Heuer Monaco 1533G- The Calibre 15 Monaco

Posted by: David Chalmers   |   24 November 2009   |   6 Comments  

One of the first watches that got me hooked on the vintage Heuer line-up was the 1533G Monaco- “G” for Grey, even though the dial has always looked silver to me. I remember considering buying one of these in 2006- a full mint set from one of the well-known Heuer collectors at OnTheDash. I still have the photos of that watch, and it is perfect. That set had a flawless Monaco 1533G (albeit not NOS) with original hands, bracelet, box and papers and the Heuer swing tag- all for a price of EUR4500.

Back in 2006 I had yet to discover OnTheDash and had only joined eBay a couple of weeks before the Monaco was up for sale, so I passed on the watch at the time not feeling experienced enough to know whether it was the right watch at the right price. Even though the price was certainly at the top end of 1533 Monaco prices, I’ve regretted letting that one go a few times and haven’t seen a better set for sale.

While not as complete as the set described above, I have recently added this 1533G Monaco to the collection.

The Calibre 15 watches have always intrigued me- Heuer developed these in 1972 as an economy version of the Chromomatic movement, replacing the 12-hour register with a sweeping seconds hand in the left-hand sub dial. The details of the changes from Calibre 12 to Calibre 15 can be found here in this excellent article posted at OnTheDash.

But lets look into this “economy” movement a little more:

  • Let assume that Heuer received approximately 1/3 of the final sale price of a new watch, which is the rough rule of thumb today (in fact, Heuer did not own its distributors in many major markets, so it probably received less than this)
  • OTD notes that in 1972 a Calibre 12 Carrera sold for $185 and a Calibre 15 for $170
  • So, instead of receiving $62 per unit, Heuer made $56 per unit
  • Now consider the cost of redesigning, tooling and testing of the new movement- you can see that the margins must have been very skinny

Skinny or not, a quick look in the world of the Swiss watchmaker in 1971 tells you why Heuer had to act. In 1971 the value of the US Dollar dropped significantly against the Swiss Franc, pushing up the prices of Swiss watches in America by 40%. While Heuer made a small profit in 1971, the value of total Swiss watch exports fell by 1.8%- the first fall in 15 years and an ominous sign of things to come.

All of this is the background to the development of the Calibre 15 movement, but what we are left with today are beautiful watches that certainly don’t feel like the poor cousins of the “Full-fat” Chronomatic movements.

Calibre 15 watches offer an interesting variation to the Calibre 11/ 12/ 14 designs- only a Calibre 15 watch can be spotted instantly due to the distinctive “cross-hair” marking of the sub-dial with the model name written underneath. What makes this Monaco even more special is that Heuer never did make a Calibre 12 Monaco with a silver dial- most Calibre 15 watches have an almost identical Calibre 12 cousin

So, economy or not, there seems to be renewed interest in these “silver” Vintage Heuer Monaco watches. A few more photos below.

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