Ultimate Guide to the Heuer Cortina

With all the focus on the “Big 4” vintage Heuer chronographs (Monaco, Autavia, Carrera and Silverstone), it’s easy to forget that there were many other models that sat alongside these classics during the 1970s. Names like Verona, Jarama and Daytona also appeared during this time and like the Big 4, were powered by the family of Chromomatic movements.

Heuer Cortina 110.233NCAnother forgotten model from this time is the Heuer Cortina, of which there were two distinct series produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This first-generation Cortina was available in two models- one with an all-white dial (Ref. 110233R) featuring black roman-numerals and the black-dial version that you see here (Ref. 110233 NC) . While this particular watch has the common silver date-wheel with black date, there is also a rarer version with a red date on silver background.

The second generation Heuer Cortina was a result of the change in ownership of Heuer at the end of 1982, when Piaget and Nouvelle Lemania took over Heuer and launched a range of new chronographs using Lemania’s 5100 movements. While these designs were “all new”, they did borrow some of the names from the past- Carrera, Silverstone and Cortina.

History

Heuer Cortina 110.233NCAs detailed in Arno Haslinger’s book Heuer Chronographs, The Cortina is named after the Italian mountain town of the same name, where the rich and famous would come skiing every year. Heuer was keen to add a winter-sports model to its portfolio, and so it made sense to name this new model after the chic Italian resort. Of course, slightly reducing this cache was the fact that by 1976 Ford was onto the fourth generation of its Cortina, the looks of which had declined somewhat since the earlier models which spawned the famous Lotus Cortina.

Design

Heuer Cortina 110.233NCThe original Heuer Cortina emerged in 1977 and boasted several design features that distinguished it from other Heuer models of the day. The 39mm case is the key feature of the Cortina design, being a hexagonal-shaped case with a brushed stainless steel finish, rather than the combination of polished/ star-burst pattern that was typical on other models.

The second design signature of the Cortina is the integrated steel bracelet that seems to merge into the case itself.

While the case design is a resounding success- unique and different to any other Heuer from the period- the bracelet is a bit disappointing- very plain, solid links that look a little awkward in my view. I also miss not having the safety clasp- OK, this is not a diving watch, but I’m still surprised not to see one in place.

Heuer Cortina 110.233NCWhile there is no evidence to confirm it, I’d suggest that the design of the Cortina was heavily influenced by a watch designer who didn’t even work for Heuer- the well-known Gerald Genta, who is to 1970s watch design what Giorgetto Giugiaro was to car design in the same era. Not only did he design the IWC Ingenieur, but also the two classic sports watches below- the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet and the Nautilus for Patek Philippe. The Royal Oak came first in 1972 (compare this beauty to the horrors wearing that name today) and featured an octagon-shaped bezel and an integrated steel bracelet, one of the first watches to offer this design.

Genta obviously liked what he created with the Royal Oak, because the Nautilus followed the same themes when it was released in 1976.

The Cortina of 1977 seems to use several aspects of the Royal Oak/ Nautilus template- the round dial set within a brushed stainless-steel, multi-edged case, an integrated steel bracelet…and the hour markers on the Cortina do look familiar after you’ve looked at the AP. But far from a “Poor-man’s” Royal Oak or Nautilus, the Cortina is unique enough to hold its own, and I guess it would have been difficult to design a new sports-watch in the late 1970s and ignore the impact that the Genta-duo had on the market.

Heuer Cortina 110.233NC

Heuer Cortina 110.233NC

Heuer Cortina 110.233NC

Heuer Cortina 110.233NCThe dial of the black Cortina combines the mid-late 1970s hour-marker design of Heuer with the earlier design hands, resulting in a clean look that is very much a Heuer.

Heuer Cortina 110.233NC

Heuer Cortina 110.233NC

Heuer Cortina 110.233NC

Heuer Cortina 110.233R

Heuer Cortina White Dial

Photo by sixtysix- http://xtrememeantime.forumotion.com/t6309-heuer-heuer

In contrast to the Black dial model, the second model in the Heuer Cortina range offers an enamel white dial with a different set of hands. Perhaps the most significant design difference of this model is the use of Roman Numerals- the Cortina is the only mainstream Heuer model of the 1970s to offer Roman Numerals.

