The new Carrera Skipper, as it’s officially known, is a remake of beloved vintage Swiss made replica watches from Tag Heuer’s archives—only a few hundred of the original were ever made. Among the brand’s many grails, “I definitely put the Skipper right at the top,” Jeff Stein, founder of the Heuer-dedicated website OnTheDash said over the phone Tuesday.
Fifteen years ago, Stein made a discovery that may well have tilted watch history. In January 2008, Stein was at the opening party of Tag Heuer’s museum in Switzerland when he ambled upstairs with fellow Heuer diehard Nic Green. He was peering through the glass cases when he came upon AAA UK fake watches that felt totally out of place. Despite his extensive knowledge of the brand, it was a watch he couldn’t place at all, with a vibrant blue dial and colorful subdials divided into orange, mossy green, and teal. “It looked as though it were homemade,” Stein said. “[Nic and I] both looked at it and said, ‘What the hell is that? How did that get in the museum?’”
Stein took a murky picture of the luxury replica watches through the glass, went back home to the U.S., and shared his discovery on a Heuer-dedicated forum. Within the day it had a nickname: the Skipperera, named for the fact it was a Skipper inside a Carrera case. Stein had never heard about the watch because it was never a part of the Heuer catalog. The top copy watches was originally issued to celebrate the crew of the Intrepid, the yacht that won the 1967 America’s Cup regatta. The colorful Skipperera subdial is designed to measure the countdown at the start of a regatta—typically an interval of 5, 10, or 15 minutes—during which the yachts jockey for position at the starting line. (Yachting timers are common across the watch world and come in many different forms).
Naturally, the combination of scarcity and killer good looks made the Skipperera an instant collector’s item. “The fact that the originals are like $80,000 to $100,000 Swiss movements replica watches makes it clear that this is a seriously beloved model,” said Nicholas Biebuyck, Tag Heuer’s heritage director. Even a 2017 tribute made in collaboration with Hodinkee, which Stein owns, now sells for many multiples of the original retail price of $5,900.
The process to remake such a big-deal watch sounds exhausting. The meetings were endless, according to Biebuyck. “We literally have, like, three-hour working sessions to decide on naming,” Biebuyck said. The Tag team cycled through multiple shades of blue on the dial to find the right one. To help inform his thinking, Biebuyck wrangled prototypes with the different blues, balanced the strapless fake watches for sale against his wrist, and took a photo on his iPhone rather than a fancy studio-grade camera. “You need to understand that people are going to take pictures of this for the ‘Gram, you’re going to see it across poorly lit restaurants,” Biebuyck said. “From an aesthetic component, you have to consider that.”
Updating hallowed replica watches online made in 1968 and bringing it into 2023 is a tricky balancing act. Heritage, Biebuyck said, is a double-edged sword. “On the one hand, you have this great inspiration to draw from, but on the other, you have to respect this. You can’t just completely break it down and do something totally different.”
Biebuyck is already ready for collectors to get upset about the new Skipperera, which is more of an homage to the original watch than a faithful one-to-one production. The 2023 1:1 TAG Heuer fake watches maintains the original’s distinguishing vibrancy, and the pops of orange, green, and teal burst with even more satisfying color on the 2023 version. Even the blue takes on a depths-of-the-ocean pitch that amps up the contrast with the colorful subregisters. Still: “I can already see the comments,” Biebuyck said warily.
So, what are they going to say? “They’re going to complain about the running seconds [the subdial at 6 o’clock], they’re gonna complain about the ‘Skipper’ on the dial, they’re probably going to complain about the date, they’re going to complain about the Tag Heuer logo, which they always do,” said Biebuyck. But he understands that making a watch in 2023 is about doing more than appeasing the small but vocal minority. Collectors, he says, love to be able to read the date on their high quality replica watches, for instance. (The vocal minority believes this window clunks up the dial.) In my opinion, if there’s one reasonable gripe, it’s that the third subregister at 6 o’clock is one ingredient too many. The reasoning for it is technical: the movement inside the top super clone watches has to have three subdials. “The hash marks look a little bit fussy,” Stein said. OK, that’s enough nerdy stuff.
The Skipper isn’t just a cool and unique watch—it’s also massively important in the history of Tag Heuer. The perfect replica watches laid the foundation for Heuer to push into other aquatic endeavors like diving. And when Heuer became Tag Heuer in the mid-’80s, the company leaned on its dive watch collection at the time (the Series 2000) to rebuild the business. “The mental thing is in ‘87, we turn over $30 million and in 1996 we’re turning over $500 million, and we’re super profitable,” says Biebuyck. “It’s funny—from an acorn grows an oak.”
The release of the Skipperera only fans the flames on the Carrera, which I’ve already described as the hottest watch of 2023. It’s the 60th anniversary of the brand’s flagship racing model and Tag’s gone all out to celebrate. The year started with a reproduction of a beloved panda-dial model from the ‘60s. At Watches & Wonders, Tag innovated on the fake watches for men by bringing back a case style from the ‘70s known as the “glassbox,” which gets its name from the large sapphire crystal that curves over the dial and excises the bezel (the ring that usually sits on top of the crystal). The new Skipperera also adopts the Glassbox style, which should be a foundational move for Tag moving forward. This is the best modern update to the Skipperera, in my opinion. I got to try the Glassbox on in Geneva in March, and removing the bezel really makes for a nice, svelte watch.
The Skipperera will be a guaranteed hit for Tag. The watch is a tribute to one of the most beloved and coveted replica watches site in the brand’s lineage. It comes with a bold colorway that’s going to jive perfectly with collectors’ more adventurous tastes in 2023. And the watch has historical heft to boot. “This is a watch that will be very popular,” Stein said. Best of all: this is not a limited-edition. The Skipper is going in the permanent catalog, meaning that even as the fire continues to blaze on the hottest watch of the year, it won’t be out of reach.