TAG Heuer kindly allowed me to keep the Heuer Carrera 01 chronograph I had on test for a couple of weeks longer to put it through its paces on my holidays in Peru. After I took a sailing-themed Corum watch to the dunes of the Emirates last year, and a Montblanc Summit smart watch on a totally disconnected week in Mallorca earlier this summer, taking a watch out of its natural context is gradually becoming a theme for my holidays, and the trip to Peru would prove to be no exception.
Tell anyone that you are going to Peru and they will immediately ask you if you are going to Machu Picchu. I was not. As an alternative they might suggest an overfly of the impressive Nazca lines, but the 4am wake-up call, the stomach-churning flight and the patchy safety record did not appeal to me. My holiday would therefore be a week in Lima (because my wife had work obligations there) followed by a week relaxing in the sun in the far north of the country.
We really surfaced the Seafender variations of the Admiral’s Cup watches when the Seafender 47 Tourbillon GMT premiered in 2011. At 47mm wide, Corum decided it was fitting in the yacht watch collection to make an aluminum-cased tourbillon. There was likewise an 18k red gold version. While these Seafender Tourbillons are admittedly intriguing, I simply find no business putting them inside of Admiral’s Cup-style instances. It isn’t a matter of good or poor even though it isn’t for me, it’s more a thing than it spins the DNA of the Admiral’s Cup collection so much it has all but lost any meaning.On newspaper, the Corum Admiral’s Cup Chronograph Tourbillon 47 Seafender sounds like a worthy idea. It’s a bunch of interesting features and slick materials like the sum of its parts could actually be highly provocative. Rather, we’ve got a watch built such as a Cadillac that mated using an Abrams tanks. These worlds of competitive luxury boating and high-end complications simply don’t meld together correctly in my eyes.Rather than mate a tourbillon with a GMT complication, this Seafender marries a tourbillon and a chronograph – again using a dial to get the date. Powering the opinion is your caliber CO 398 automatic that’s fairly nice. If you recall what I said about the first Corum Seafender watch it was that the movement perspective looked better than the dial. The grade CO 398 is infrequent, having an automatic for a tourbillon, and in addition to that, it’s a tourbillon that works at 4 Hz. The 60 minute chronograph is column-wheel based, and the dial features a nice window to the tourbillon (with a Corum key logo on it). This dial is much more written than the Seafender GMT, but that variant with the small round-cut diamonds really from the sub dials just doesn’t do it for me personally. Allow me to ask you, although I do feel there’s a place for diamonds within an Admiral’s Cup situation (particularly baguette-cut ones)… are they really helping anyone by being on the dial just like this?
But who stays for a whole week in Lima? The Spanish conquerors called the city the “donkey’s belly” because the sky remains constantly grey for eight months of the year. Guide books will warn you to be careful about showing any valuables such as expensive watches, jewellery or camera equipment when out and about and list three identical chocolate shops among the top attractions. Surely there is more to Lima than that? After extensive research I found signs that there was, thanks largely to the folks at Alternative Peru.
In downtown Lima, the Heuer Carrera 01 was not the most discreet item of wristwear. Its 45mm case stands out and the multi-level dial, with its contrasting finishes and numerous edges and angles, tends to catch the light and draw attention to it. But the robust stainless-steel case and rubber lined leather strap made it the ideal companion for all occasions, from treading the streets of the chic San Isidro district to visiting the sprawling Pachacamac archaeological site to the south of Lima, dining at the renowned Astrid y Gastón restaurant or lazing by the beach in Máncora.
Rather than just taking the opportunity for some original watch photos when I’m on holiday, I genuinely do like to take a watch out of its context. This reached a new level in Lima, however, as the cosseted world of luxury watches collided head-on with the daily reality of life in the Pamplona Alta district. Imagine tucking into pollo alla brasa with rice and beans and simple Andean mint tea, all prepared by Ninfa, who fled terrorism in the provinces and sought refuge in Lima over 15 years ago. She has lived in a wooden shack with a tin roof for over 15 years, has had electricity for only the past three years and is still waiting on running water and sanitation. After she asks you where you are from and disappears briefly to re-emerge bearing an old-fashioned globe for you to show her where Switzerland is, all you have to do is explain what you do for a living. I write about watches. She starts work at 5.30 with a breakfast club for local school children, works as a volunteer on various artisanal projects (earning a princely 30 cents for every child’s cardigan she hand embroiders) and helps out preparing lunch for the community on Sundays, as well as bringing up a young child. As far as reality checks go, that takes some beating.
The Heuer Carrera 01 soon found itself transported to a brighter environment, both culturally and meteorologically, as we flew out of the dull grey skies of Lima to the sunny beaches of Máncora near the border with Ecuador. Here, the TAG almost transformed into a different watch as the chocolate-brown hues of the ceramic bezel and the leather strap suddenly came to life in the bright sunlight. Being just four degrees south of the Equator, with the sun rising at 6.30am and setting almost precisely 12 hours later, it was also a great opportunity to check the watch’s night-time legibility, which, thanks to the SuperLuminova combined with bold facetted hour markers, I’m happy to report was excellent.
I did impose one limit to taking this watch out of its context: despite its water resistance I was reluctant to take it into the sea due to the diversity of sealife we encountered. Watching sea lions basking on rocks in front of our hotel, glimpsing the tails of whales splashing in the middle distance and seeing spiky puffer fish washed up on the beach, I was not that keen on dipping my toes in the water!
Back in Lima for one night before returning to Switzerland, a novel test for the chronograph function was required. Spontaneously finding a way to test a chronograph can be difficult, but if you’re stuck in Lima’s traffic, timing the improbably biased traffic light phases can be a great way to pass the time. Thanks to the Heuer Carrera 01, I discovered that the worst offender was a crossroads achingly close to our hotel, where traffic in one direction was allowed to flow for just 45 seconds before having to endure an agonising three-minute wait!