TAG Heuer Carrera Turns 60 with Ryan Gosling and a Madcap Chase
To celebrate 60 years of its Carrera timepiece, Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer has unveiled "The Chase for Carrera." Created with DDB Paris, the spot features Ryan Gosling, Vanessa Bayer and David Leitch. The latter, best know for directing Atomic Blonde and Bullet Train, produced the commercial.
Our story opens with Gosling shooting an action film (directed by Leitch, of course). Once he completes his scene, Ryan acknowledges applause and pitches the concept of working with Leitch on a future TAG Heuer ad.
Merry meta musings ensue, packed with zippy wordplay about Leitch being the director in or of a TAG Heuer advert. ("The Chase for Carrera" was actually directed by Nash Edgerton.)
This premise is sown with truth. Gosling shot the ad while working with Leitch on The Fall Guy in Australia. As TAG Heuer's brand ambassador, he really did pitch the idea of Leitch appearing in a spot after they'd finished shooting an action scene.
According to DDB Paris chief creative officer Alexander Kalchev, it was also Gosling's idea to bring in Vanessa Bayer.
In "The Chase for Carrera," an ad within an ad transpires, with Bayer playing the long-suffering prop master who gives chase when Gosling tries swiping a watch after the shoot.
"It was really the same process as shooting a feature—the team prepped it like a mini action movie," Leitch says. "It was always: How can we be creative? How can we be funny? How can we make a golf cart feel energetic and fun and dangerous?" He adds, “With Nash Edgerton directing, with his exceptional knowledge of how to shoot action, and Ryan contributing to the creative, we did that."
The work's long—topping five minutes—but it's fun, and the banter, much of it improvised, rocks an off-cuff SNL vibe. This, coupled with the high-speed-chase theme and madcap context, nicely encapsulates TAG Heuer's motto, "Don't crack under pressure."
It's a standout treatment compared to more serious takes in the category (which have their merits, but it's a relief when the norm breaks).
"This campaign is wildly different from not only everything we've done together, but, I think, anything they've ever done before," Gosling says. "Since the film was about making a film, we thought it made sense that the commercial be about making a commercial. [TAG Heuer] did it with such ease and joy, it made the experience a fun and creative experience for everyone involved."
The Carrera is a crown jewel in the brand's collection. Created in 1963 by former CEO Jack Heuer, it is named for the notoriously treacherous Carrera Panamericana race, and was designed to accommodate the drivers' requirement for rapid legibility in high-pressure situations.
The ad's release also benefits from anticipation surrounding Greta Gerwig's upcoming Barbie movie, where Gosling co-stars as the doofy but loveable Ken. The Ryan comedy wave is high right now, and the ad lets him show impressive range. We also learn he plays pickleball and likes stealing merch, so there's that.
While played for laughs, TAG Heuer nonetheless stuffed many frames with nods to Carrera's history. Here's one: We open in a corridor where Gosling's being chased by gangsters. To his left is an older woman in white sunglasses. Those shades are a nod to Jacqueline Evans de López, the British-born Mexican actress, and the first woman to compete in the Panamericana race. Between 1950-1954, she did it five years in a row … in her own Porsche.
"To celebrate the 60 years of the Carrera, we wanted to pay tribute to its racing DNA but also help it find a new place in popular culture," Kalchev tells us. "The chase idea was the perfect way to do it. It's an entertaining story with the Carrera at its heart, a deep connection to the racing heritage, told in a fun way."
Both Gosling and the Carrera will appear in The Fall Guy. Ryan needn't worry about slinking off with the perks; for his time as ambassador, he's set to appear in other films wearing various Carrera iterations. (He's already starred in The Gray Man, wearing the Carrera Three Hands.)
We sat down with Kalchev to pose three critical questions:
Muse: What was it like working with Gosling?
AK: Ryan loved the whole meta-chase idea as soon as he read the script, and he was a wonderful talent to collaborate with. He was really committed to the process and the shoot. We went beyond a traditional talent-agency-client relationship to a real collaboration.
One thing that is perhaps less known about Ryan is that his improv skills are second to none, so we had a lot of unexpected laughs on set, especially as he and Vanessa Bayer worked their magic together.
Can you tell us a fun story from the production?
The whole film is a meta concept: it's a commercial within a comedy within an action movie. It's interesting to see the shooting experience in itself as another layer of reality in this meta story, and that’s a bit how we lived it.
All the sets were from real movie studios, all the extras you can see onscreen are the actual people from the production—and yes, it's us behind the video feedback at the end—so it became confusing at times. There was a moment when Ryan asked a cameraman during the shoot: "Are you a real cameraman?'
Sometimes walking around the set you'd think you see Ryan or Vanessa, but it's their stunt double. Or you'd wonder if you can eat food from the catering, or if it's prop food for the shoot.
What's the one thing you want people to remember?
TAG Heuer has always had a unique mindset. A pioneering one. It's about breaking new ground and going beyond the expected.
For the 60 years of this watch, instead of clinging to the past, we wanted to celebrate this spirit. But it's always better to show than to tell. So made this crazy piece of entertainment full of action and humor, something no other luxury brand could have ever made. If you look closely, the film has all the ingredients of a tribute: the Porsche Carrera, the racing, the beautiful product shots, the historical easter eggs, the endurance spirit.
But perhaps the most important thing is that this is a brand confident enough to play with its heritage and have fun.