination as well in the very nice perforated calf leather strap. The regular seconds hand is located at 9 o'clock at the dial where it says which caliber is inside. On 3 o'clock, the vintage Heuer logo proudly stands below the '300SLR' wording. There is no mentioning of TAG here.
The date window is located at 6 o'clock, in the sub dial of the chronograph hour recorder. Not every Carrera had a tachymetre, but luckily this watch does have one. It is located, as it was on the original 1960s Carreras on the outside of the minute ring, making the dial look bigger than it actually is. Very smart.
Heuer 300SLR Case
Just like all other current Carrera models, the 300SLR edition is very sleek and reminds us of 1960s chronographs like the original Carrera, but also of the Omega Speedmaster (pre-)Pro without crown guards and the Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona without the screw-down pushers. It has a classic line and is in my opinion, timeless. However, in comparison to the other two brand's models mentioned, it lacks the variation of beveled polished edges and brushed parts. The bezel is satinized though and looks nice in combination with the polished case. However, I would not have mind if TAG Heuer did a bit more work on the case.
Already mentioned above, but the case back is not transparent like most other watches these days. A trend that I consider nice for those who only have one watch or who have a deep appreciation for a watch's mechanical movement, but for me personally not a must have unless the movement is very special or includes a few complex complications. Although the caliber 1887 chronograph movement did create a buzz last year, it is not that special (not saying it isn't an interesting movement).
Anyhow, the case back of the TAG Heuer 300SLR shows an engraved Mercedes-Benz 300SLR and below that, the confirmation that you actually did purchase a Limited Edition and which number you have of all 5000 pieces. During the introduction, it was said that there would 'only' be 3000 pieces and also the press release pictures showed a total of 3000 on the backside. TAG Heuer decided to raise this number to 5000, probably knowing that authorized dealers were able to sell this many of them. Furthermore, the case back has some relevant information like the caliber number of the movement and the level of water resistance (100 meters) and the less relevant information like 'Mercedes-Benz 300SLR' and that it has been made in Switzerland and TAG Heuer has been doing so since 1860. I say less relevant, because the dial already notified you about the brand's name, the Swiss manufacturing process and that it's a '300SLR'. Less is more.
Just like the dial indicates, there is no mentioning of 'TAG' here either. Although I don't like the typical 1980s TAG logo (with the arrow in the G), I wonder why TAG Heuer is making this clear distinction between their TAG Heuer and Heuer watches. Of course, I know the answer, but it simply isn't a vintage Heuer and since 1984, there is TAG in front of that name. A redesign of the 'TAG" logo might be a good idea to make good with fans of vintage Heuer watches. Using both brand names and logos for Heuer and TAG Heuer for the same type of watches might be a bit confusing for those who just want to buy a nice watch (and are not that into watches as we are). Well, perhaps they don't care as well, I could be wrong here.
Heuer 300SLR Strap
A racing strap should have holes, just like the leather gloves that come with racing sports cars. The brown color on the outside and the orange color and stitching on the inside, make this leather strap a perfect match for the 300SLR (timepiece). A soft and comfortable strap I must say, would love to have one of these on some of my other watches as well.
The folding clasp is something special as well, with the large clasp shaped in the form of the Heuer logo. It also has the Heuer logo engraved, which looks pretty impressive. The clasp has two release buttons on the side that you'll need to push to be able to take the watch off your wrist.
There have been more reviews about this watch, but as I am not the typical Heuer fan, I thought it might be fun to do a write-up about the 300SLR as it actually triggered my interest in this watch (and brand). Although loving the iconic Monaco and did have my interest in a vintage Heuer Daytona at some point in my life as watch collector, I've never owned a (TAG) Heuer and perhaps I never will. However, if I was in the running for a nice chronograph in this price range, I might have taken the plunge on this 300SLR model.
In all honesty, my love is with the Omega Speedmaster (Professional) and I can't stop comparing these two iconic watches, where I find the Speedmaster more interesting design wise, I do love the new TAG Heuer caliber 1887 movement and think the price is very fair. With a list price of approximately 2800 Euro for the Speedmaster Professional (most basic version) and approximately 3400 Euro for the Heuer 300SLR both watches are very interesting in this price range where the Heuer is perhaps in advance due to its new column wheel chronograph movement.
In any case, 3400 Euro seems a very fair price to me for this watch, considering the in-house movement and all the details that TAG Heuer has put in their 300SLR. The link with Mercedes-Benz is nice, but does not add much for me personally any other than that I love the 300SLR and similar 300SL Gullwing cars of that era.
Photo credits for the Heuer 300 SLR pictures go to Dimer van Santen.