IMG_8026 (1)

Ultimate Guide to the Heuer Daytona

While the first watch that comes to mind when you think about a vintage Daytona watch is probably the venerable Rolex model, the Heuer Daytona is one of the more interesting Heuer Chronographs from the 1970s.

Introduced in 1976, the Daytona is in some ways the beginning of the end- one of the last all-new series launched to use the Chronomatic movement, Heuer’s own automatic chronograph calibre. The generation of models that followed the Daytona, such as the Kentucky, Pasadena and second series Montreal began to use Valjoux’s 7750 movement, a calibre that is still offered by TAG Heuer today as the Calibre 16.

1520The design of the Daytona was a bold choice for the time. To help with this article, we spoke exclusively with TAG Heuer Honorary Chairman Jack Heuer, who was CEO of Heuer at the time that the Daytona was launched.

Jack told us that he wanted to get away from the look of the Carrera and Monaco and offer something distinctly new. In fact, a close look at the case of the Daytona shows that its looks were inspired by a radical Heuer watch introduced just one year before…one that might surprise you.

Background

IMG_8032Firstly, let’s start with the name: Daytona. We asked Jack Heuer to tell us why the name was chosen:

“Daytona was selected because it sounds good and is well know in our key market USA. We basically named many watches according to Racetracks to show indirectly that we where really after the Automotive Sports public!”

And what about the fact that Rolex already had a Daytona- did they object?

“Rolex did not object, actually we had to register ‘Heuer Daytona’ and Rolex had to register ‘Rolex Daytona’ for its brand protection.”

– Jack Heuer

In fact, the Daytona name was used regularly throughout the period, including the famous Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona. The name comes from the Daytona International Speedway, at Daytona Beach Florida. The track is the home of the famous Daytona 500 mile race, as well as hosting an annual 24-hour race held on the combined oval and road track.

The first time we see the Daytona is the 1976 Heuer catalogue (above), where its modern design helps it stand out from the other Heuer watches of the day.

Design

110203B102711 (1)The Daytona offers a brushed 39mm stainless steel case (the same size as the contemporary Carrera), with the chronograph pushers on the right hand side and the crown on the left- the trademark calling card of the Chronomatic- powered Heuers.

One of the distinguishing features of the watch is the integrated steel bracelet, meaning there is no leather strap options.  Heuer DaytonaThe Daytona was not the only Heuer steel model with an integrated bracelet, with the watch sharing several elements of its design with the Heuer Cortina (below) that followed a year later in 1977.  Both watches share a very similar dial (only the shape of the sub-dial hands differing) , the same movement, similar case size and an integrated bracelet.

But where the Cortina was edgy and octagonal, the Daytona was rounded and soft, with a brushed steel finish and a plexi- crystal that fits flush to the case.

IMG_8023Look familiar? It’s the same “pebble” shape and case finish as the radical 1975 Heuer Chronosplit (below), albeit with a traditional mechanical movement, rather than the LED/ LCD movement of the Chronosplit. Both watches also have a steel bracelet that is designed to be an extension of the case.

Back to the Daytona, the case has beautiful soft curves, with the Heuer-logo crown sitting proud of the case.

daytonacrownIn fact, perhaps the only square part of the Daytona’s case are the sharp edges of the two chronograph pushers- the same design as those used on the Monaco, Carrera, Autavia and other Calibre 11/ 12/ 14/ 15 watches.

daytonapush

Dial

IMG_8010The distinguishing feature of the Daytona’s dial is the subtle dégradé finish, meaning that the centre of the dial is a lighter colour that gradually becomes darker as you move towards the outer edge.

There were two colour options- dark Blue and Fume (“Smoke”) (both shown below- although note that the Fume model has incorrect hands- both the central chronograph hand and two sub-dial hands).

Notice that the hands in the first dial shot appear to be Orange? They are actually White, something that we’ll explain shortly.

Bracelet

DaytonaAs mentioned above, the Daytona was only sold on a stainless steel bracelet. These integrated bracelets look good, but can be fragile at the point where the bracelet meets the case, leaving few options for owners if they break.

IMG_8025The bracelet is fitted with an adjustable clasp. meaning that you can make small adjustments to the bracelet without removing links- simply move the anchoring point of the bracelet along one of the pin holes you see below. It’s a simple system, but a very useful one.daytonabuckle

Movement

IMG_8012Powering the Daytona is Heuer’s own Calibre 12 Chronomatic movement, first launched as the Calibre 11 movement in the  Monaco, Carrera and Autavia models in 1969.

Keen observers will notice that this is a rare example of the Calibre 12 that features all silver components, whereas most Calibre 12s feature Gold coloured plates and bridges. Our good friend Abel Court (take a look here if you are not familiar with Abel’s work) who took these photos, estimates that he has seen only ten Silver-coloured Calibre 12 movements over the last 10 years.

IMG_8015The movement sits behind a case back that also takes its inspiration from that offered on the Chronosplit, including the reference number and serial number being engraved on the caseback.

