The year is 1966. In the world of motor racing, and specifically Formula 1, it’s the heyday of the glory years. Old school circuits were just circuits, and the drivers were viewed as gladiators teetering on the edge of disaster at every corner. That same year, the original 45 Dato from Tag Heuer was unveiled to the world. In keeping with the era, it was a classy, stylish and high-quality timepiece that would go on to stand the test of time: in every possible way.
There are a number of landmark watches from the past that regularly endure for generations to come. And the Dato – derived from the Carrera – is one of those automotive watches that people keep going back to.
As the name suggests, the Tag Heuer Carrera was inspired by the iconic Carrera Panamericana: a Mexican road race made famous by Porsche, which eventually named some of its best-known cars after the event. The iconic German manufacturer and Tag Heuer are now synonymous, with the watch company taking further inspiration from its motoring brother through the simplicity, design and clockwork efficiency of its watches.
As has always been the case with Tag Heuer, the Carrera watch soon evolved after its original launch in 1964, with the 45 Dato quickly becoming a popular addition.
Available with either black or white dials, the original Dato watch – very much a prized rarity now – had a pair of chronograph recorders, one for each side. A 45-minute recorder was on the right-hand side, while the running seconds was on the left. Above both was the date window, which subsequently replaced the running seconds recorder in the second edition, released in 1968. This is the one that’s now known as the definitive Dato, with just a single subdial as the signature look.
Since then, the design of the 45 Dato remained largely the same and it quickly became a staple of Tag Heuer’s repertoire in the coming years. The biggest selling point of the original 45 Dato was its automatic calendar: “Ideal for the businessman who needs a chronograph but can never remember the date.” That was how the Carrera 45 Dato was advertised back in the day, though it’s safe to say that there are now more modern ways of knowing the date.
So the selling point for the Carrera 45 Dato comes down to a mixture of tradition and fashion. This is a common theme among watch companies, which the 2021 Hodinkee Limited Edition tapped into when a much-acclaimed Dato reissue came out last year.
Both in the 1960s and now, it’s a truly striking piece of kit. The watch face itself is simple, easy to read and uncluttered: exactly what’s needed in any form of automotive-inspired watch, where instant legibility is paramount.
The more modern watch is also a classic yet still a resolutely modern timepiece, waterproof up to 100 metres and complete with an in-house Calibre Heuer02 automatic movement featuring an 80-hour power reserve.
The Hodinkee edition is probably the most accessible way into a Dato these days, and of course, Hodinkee has a long history with Tag Heuer, having worked with the Swiss firm on the equally famous Skipperrera.
Hodinkee’s reissue brings new life into the 45 Dato, which features a typically charming aesthetic: including a vintage Heuer logo as part of the 39mm ‘glassbox’ case, as well as a matte black dial with a white subdial.
It’s amazing to think that the Dato is coming up to its 60th birthday now. Because compared to all the alternatives, the Carrera 45 Dato still provides far more real-world practicality for its owners, which is why it includes a 30-minute register. After all, are you more likely to time something that’s under 30 minutes, or track an entire 12-hour experience?’
That’s just one of the reasons why the Carrera 45 Dato makes so much sense, while maintaining a unique brand of individualism. Both back then, and today.
The Dato may not be one of Heuer’s best-known names, but it’s had an important subliminal inspiration over many of the watches we make, thanks to its clean lines and sheer simplicity. The uncluttered aesthetic is an aspect that we’ve tried to carry through to all our watches, avoiding brash logos or other unnecessary adornments. With just one subdial, the Dato should appear to be jarringly asymmetrical: instead, this peculiarity has been skilfully incorporated into the overall design in such a way that it becomes a distinctive feature. This too is exactly what we try and do with all the special details that make our FORZO watches unique. The Dato shows that there’s absolutely no need to follow the herd.