A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to look around the TAG Heuer museum in La Chaux de Fonds and caught sight of this unusual gold Heuer from the early 1980s. The watch is a special edition that Heuer made for American Express card holders in 1980, featuring the then-new ETA Flatline II quartz movement.
While this is not exactly one of Heuer’s most beautiful creations, I was keen to find out more about this intriguing model. Heuer has always been about sports watches and Chronographs rather than dress watches, but by the time 1980s came around, Swiss watch companies were happy to sell any watch so long as it generated some income- those were tough times.
Not only is there one of the watches in the museum, but it also has the original sales brochure to tell the story of the watch, which was never sold to the public.
American Express Catalogue
Below is a copy of the catalogue sent to US American Express cardholders in 1980. As well as highlighting the ultra-thin 68mm gold-plated case and the advanced ETA movement, the catalogue also states the price of USD 295- about the price of a 1000 diver from around the same era.
While the museum didn’t know any more details about the origins of the watch, it would seem to be a close relative of the Longines Feuille d’Or (Goldleaf) that was introduced in 1979 (thanks to Jim from Watchuseek for pointing out the connection). While the designs are similar (and the dial identical except for the date window), the first Longines Feuille d’Or was an amazing 1.98mm thick
The Longines watch was developed in conjunction with Eterna (ETA) and Concord, who produced their own version in 1980 called the Delerium, which like the second generation Longines was only 0.98mm thick- half of the original. These watches are so thin that there is no crown- the time is changed via a dial on the back.
Given that the Heuer quartz is considerably larger than these ultra, ultra-thin 1mm watches, my guess is that Longines was involved in making the watch, but to reduce costs used a more conventional and thicker gold-plated case (the Longines and Concord were 18ct Gold). We know that Heuer made some watches for Longines during this time (such as the Longines version of the Pasadena below), so it’s not unreasonable to think that a design went back the other way.
It’s amazing to think that we are still discovering new vintage Heuers and in fact its one of the great aspects of collecting vintage watches- every so often something totally new comes out of the woodwork.
So while this is not one of my favourite designs from the era, it is one of the rarest and a watch that goes to show that its best to always keep an open mind when it comes to the authenticity of Heuer watches from the 1970s-80s.
3) Jarl/ Classic Heuers