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Ultimate Guide to the Heuer/ TAG Heuer Titanium

While the internet offers collectors and prospective buyers a great way of researching and finding watches, there is still nothing like looking through a nice printed catalogue to get you in the buying mood. In looking through one of these catalogues, it was interesting to see the mix of new technologies and materials that TAG Heuer offer- mechanical quartz, titanium and carbon fibre.

But while you might think that these technologies are spread throughout the 2010 catalogue (Calibre S, Grand Carrera Titanium and Day-Date Carrera Carbon fibre), it was actually a 1983 catalogue and a single watch that had all of these features- the Heuer Titanium series.

The 1980s were obviously a difficult time for watch lovers- famous Swiss watch houses were falling and everyone seemed to be heading towards quartz movements. It was also a difficult time for Heuer, with the company being lost to the Heuer family and sold first to a Piaget/ Nouvelle Lemania consortium and then on to the Middle East investment house, Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG).

The watches from this era….well, let’s just say that they’re not on the top of collectors minds today- but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some interesting models- and the Titanium series is one of these.

Series One- Heuer Titanium

The Heuer Titanium series was launched in 1983 and marketed as having “space-age” technologies- a case and bracelet made entirely of titanium and, on some models, Carbon fibre inserts on the bracelet. And space-age was very much the flavour of 1983- the Space Shuttle Columbia that first flew in 1981 was pictured in the sales brochure next to the watches.

The design of the Titanium is very similar to that of the Heuer 2000 quartz Chronograph of the same era, but in a higher-grade case. While the 2000 quartz Chronograph had flat-colored dials, the Titanium dial was anthracite to give it a high-tech look.

Heuer Titanium Box

Photo by passionevintagerlx

As befitting the higher price point of this series, the Titanium series all featured a sapphire crystal, while most contemporary Heuer models still used mineral glass.

The Heuer Titanium was available in three models:

  • Titanium and Gold- fixed bezel
  • Titanium and Gold- rotating bezel
  • Titanium and Carbon fibre- fixed bezel

Each of these models came in three versions- two sports watches (Mens and Ladies, ref. 823.213 and 823.208 respectively for the Carbon fibre versions) and as a chronograph (223.206- again, for the Carbon fibre).

Limited Edition: Heuer Fittipaldi Titanium

The most interesting version of the Heuer Titanium is the Emerson Fittipaldi edition that was released in 1985. Fittipaldi was a fascinating Formula 1 driver, in that by the time he was 27 he was not only Brazil’s first World Champion, but now a two-time champion. He left the McLaren team at the end of the 1975 season (where he was runner-up) to join his brothers team. That move proved to be unsuccessful, and after five tough seasons that brought only one podium, he left Formula one at the age of 34.

Nowadays, that would have been the end and Emerson would have drifted into commentary, but after a four-year break, Fittipaldi returned to open wheel racing in 1984 in the CART series, where he won two Indianapolis 500 races, the last in 1993 when he was 47. A true legend.

The Fittipaldi Titanium was released in 1985- one of the last watches with Heuer on the dial- and while it’s a shame that this great driver has his name on a Heuer Titanium rather than a classic Heuer Silverstone or Carrera, it’s a fitting end to the Heuer- Formula 1 era and a very rare watch. The example below is the only one that I’ve ever seen and was posted at the Italian Heuer forum at Vetroplastica.

Series Two: TAG Heuer Titanium

The second series Titanium- now a TAG Heuer- was not significantly changed from the Heuer version. In fact, like many of these transitional-era watches, the only real change was the name of the company on the dial. Below are the three models equipped with the rotating bezel.

Movements

Like many Heuer models from this era, the movements used in the Titanium were quite advanced for the time- especially the Chronograph movements.

The quartz Chronograph is what Heuer called its Calibre 185. This is a “mechanical quartz” modular Calibre- an ESA 555.232 quartz module, with a Dubois Depraz mechanical chronograph module piggybacked, which is an interesting solution- it’s clear that Heuer was still trying to work out how it could embrace the newer quartz technology, yet still keep its place as a maker of precision Chronographs.

