Despite Heuer’s deep links with Formula 1, there were very few F1 drivers who have the honour of having a watch named after them. Yes, we have a “Siffert“, “Rindt” and even “Derek Bell” Autavia, but these are unofficial names given by collectors to particular models, rather than being official designations.
“Driver Edition” watches are something of a modern phenomenon- we’ve shown you dials with signatures from Hakkinen and Coulthard, the range of Ayrton Senna watches, a Fangio Targa Florio and even a TAG Heuer boasting Joe Siffert’s signature (Any guesses? Click here to find out…), but these are all from the post-1985 TAG Heuer era.
But when it comes to the Heuer era, can you name a single watch with a F1 drivers name on the dial? Well, there is this one- The Fittipaldi Heuer Titanium, named after the legendary Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi.
While we’ve briefly looked at this rare Heuer before, this is the first time that we’ve seen the Fittipaldi Titanium with the full and correct packaging- box, leather pouch and strap options. Feels like a good time to look back the great Brazilian and his special edition Heuer.
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Fittipaldi made his F1 debut at the 1970 British Grand Prix with Lotus, and was promoted to team leader after only three races following the death of Jochen Rindt. He would famously win the very next race to help rebuild the Lotus team and ensure that Rindt would have the dubious honor of becoming the first- and only- posthumous F1 World Champion.
Fittipaldi won the 1972 title, but left Lotus in 1974 to join McLaren, following a season chasing his faster teammate, Swede Ronnie Peterson. It was to prove a masterstroke, as he won the 1974 Drivers title, despite only winning three races. Perhaps less of a masterstroke came at the end of 1975 when Emerson left McLaren to join a new team run by his brother Wilson.
The Fittipaldi brothers, funded by Brazilian sugar company Copersucar, launched their own F1 team named after their sponsor. The team was never competitive, and exited in 1982 after running for the final three seasons as Fittipaldi Automotive. The team never achieved any real success, despite boasting the talents of a young English aerodynamicist called Adrian Newey.
Following Formula 1, Fittipaldi moved to the US to race IndyCar, and run his auto accessories business, which offered branded road wheels and steering wheels. But that wasn’t the end of his time behind the wheel- he would go on to win the 1989 IndyCar championship (an amazing 17 years after his first F1 title) and the Indianapolis 500 race on two occasions, before retiring in 1996.
The Heuer Titanium
The Titanium was the top of the range Heuer when it was launched in 1983. The series boasted a range of innovative materials (Titanium case, carbon-fibre inserts on some models) and some interesting movements, such as the LWO 283 (used by Audemars Piguet and Girard Perregaux) and the electro-mechanical Calibre 185 quartz Chronograph.
While its fair to say that the design of the Titanium hasn’t aged as gracefully as other Heuer chronographs, the series is a good example of Heuer design during the Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania (post Jack Heuer (1982) and pre-TAG Heuer (1985)) era.
You can read more about the Titanium here.
Fittipaldi Heuer Titanium
The highlight of the Titanium range is this Fittipaldi version- seen here for the first time with the full, original sales packaging. In addition to the branded outer-box, the watch was sold in a leather pouch- very similar to the one available with the Heuer Super Professional.
I have been in the automotive accessory business for over 30 years now primarily selling to new car dealers and some independents. I was working for a company in the early-mid 1980s, selling accessories, road wheels and a line of aftermarket road wheels came out using the Fittipaldi name.
The wheel line was around for a number of years and I had sold hundreds if not thousands of these wheels over the years. I have actually met Emerson Fittipaldi a couple of times while he was involved with the business, at a couple of our big trade shows. I won the watch set during a sales contest in the mid 1980s (probably around 1986-88) for selling the most Fittipaldi road wheels at our company.
I always meant to get Emerson to sign the set but always seemed to forget to bring it when he was available. I wore the watch for years and finally put it away thinking it might be a valuable piece in the future. The watch has been sitting in a safe for years and rarely been worn- Luckily I kept all of the pieces included with the watch.
The Fittipaldi edition boasts a “meteorite” dial, carbon-fibre inserts on the bracelet and the Calibre 185 quartz movement and at the time represented the latest in high technology, as the price reflected: in 1985, the German price for the Titanium was almost DM3,000…at a time when the Heuer 1000 (Ref. 844) sold for less than DM500!
While the watches of the Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania era are not considered to be the highpoint of Heuer/ TAG Heuer’s design, the Fittipaldi Titanium is one of the more interesting and rarest watches from that period, thanks to its connection with one of the few men to have reached the top of both IndyCar and Formula 1- Emerson Fittipaldi.
– Heuer Titanium: Dave LaFleur
– Fittipaldi rostrum: carthrottle.com
– Fittipaldi Champagne- BBC
– Other images courtesy of TAG Heuer