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Damn Skippy: The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Hodinkee

If you’re a citizen of the online watch world, chances are you’re very familiar with Hodinkee. From their humble beginnings in 2008 as founder Ben Clymer’s watch blog, the company has branched out in a big way—they are now a titan of watch journalism, run an online watch store, and even sell watch insurance. Beginning in 2015, Hodinkee started collaborating with luxury brands to create collectible watches. Omega, IWC, Hermès, and others, not to mention the legendary camera company Leica, have all teamed up with Hodinkee to create exclusive offerings. Today, we’ll take a look at one such collaboration: The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper for Hodinkee ref. CAR221B.FC6350.

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The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper for Hodinkee was released in 2018, the 50th anniversary of the original, with a limited run of just 125 pieces. To understand this watch, it’s important to grasp the history of the Heuer Carrera, and specifically of the Heuer Carrera Skipper reference 7754, from which the Hodinkee model draws much of its inspiration. 

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Heuer’s Carrera line debuted in 1963. These beautiful chronographs actually had quite a bit in common with their Rolex competitors—they featured dials made by Singer (just like Daytonas) and movements made by Valjoux (just like Daytonas, although Rolex added some proprietary tweaks). In fact, some of these early Daytonas and Carreras even share identical hour markers and register design elements. Take a close look and you might notice that Omega’s Speedmaster dials—also by Singer—shared the same subdial numerals.

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Still, despite the similarities with these other formidable chronographs, the Carrera earns its own place in the pantheon. It’s named for the thrilling—and often deadly—Carrera Panamericana auto race through Mexico; in fact, the name Carrera translates to “race” in Spanish. The watch was sleek and undeniably stylish, doing away with unnecessary dial elements that could disrupt its legibility. Jack Heuer, who had just recently taken over the company, wanted a minimalistic design, in keeping with the modern design and architecture zeitgeist of the early ‘60s. With an uncluttered dial, long, diamond-polished lugs, and an innovative, highly-water-resistant crystal, the watch has an effortless tool watch cool-factor.

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A few years later came a new Carrera that was even more sleek and pared down than its predecessors. As you might guess from the name, the Heuer Carrera Skipper (ref. 7754) takes inspiration from nautical, rather than automotive, sports. Released in 1968, the watch celebrated the victory of the yacht Intrepid at the 1967 America’s Cup. The Intrepid, designed by the renowned Olin Stephens, was a cutting-edge yacht featuring a number of important innovations. For one, the rudder was separated from the keel and had an added trim tab. Also, an unusually low boom created an “end-plate effect” making the mainsail more efficient. The boat’s design would influence future racing yachts for decades to come. It would go on to win the 1970 America’s Cup, as well. Certainly, this feat of engineering deserved to be honored with an equally-bold and race-minded timepiece. 

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The ref. 7754, which inspired the Hodinkee model, is a colorful regatta timer. It features a single tri-colored 15-minute counter at 3 o’clock, meant to allow the yacht’s skipper to keep an eye on the countdown during a regatta. This, along with the 9 o’clock register, swims in a sea of deep blue on the dial. The color palette for the subdials was drawn from the paint scheme of the Intrepid. 

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To say that these ref. 7754 Carrera Skippers—or “Skippereras” as they are often referred to in the collecting community—are rare or collectible is a laughable understatement. Fewer than 20 of these watches are believed to have been made and only 12 are known to still be around. In fact, Heuer aficionados debated for years whether the reference ever actually existed in the first place, although it was finally confirmed in 2008. 

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Now that we’re up to speed on this fabled reference and its lineage, let’s check out Hodinkee’s homage to it that they created with TAG Heuer in 2017. Hodinkee describes the new watch as “inspiration, not imitation” —and even a quick glance at the two side by side makes it clear what they mean. While the new watch borrows the ethos of the original “Skipperera,” the designers have incorporated a number of tweaks and upgrades resulting in a modern twist on the legendary reference. For one, while the iconic faceted lugs of the original can be found on the Hodinkee model, the modern “Glassbox” case uses sapphire crystal rather than plexiglass. They also chose to eschew the 3 o’clock subdial in favor of a date window. This move is a nod to another Heuer model from the same period as the Skipper: the ref. 3147 “Dato  45.” Another highly collectible reference, the Dato 45’s pairing of a date window with a chronograph was groundbreaking at the time. 

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As for the movement, this watch uses a modern TAG Heuer caliber 18. The automatic caliber 18 is what allows for the single 9 o’clock subdial, a chronograph register divided into 10-minute intervals by three color sectors. Modern regattas commonly employ 10 minute countdowns, making this a functional update. The movement beats at 4 Hz and features a 40-hour power reserve as well as a quick-set date. 

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The case size has been increased from 35mm to 39mm, which keeps the vintage feel without being quite so small. The word “TAG” is not present anywhere on the crown, dial, buckle, or box. This is the case with the brand’s other historical models, something that purists can no doubt appreciate. 

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The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper for Hodinkee was produced in a limited 125-piece run with each watch numbered “XXX/125” on the caseback. If you’re someone with ocean water in your blood and a taste for history, you can’t miss with this modern take on a super-rare classic. 

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