Today, TAG Heuer is surprising the watch world with the rebirth of one of its most well-known watches – the Skipper – in a brand new package. It’s old meets new with 2023 TAG Heuer Skipper, but before we touch on what makes this novelty special, it’s important to take a walk through the past and see how it got here. And then when you’re done reading, come back and watch the video.
If you’re the yachting type, you’re no doubt familiar with the Intrepid – a groundbreaking vessel in its time known for winning the famed America’s Cup race in 1967. That boat, weighing over 6,000 pounds, now rests at the docks of Newport, Rhode Island, and is best known in horological circles for the distinct blue color of its deck. The reason we watch-lovers know about the color on a more-than-half-a-century-old boat is because it inspired one of the most iconic vintage watches on the planet: The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Glass Box ref. 7754, also known as the “Skipperera.” Literal paint chips were taken off the deck of the Intrepid to ensure the hue matched the subdials of that watch, which went into development in 1967 before entering production in 1968.
The Skipper is something of a singular design, and while there were Skippers made in a variety of Heuer “body styles,” it’s the TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Glass Box that stands out above all others. Produced for about a decade, the Heuer Skipper is as recognizable as a Paul Newman Daytona and known for several visual hallmarks: Its deep blue sunray dial, and its use of orange, green, and Intrepid blue. It’s racing-chronograph meets the sea – a pseudo yachting watch.
In 2017, Hodinkee founder Ben Clymer turned his love of that vintage reference into a special limited edition in collaboration with TAG Heuer: The TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Glass Box For Hodinkee. Utilizing the 39mm vintage-meets-modern case design in TAG’s catalogue at the time, that watch was a rethinking of the Skipper mold. Where the OG was roughly 36mm in diameter, this one was 3mm larger. Instead of two subdials, ours had one tri-color sub-register and a date window at three o’clock, but maintained the same blue dial color. This watch also featured solo Heuer branding and the Skipper positioned at period-accurate 12 o’clock (more on that later). That LE is, without question, the watch we get the most requests for – five years after it sold out. It goes without saying that we really love it. It’s with that love in mind that we were excited to see that TAG Heuer was returning to the Skipper with a brand new 2023 release, but with some truly interesting changes. Those changes are related to another hallmark release from the brand earlier this year at Watches & Wonders: The complete re-design of the Carrera chronograph with the introduction of the new 39mm Glassbox. That watch was the talk of the show with its pronounced crystal and sloped dial creating a 39mm watch that wears more like a 37 due to its lug-to-lug measurement.
This new Skipper shares its design with the standard blue glassbox with its date placement at six o’clock. Instead of the internal tachymeter readout on the sloped portion of the dial, this one forgoes the use of numerals, using conventional markers instead – this is a yachting watch after all. Ahead of today’s launch we had a chance to see the new Skipper in real life, well – more like in make-believe life. That’s because we were able to take the watch out for a sail in Newport, Rhode Island – on the Intrepid. I was onboard with those you know: Ben Clymer, James Stacey, and Will Holloway – and some maybe you know less well: video team members Jonathan McWhorter and Joe Wyatt. Getting the watch back to the place that inspired its very existence was akin to visiting a museum. But this was a live museum, and as I walked on that iconic blue deck, I couldn’t help but take the watch off my wrist and hold it against the blue surface and examine the 1:1 color match. The new TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Glass Box felt very at home here, even if I didn’t (although I did indeed raise the jib, fold the sails, and captain the Intrepid temporarily, I’m by no means a yachtsman). The feeling of being carried by the wind through the waves on an old old wooden ship just felt right. Aware of the historical connection, we came prepared. Not only did we have the new Skipper on hand, but we also had a ref. 7754 (courtesy of Mr. Clymer), and also our own Skipper LE. The trio really showed the power of this design. Having them lined up also allowed for easy examination of everything new in this latest iteration of the Skipper – so let’s get into it. The first thing you’ll notice on this new TAG Heuer Skipper is the overall modern appearance. It takes on the look of the new 39mm Glassbox design, as noted earlier. Those modern flourishes are muted, however, by the overall color scheme and use of vintage-inspired typography. One major departure from the Skipper design mold is the decision by TAG to keep the Carrera wordmark at 12 o’clock. Historically, that spot has been reserved for the word Skipper. Instead, we find TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Glass Box in the all-blue subdials at nine o’clock, just beneath the numerals eight and four.
In some ways this watch is very faithful to the original Skipper because it brings back the subdials at three and nine, the former executed in the recognizable tri-color green, orange and blue. Where the OG didn’t include the date, this one has the date tucked neatly at six o’clock, in line with a very under-the-radar small-seconds display with alternating markers in white and orange.
The dial maintains that deep blue sunray finish with applied markers on the main portion of that dial. There are orange-painted accents above each marker, and then a second set of markings on the sloped edges for use with the chronograph function. Speaking of which, the chronograph hand is done in orange, as are the tips of the hour and minute hand. The 39 mm case is a fairly slim 13.9mm in thickness with very wearable 46mm lug-to-lug measurements. It is also water resistant to 100m, which reassured us as the waves hit the side of the Intrepid during our sail. Inside the watch, and viewable via an exhibition caseback, is the automatic-winding TAG Heuer caliber TH20-06 with its 80 hours of power reserve. This will no doubt be a splashy release (pun fully intended), but I also see this as a really interesting shift from the way TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper Glass Box used to handle its “revival” offerings. By integrating throwback design cues into a modern body with the new Glassbox, it seems the brand is fully invested in maintaining the TAG branding, even on models that speak to the past. So long Heuer. It’s with that idea in mind, that certain design departures – like the positioning of the word Skipper – are acceptable here. This is not a re-edition, but rather a re-birth of the Skipper. While the brand isn’t calling this a limited edition, I have to think production of these will be lower than that of the standard models. And this isn’t just a watch for yachting. It’s a fully capable, modern chronograph from a brand with serious history in that space with a truly colorful backstory.
Now, if you‘re thirsting for content on this new release, and want more coverage of yours truly milling about on a historical yacht with his Hodinkee buddies, be sure to watch the video above. Happy sailing.