Heuer Cortina 110.233R

Photo by sixtysix- http://xtrememeantime.forumotion.com/t6309-heuer-heuer

Heuer Cortina 110.233R

Photo by sixtysix- http://xtrememeantime.forumotion.com/t6309-heuer-heuer

Heuer Cortina

Photo by sixtysix- http://xtrememeantime.forumotion.com/t6309-heuer-heuer

Heuer Cortina 510.513

Heuer Cortina Lemania - 1The second generation Heuer Cortina shares only its name with the first generation model. The Cortina shared its case with several other Lemania-powered designs, but has a distinctive blue Cotes de Geneve dial- the calling card of this model.

Heuer Cortina 510.513 Lemania

Photo by XF-56 UHRFORUM

The second generation Cortina can be found either with or without the “Cortina” name on the dial- this example doesn’t have “Cortina” on the dial and is simply known by its reference number- 510.513.

Heuer Cortina 510.513 Lemania 5100

Photo by XF-56 UHRFORUM

Heuer Cortina Caseback

Photo by XF-56 UHRFORUM

Heuer Cortina Lemania

Photo by XF-56 UHRFORUM

Looking Back on the Heuer Cortina

Heuer Cortina Calibre 12 - 2 copy

Photo by Arno Haslinger- http://www.heuerchronographs.com

The Cortina was never a large volume-seller for Heuer, as it only appeared for a couple of years in the dark-days of the late 1970s. Once the Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania consortium took over Heuer in the early 1980s, there was a second-generation Cortina released that shared its design with watches from Omega, Sinn and Lemania itself- all using the Lemania 5100 movement.

While a Cortina in name, the second-generation watch shared nothing with the first, and so the Cortina you see in these photos really is a one of the great “underground” Heuers.

The Cortina is a delight to wear and a nice change from the “Big 4” mentioned in the first paragraph- it’s very different to the other Heuer models, yet still has the same Calibre 12 workhorse that powered Heuer through the 1970s, the same hands and the same flutes pushers. The Cortina looks more modern that the Autavia and Carrera, but you wouldn’t mistake this for a modern design, so it’s still satisfyingly vintage.

Heuer Cortina Calibre 12

Photo by Arno Haslinger- http://www.heuerchronographs.com

 

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  • Lou

    Nice review and good pickup on the relation to the Genta designs. A lot of attention is paid to mechanical pedigree in watch collecting, but little to design pedigree. Good analysis.

  • Mister Aitch

    Clearly named after the Ford , thats quite a find a very interesting and unusual chrono

  • A very interesting review. I've always looked at the Cortina and quite fancied one but have been put off by the bracelet. That and the unavoidable association with the Mk4 Ford Cortina!

  • www.heuerchronograph

    Great review !! One of my favourite Heuers, the integration of the bracelet is very well done and it falls nicely around the wrist. I was told that one swiss supplier did handle case and bracelet, whilst for the Daytona cheaper bracelets were sourched from china. Very interesting is the luminous white dial with the contrastive black painted hands without luminous material. I guess it was not a good seller for Heuer, surely outperformed by the Daytona.

    Not many around and what great shape it has….

  • www.heuerchronograph

    Ah forgot: A former Heuer employee said that he believes to remember that no more than 500 Cortinas have been made, guess it would make sense, as the Modelname Cortina is less known compared to Daytona, Monaco, Silverstone…Heuer was very active in the skiworldcup, promoting their 1/1000 electronic timing systems.

    • DC

      500? Wow, that's not many, especially when that production is split between two models.

      dc

  • Grant M-B

    A very good review. I am pretty sure though that it owed little to Genta, but perhaps the designer did try to emulate some of the models of the day. To the best of my knowledge the cases were made either by Donze-Baume and/or Louis Lang in Switzerland, and the bracelets by Cornu & Cie or more likely G & F Chatelain both in La Chaux-de-Fonds. It was a very expensive watch to make and the Cortina name was a problem because of Ford because the price didn't reflect the image, the resort of Cortina being little known by the public in those days.