Heuer Daytona Ref 110.203B

IMG_8020The Blue Daytona is the most common- and most coveted- model, with the beautiful dark blue dial contrasting with the stainless steel case and hands. Both dial colours offer a Black inner tachy flange, which frames the dial neatly.

daytonaheadThe Midnight blue dial is our favourite of the Daytona models- a classy looking watch.

Heuer Daytona Ref 110.203F

110203fThe Fume model is less common that the Blue and has a similar colour dial to the Silverstone, but without the starburst finish. The fume models are harder to find, especially in good condition.

Collecting the Daytona

IMG_8033The Heuer Daytona remained part of the Heuer range from 1976 through to 1980 when both dial colours were discontinued. Despite the attractive looks, Jack Heuer tells us that the Daytona was “certainly not a flop, but not a major success either“. It suffered from the low-priced quartz competitors, just as with all mechanical watches in the late 1970s.

IMG_8011While the Daytona may be part of the “second tier” of collectable vintage Heuers, part of the problem with collecting the Daytona is the challenge of finding one in good condition.

The main problem is the condition of the dial and hands. Notice that one of the Blue watches in the story looks to have creamy Orange hands and hour markers (such as the example above)- despite this appearance  both parts were White when new. It’s not an unattractive patina, but for some reason the hands on the Daytona seem to suffer from ageing more than most vintage Heuers.

Daytona - Version 2Likewise, many Daytona dials suffer from damaged dials, mainly due to pitting as the dial oxidises. You can see a fairly typical example of this in the watch above.

It’s not clear whether the culprit here is the flush-fit plexi crystal not being as airtight as it should be, or whether there were issues with the dials as they were manufactured.

Either way, watches that suffer from these issues are not unattractive, but it does make finding a perfect example very difficult. If you can find a Daytona in good condition, then it makes a great addition to any Heuer collection, and offers great value for money relative to some of the better known vintage Heuers.

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Thanks

A big thanks to the vintage Heuer community for sharing the great photos in this post- Abel Court and David Devos for their Blue Daytonas. Thanks also to Jack Heuer for taking the time to talk about the Daytona.

  • Mark

    Nice article David, the Daytona is often undeservedly forgotten. I’d recommend anyone looking for one to try before they buy – if you don’t get on with the bracelet, there aren’t many options…

    I’ll confess to liking the “failed” blue dials just as much as the mint ones – the flecks turn gold, giving an attractive lapis lazuli effect.

    Oh, and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4? Is just that – Ferrari never called it the “Daytona”! Nonetheless, that’s the name that stuck unsurprisingly, though I confess to liking the model designations for Ferraris rather than names. La Ferrari, I ask you!

  • Thanks Mark. Spot on about trying this one on- not a lot of options as you say.

    The patina-ed dials have their own character, but have to say that I'd much rather have a mint one! Any ideas why the Daytona suffers more from that this than say the Carrera?

    Find it hard to believe that Rolex didn't complain about Heuer using the Daytona name…can you imagine what would happen today if Rolex rolled out a Carrera?

    Cheers

  • Mark

    The dial surface is textured before applying the paint on the Daytona so as to achieve the fade effect, I reckon that has to be the reason for the specific patina. Blue Silverstones with much the same finish suffer too, whereas none of the Carreras have quite that finish.

    Would be interesting to get a number of dials in various stages of patination under heavy magnification, I reckon.

  • Dan

    I just found a shockingly good condition Daytona today! I bought it immediately, it was very inexpensive. This watch has the rarer Fume dial. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. I will happily sends pics if interested.

  • Bob

    I have a Heuer Daytona in blue with “Aristo” where Daytona and Heuer is placed on the dial. My neighbor, as a child, worked at Aristo imports and gave me this example in 1976. It has the Calibre 12 movement too. Great watch that I love to wear

  • calibre11

    Hi Bob,

    Yes, Heuer made a number of watches for Aristo- including the Daytona. It’s certainly original (attached is a photo below from Jeff Stein)

    Enjoy!

    dc

  • Ari

    Wher can I get a heuer Daytona deployment clasp. The one i purchased has a Generic clasp. Thanks.

    • calibre11

      Thanks Ari. Not easy to find- as you’d know. Reckon that eBay is your best bet.

      dc

  • Ari

    Great overview by the way.

  • Chris Sandall

    Hi all. I have fume face that I inherited and have only just lost enough weight for the bracelet to fit my wrist. Two questions: where might I find spare links for the bracelet (still a little tight)? And how he hell do I set the date? I have tried half pulling the crown and all sorts of combinations. Or do I just keep moving the hands?

    • calibre11

      Hi Chris,

      There is no “quick-set” function on these movements, at least not in the modern sense. It does have a quasi-quick set function…you simply move through 12 o’clock until the date changes and then wind back towards 11pm and repeat moving back and forwards through 12.

      Hard to find spare links unfort…keep an eye on eBay

      • Lonestar

        Hi Caliber11, thanks for answering this question which I had too, as a 1153N owner since recently. Can you confirm it doesn’t damage the internals to do this? thank you!

        • Hi Lonestar, I don’t know if its “officially sanctioned”, but I’ve done it for years with no issue…and so do other collectors