The Automatic Chronograph uses the LWO 283 movement, a Calibre that was originally developed by Lemania with Heuer before being sold to Dubois Depraz.

Ownership Experience

Collector Warren Snook recently bought these two Heuer Titanium Chronographs from a dealer in Germany. The Dealer in turn had bought them from a collector who had a habit of buying new watches and then storing them without wearing- a lucky find almost 30 years later.

While both watches look great, Warren notes that the design of the bracelet helps explain why we don’t see more of  these watches today:

“There are two fundamental flaws with the titanium range. Heuer marketed this model highlighting the use of space age technology and the latest manufacturing processes. The truth of the matter is they didn’t actually do much research into the properties of titanium and merely used this material as a substitute for stainless steel. The case design is fine, it is the bracelet where the serious design flaws are to be found.

References to the bracelet links incorporating “screws and springs” have been made on the internet. This is merely layman terminology for split pins and spring bars which attach the bracelet to the watch.”

“The bracelet links are constructed from several intricate pieces of titanium with the gold or carbon fibre insert being placed inside each link. One of my spare links is broken, the titanium outer layer has sheared off where the split pin has been inserted. I can only guess that the force exerted to etract a split pin was enough to fracture the titanium. The other problem is the end pieces where the springbar is inserted to attach to the watch head – It is very thin!

Heuer, or whoever manufactured the bracelets for them, made an incorrect assumption that titanium has the same properties of stainless steel. They did not take into consideration that titanium can fracture when certain stresses are applied and critical components of the bracelet were designed with a total disregard of these facts. Some owners have commented on broken links and fractured end pieces. Indeed, very few used examples of Heuer Titaniums still have their original bracelets and this goes some way to explaining why.”

Looking back on the Heuer/ TAG Heuer Titanium

The three variants of the Titanium series continued basically unchanged through to the late 1980s when the range was quietly dropped. While the Titanium series introduced some technologies that are still considered innovative more than 25 years later, the series is not remembered as a highpoint of TAG Heuers of the 1980s. Still, they are very difficult to find- in any condition- and any price premium that these once commanded over a more common Heuer 2000 quartz has long since disappeared, making them an interesting transitional Heuer.

***

Photos:

1,2,6,7 TAG Heuer Catalogues: Chuck Maddox

3-5: Museum/

Automatic & Quartz Chronograph comparison photos: Warren Snook

  • Relain

    I recently came across one of these which is not working and am getting it fixed. Do you have any idea of the value of a quartz version of the Series 2: 220.206 ? Thank you.

  • DC

    Hard to say without photos, but value isn't very high for these- it was a niche model in its day and the quartz-factor will also take the price down. Maybe $200-400 depending on the condition of the case and bracelet?

    dc

  • johnny

    I have a Heuer Fittapaldi Titanium Quartz which was keeping perfect time until recently.It is in a leather presentation case with the original set of 3 straps ( 1leather,1 titanium and carbon fibre/1 rubber) – can you recommend somebody who can repair/service this watch and give me an approximate value?

  • DC

    Hi Johnny,

    Repair of these old quartz movements can be tough, especially if the battery has leaked. A local watchmaker should be able to diagnose for you- don't think it would need to go back to TAG.

    Sounds like a great set that you have- very rare. But does that make it very valuable? Probably not to a watch collector (because a. quartz and b. Its not a well-known series), but to a F1/ Indy/ Emerson fan? For sure.

    I'm reluctant to give you a specific number, as I've never seen a set like this for sale.

    Cheers

    David

  • barry

    I have a Tag Heuer# 825 213, Titanium with gold inserts. I am looking to find the piece that attaches the strap to the watch.

    Any help?

    • DC

      Hi Barry,

      No magic solution to parts for this watch I'm afraid- its either trying TAG Heuer direct, or keep an eye on eBay.

