I bought a “NOS” Heuer Calculator earlier this year- it was an impulse buy really, as I had never previously liked the Calculator that much…they always look a little ungainly and over-sized in the photos.
In real life, they look fantastic. Yes, it’s a big watch, but no bigger than many new watches that are on sale today, so it has a very contemporary look. I’ve received more compliments around the office for my Calculator than I have for my Monaco 1133B!
Have you spotted what’s wrong with the watch yet? Yes, it has service hands. But what about the dial? Its missing the “Automatic Chronograph” on the dial, despite being an automatic watch.
You might assume that this is because some back-yard operator fitted a dial meant for a manual-wind Calculator to an automatic watch. And you’d be right…almost
The interesting thing about this watch is that it was TAG Heuer who provided and fitted all of the parts. I have the service receipt in front of me showing all of the work that TAG performed on the watch, including a new case, bracelet hands and dial to the old Calculator.
TAG Heuer claim that this is the correct dial for the watch and that there was a very limited run of automatic watches with manual dials. Maybe this is true, but I’m not buying that story.
The more likely reality is that TAG Heuer are starting to run out of spare parts for Vintage Heuer models, which creates a real problem for collectors. Already bezels for Autavia’s are almost impossible to find (especially for a GMT), dials and flange’s are hard to come by and supply of bracelets are running out (especially for end pieces- I’ve found that it is easier to find the bracelets than it is to find the right end pieces…and one without the other is pretty useless).
TAG Heuer have tried to stop the part-bin being diminished by refusing to send out parts- you have to send your watch to TAG Heuer to have that part fitted…and you usually won’t get back your original, damaged parts.
What this all means is pretty simple: If you have a vintage Heuer that you’ve always thought about fixing up, I wouldn’t wait much longer- you might be disappointed when you do finally get around to sending it off
I find the design of service hands- both for this Calculator and for many other vintage Heuer watches, such as the Monaco, to be interesting. For some reason Heuer/ TAG Heuer went to the trouble of getting replacement parts made for when the originals ran out, but didn’t ensure that the replacement parts were an exact match to the original part- it’s easy to tell original hands vs. service hands.
Why would this be? You might like to think that it’s to protect the value of the true, 100% original watches..but I doubt it. Watch companies in the 1970s and 1908s were more focused on surviving than worry about protecting the autenticity and scarcity of watches for future collectors.
I think that its because the idea of collectors actually seeking out and coveting the contemporary models of the day thirty years down the track would have been a surprise to Heuer. So the fact that the supplier down the road had a replacement that was almost right was probably enough for the company then- just as it probably is now.
I don’t mind this approach, as it means that there is a gap in value between true, original watches and watches like my Calculator- and that’s probably the way it should be. After all, if we could all have a NOS Monaco 1133B, where is the sollectability and value?
There are 100% original NOS parts out there and they will rightly command a premium over any newer, replacement parts. Hang on to the spares that you have….and don’t expect TAG Heuer to come to the rescue with an never-ending supply of original parts.
Photos: J&S M