The 2009 TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Calibre 36 RS2 Caliper Chronograph Ti2 is based on the 2008 concept (and also accompanied by a less expensive version in brushed stainless steel (ref. CAV5115.BA0902, pictured in the collage above.) It is probably the best wristwatch that you can get if you are on the market for a sporty chronograph with a nice high-tech twist to it.
The Overall Impression
The new Grand Carrera Calibre 36 RS2 Caliper Chronograph Ti2 was first revealed less than a month ago at the Baselworld 2009 trade fair. Like other members of the collection, the new Grand Carrera doesn’t try to impress you with hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of highly skilled labor invested into each timepiece before it was carefully taken off the table and packed into a hand-made presentation box crafted from some rare and precious wood.
No. TAG Heuer prefers to live in the future rather than dwell in the past. It takes just a glance that this new model was designed and built using the finest computer-assisted tools currently available on the market. All of its numerous components were made with the level of precision that is probably close to that used in the manufacturing of a Formula 1 car’s engine. It looks and feels as cold as a slab of titanium alloy its body and bracelet were machined from. It’s almost perfect.
And this is, probably, its greatest strength that is, at the same time, its greatest weakness: as perfect as it is, some may find it sterile and even soulless, as lacking in the character as a state of the art Artificial Intelligence system that always calculates, but never feels.
The Case & Strap
Sporting a mid-sized -at least, by today’s standards- high-grade titanium case that measures 43 millimeters in diameter, the Grand Carrera Calibre 36 RS2 Caliper Chronograph Ti2 is still massive with its deliberately brutal styling: doing my research for this review, I have seen dozens of wrist shots of -otherwise absolutely happy- owners and got an impression that you need to be either muscular or overweight for the piece to look normal on your wrist. I mean, it dwarfs an average wrist by occupying all of its width and getting a great deal of vertical space with its height of whole 15 millimeters from top to bottom.
On the other hand, this is just my impression, which is, of course, purely subjective: I know several people who love to wear huge timekeepers. Maybe some childhood trauma, I don’t know.
Usability-wise, both crowns, as well as the pair of chronograph push-pieces, are easy to operate with the former being large for a good, effortless grip, and the latter featuring short travel that ends with a deeply satisfying ‘click’ every time you engage the chronograph function.
The front sapphire crystal has a nice layer of anti-reflective coating on it, while the one on the back is tinted (or rather smoked) to better match the overall feel of the piece, while still giving you a good view at the mechanism that powers the piece.
Oh, and two more things about the case. First of all, the Grade 2 Titanium that TAG Heuer decided to employ for this timekeeper is generally harder and more corrosion-resistant than most titanium alloys used in cheaper watches. It is popular in the medical, marine, and aerospace industry for the compromise that it offers between moderate formability and great strength. Without going into details, you actually want your timekeeper to be crafted from Ti2 if you are interested in a lightweight and, at the same time, relatively scratch-proof wristwatch. Yet, to make it last even longer, the brand from Switzerland decided to use titanium carbide treatment that makes it even less prone to scratches.
While we are at it, when it comes to the choice of metal and finish, the production 2009 model uses the same approach as the Calibre 36 RS Caliper Chronograph Concept that was unveiled at Baselworld 2008.
While the version in stainless steel comes either on a high-quality bracelet or a rubber strap, the version in titanium’s ‘default’ strap (ref. CAV5185.FC6237) is black leather with nice contrast red stitching that has a comfortable and easy to adjust secure deployment clasp: something that you can expect in this price range. There is, by the way, an optional black rubber strap (ref. CAV5185.FT6020) that you can order the watch on. It’s a nice accessory for a person willing to make his (or her) watches more unique without wasting time searching for aftermarket parts.
Of course, style-wise, this is the same Calibre 36 RS Caliper Chronograph from the last year.
As you can see, there is a linear car dashboard-style retrograde seconds indicator at 9 o’clock (I must admit that it looks fascinating with its smooth, almost linear movement,) as well as a pair of chronograph sub-dials at 3 and 6 o’clock for displaying elapsed minutes and hours respectively. The traditional bridge that visually connects the two chronograph totalizers and the central chronograph second hand now features a nice combination of horizontal Geneva stripes and mirror-polished, beveled edges that are echoed by a similarly finished “arc” over the 30-minute counter at 3 hours.
The date window is still comfortably placed between four and five hours and is still woefully small although, truth be told, I don’t know how would I have sold this readability problem: a big date window would probably look nice at 12 o’clock, but it would be a real shame to lose this applied TAG Heuer logo in the upper half of the dial.
The dial is probably the most interesting thing here. As the name suggests (or, rather, states explicitly) there is a “caliper” on its dial that, in two words, allows you to more easily calculate readings of the central chronograph second hand with a precision of up to 1/10th of a second. As ingenious in its simplicity as it is, the “caliper” with its tiny red arrow and a carefully engraved 0-to-0 scale allows you to get a precise reading of the chronograph without putting an unnecessary strain on your eyes: no, you don’t have to guess anymore.
To get the reading after the chronograph is stopped, you need to rotate the secondary crown at 10 o’clock to move the “caliper” in a counter- or clockwise direction until the red triangle is aligned with the silver-toned chronograph second hand. Then, you simply check which marking on the “caliper” is better aligned with a 1-second marking on the chapter ring. If it is “6”, then you have to add 1/6th of a second to the “full” position of the chronograph second hand. If it’s “3”, you add 1/3rd. On the picture above that I’ve prepared using a fragment of the promotional video at the beginning of this brief review, the marks are met at “8” meaning that precisely 5.8 seconds passed between the chronograph being engaged and stopped.
Well, you probably get the idea.
Frankly, I find the complication utterly useless, but VERY entertaining.
The watch is powered by the same Calibre 36 RS COSC-certified chronometer movement that beats at a fast pace of 36,000 vibrations per minute and allows for both measuring and displaying 1/10 of a second time intervals.
Some 30 millimeters in diameter, the beautifully crafted movement offers a formidable power reserve of 50 hours as well as sports a rapid date correction system: a convenient feature for those traveling from Japan to San-Francisco and back.
The Pricing & Availability
The Calibre 36 RS2 Caliper Chronograph Ti2 will go on sale later this year with an initial price of $10,500 (MSRP). As impressive as it is, the price is more or less justified by a combination of an in-house caliber, great finish, and superior industrial design.
Photos: TAG Heuer / WorldWatchReview.com
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Calibre 36 RS2 Caliper Chronograph Ti2 specification
Price: $10,500 (MSRP)
Movement: Calibre 36 RS Caliper Chronograph, automatic, 36,000 vph, Swiss Made
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Complications: Chronograph with 1/10 seconds indicator, date between 4 and 5 o’clock, linear seconds indicator at 9 o’clock
Power reserve: 50 hours
Case: Grade 2 Titanium (Ti2)
Size: 43.00 mm
Case height: 15.00 mm
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Titanium bracelet or a black rubber strap
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Back: Sapphire, tinted