    P.S. I am 99% sure that Rolex never had any bracelets made for the Daytona in China, but you could prove me wrong. Obviously most cases if not all were made at Rolex Biel/Bienne and I believe that the bracelets were made in La Chaux-de-Fonds

    • DC

      Thanks Grant,

      The Daytona that Arno refers to is the Heuer Daytona and not the Rolex Daytona.

      Agree with you that in many markets, the name Cortina made people think of the budget Ford rather than the up-market Italian resort

      Cheers

      David

  • Noodia

    Tremendous article where I learned a lot.

    It is magnified by a real mint piece beautifully pictured.

    Thank you David, I'm in love now…

    At that time you would have sell Millions for Heuer ! 😉

    By the way, is there any picture available of the silver version you mention ?

    I would be really delighted to see one !

    Thanks,

    Laurent

  • DC

    Thanks Laurent- yes, I was happy with the photos..except for that piece of dust under the crystal at 1 o'clock.

    Do you mean the white-dial Cortina? Here is one courtesy of Arno/ OnTheDash

    <img src="http://onthedash.com/Guide/_Chronographs/77.Cortina/Reference_110.233R/18CTWTAMH.jpg&quot; alt="" />

    David

  • Noodia

    David,

    Things mixed up in my mind thrilled by this great example.

    I was referring to red date with silver background,

    the kind of detail which worth a fortune when made rare by Rolex.

    I didn't notice the dust at one, only photographers do,

    now I'm confident this one is not only a dream.

    cheers,

    Laurent

  • Justin

    Need some input from fellow vintage Heuer collectors. I was recently offered a Heuer Daytona and Carerra from a friend dealing in pre-owned watches. As I’m personally a Monaco man, I havent spent much time researching the other Heuer watches at the time.

    Both watches are currently being restored; but I personally live in fear of the word ‘restored’; because we all know its pointless when a restoration deviates from it’s ‘original’.

    I was given a rough estimate of $2900AUSD for the Carerra and the price on the Daytona, I’m yet to be notified of. I’m uncertain whether or not the Carerra is worth the price (due to my lack of knowledge on them).

    Making it worse, I only saw a glimps of it before he sent it off to have the internal movement overhauled (the difficulty he experience removing the back casing would probably indicate that the watch has most probably never been serviced or overhauled)… However, I have been assured that it will be 100% geniune/original, excluding the band.

    I conclude with several questions (for fellow enthusiasts):

    1. Is the Carerra worth the price? If so, any particulars I should be wary of, or are there any other giveaway indicators that this watch might be a lemon (due to prior owner’s lack of concern for it)?

    2. I’m not clued in on the specifics of the Daytona that’s up for sale, but for all I know is, it’s apparently geniune as well and has been regularly serviced by it’s prior owner.

    3. If there is anyone out there that wants it (I’m rather hesitant as previously noted), I can direct you to the seller, so you can add them to your collection.

  • Justin

    *edit*

    2.1 What is a reasonable price for the Daytona?

  • DC

    Justin,

    All depends on which Carrera and the condition of the watch. USD$2600 would be a high price for some models and low price for others. Send me a photo and I can give you more specific comments.

    There are two keys with the daytona. 1) Quality of the dial (they often corrode) and 2) Bracelet (its an integrated bracelet, so if it breaks you are in trouble).

    Again, drop me a photo and I can try and help

    David

  • Guido

    I stumbled into this website and conversation while looking for some information about a Heuer Cortina with white dial. I bought one of them (used) approx. 20 years ago. Is anybody able to give me a rough idea about the present value?

    (Sorry for my bad english, it`s best what I can do as a German)

  • DC

    Hi Guido, value is very dependent on condition. Please send a photo and I will post it here and give you an idea on value- info@calibre11.com

    Regards

    David

  • JWOCH

    Where can I get a white dial version?

  • JWOCH

    The last one I saw for sale was on ebay about three years ago. It was priced at £875 and did not sell.

  • Vaclav

    I have the Cortina watch, found it in my fathers drawer. It needs a restauration – any help or suggestion on how to get a factory overhaul so it can be restored and fixed?
    Thanks!
    Vaclav