Bonhams Haslinger Collection: The $40,000 Question

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   9 October 2010   |   10 Comments  

Exciting news: last night the vintage Heuer fairy flew to the Cayman Islands and deposited USD 40,000 into the secret Calibre 11 bank account. The condition? That it all gets spent by Christmas on at least five vintage Heuer watches. Fortunately, the Bonhams auction of Arno Haslinger’s vintage Heuer collection is fast approaching- December 15 in London.

I’ve previewed the Auction back in May, but last week the on-line catalogue was launched, allowing a much more detailed review of exactly which watches from of Arno’s fabulous collection will be on the block.

So, with an imaginary budget of USD 40,000 to spend on five watches, below are my top five choices.

The Top Five

Before we get into the chosen five, a quick word on what I was looking for.

  • Firstly, I wanted each of the five watches to be special in their own right, as opposed to buying 1-2 “trophy” watches and then the rest being more “common” Heuers;
  • Secondly, I was looking for models that don’t appear on the market that often- these are premium prices, and to my mind worth paying only for watches that you simply will never find elsewhere in a similar condition. As an example, you’ll note that I haven’t chosen a Silverstone, despite the fact that I love this watch. Why? Because today I could buy at least 3-4 examples on the web, allegedly in NOS condition…so why wait until December?
  • Thirdly, I’m looking for value, and so I’m going to avoid getting into a bidding war on some of the trophy watches that could really blow out in price- I have “only” $40,000 and I need 5 watches, so I can’t afford to go crazy on a Chronomatic Siffert.
  • Finally, I’ve tried to steer clear of models that I already own- partly because I was thinking of what I’d like add to my collection and partly to avoid the self-interest of pumping up the valuations on my own watches!

What you’ll see is that three of the five watches are from before the “Chronomatic Era”- that is, the series of watches from 1969-late 1970s that were powered by the Calibre 11/ 12/ 14/ 15 movements. Most of the interest in Vintage Heuers has focused on this period, and I believe that there is now better value in the pre-Chronomatic watches. There is no doubt that this is where the market is shifting.

For the exercise below, I’m going to assume that the watches sell for the mid-point of the published range- wishful thinking perhaps. Click on the model name to go to the Bonhams information page for that watch.

Autavia

Model: Ref. 2446 M

Price (Midpoint of range): USD 6,350

When most people think of the Autavia they think about the Second-generation series with the Chronomatic movement, the thicker case and the famous models such as the 1163T Siffert and the Viceroy model. But while the auction has three Siffert’s up for grabs, including an ultra-rare Chronomatic labeled watch, the pick of the bunch is this Autavia from 1963. In fact, to me this is the most interesting watch in the whole auction and the one that I would be chasing hardest.

This 2446 M is powered by the famous Valjoux 72 movement, also found in the Rolex Daytona, and was the first Autavia wrist watch available- previously, Autavia was Heuer’s key brand for dashboard timers.

One of these sold on eBay a few weeks ago for almost USD 5,000- a real eye-opening price to some, but no shock to those who know how rare this 3 register variant with Dauphine hands really is. That watch was not as nice as the Haslinger example, so I’d expect this one to go for a fair bit more than the stated range. And so it should, because this one is the “best in show”.

Carrera

Model: Ref 2547 N

Price (Midpoint of range): USD 7,900

Continuing the 1960s theme is this 2547 N Carrera. Again, I’m going to focus on pre-Chronomatic era Carrera and let the big money chase the Chronomatic Carrera 1153 also on auction.

This fabulous Carrera has the distinctive triple date function, with the window at 12 o’clock showing Day and Month and the hand with the half-moon showing  the date (in this case, the 19th).

While many people prefer automatic movements, I love the theatre of a manual wind movement, this one being a Valjoux 723.

These early Carrera’s are a small watch by today’s standards and usually not my favourite Heuer line- but this model is the exception with the distinctive “Panda” colour scheme.

In this case I think the pricing estimate looks pretty good- lets put it this way, I think it will sell for less than the Autavia 2446M.

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