      David

  • Rob Schrader

    I have a chrono watch made in this era, a 262.206-1. It was in the box for years and over that time the battery has ruined some works. My jeweler says it needs the 555.232 movement to repair it. Any idea where I might find one or what newer movement might work in that watch. Thanks very much for your help, Rob

  • DC

    Hi Rob,

    First question I would ask is whether the problem is with the quartz module or with the mechanical chronograph module- sounds like the watchmaker has already traced the problem to the quartz module, but good to check.

    There should be an ETA equivalent to the ESA 555.232 (ESA model numbers were changed when they were brought into ETA)- but I can't see which one it is- suggest contacting ETA direct to see if they can help

    Good luck

    David

  • DC

    Thanks for the photos Charles.

    My guess- is that what you have is actually a “Poor Man’s” Orfina/ Porsche Design, not a Heuer.

    The two watches are very, very similar, although Heuer stopped making the Pasedena in the early 1980s, whereas the Orfina lasted a little longer. There was never a Ti Pasedena….and I’m not 100% sure that yours is Titanium (could just be a satin-finish to the case)

    Take a look here: http://www.bdwf.net/forum/showthread.php?t=71055

    The side profile of your watch looks a closer match for the Orfina.

    Some more images here: http://brown-snout.com/horology/articles/orfina_porsche-design_chrono

    Either way, nice watch..but maybe not a Heuer.

  • So Heuer made 'poor mans' titanium as well? I have a Tourneau titanium that I can't find any info on, none of the counterparts like the Pasadina or 1000 are titanium so I would love to know what it's Heuer counterpart is. I may not be looking hard enough and it's not rare at all….any info would be loved!

    Charles!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/birdshavenopassports

    <img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4143/5432442915_53e5d0f699.jpg&quot; alt="" />

  • Wow! Thanks!!! So I guess then it's a lemania 5100 inside, what if it is titanium, would that make it more obscure then just 'poor man?'It won't scratch even with a knife tip that's why I thought it was.

  • Well I looked inside and it says 7750 and has the {val}, same as the Heuer Pasadina, you said this one looks the Orfina, which it does, but the Orfina has the Lemania movement, is that a plus or negative?

  • Tom

    I was researching my watch and it seems to meet some of the parameters in this series but it is not identified. It is a Heuer titanium automatic chronograph. The face, back, crown, and band all say Heuer, not Tag. The back of the case is stamped 120206, but I can't find model 120.206 listed anywhere. I bought the watch new from a jewler in 1992 or 1993. It looks like the 220.206 without the Tag part on it. It has stopped working and would like to get it fixed, but would like what it is and what it's worth first. Any ideas?

  • DC

    Hi Tom,

    Yes, you have the reference number right: The quartz model is 220.206, while the Automatic is 120.206. These were very expensive back in the day..the top of the TAG Heuer range.

    Its worth? Tough one, and likely to be disappointing for you. These have yet to get to that collectable stage, so its probably several hundred dollars, depending on condition, books, box, etc…but I think under US$1,000

    I suspect that repairing it may not be economic unless the watch has sentimental value (lets say that a service is $200)- its a hard call, so depends on why you want to fix it.

    Cheers

    David

  • gary sonnee

    my wife bought the 223206 for me at an estate sale. The watch and band are in perfect condition. Would you happen to know where I can find more links? I tried Tag and they could not help me. Right now I have a Breightling band on it just so I can wear it.

  • Eric K.

    I have a 220.206, a gift which I have been wearing for there last 20+ years. It is in need of an over-haul, but heuer told me they stopped stocking parts for it over 5 years ago. I would really like to have it restored for sentimental value…..could any one suggest whom I would go to for something like that?

    I live in the Los Angeles area. Any info. Is much appreciated.

    • DC

      Hi Eric, tough to give you a good answer on that. I wonder if they tried contacting TAG Heuer Switzerland to see if they have any parts?

      David

  • Alex

    I was recently gifted a 223.206, but I'm not sure it's real, because it says Tag Heuer (not just Heuer) on the front, and I don't see a serial number, just the 223206 on the back case. Any thoughts on whether it's real or not?

  • Hi Alex. Don't think that I've seen any fakes of these, so its likely to be real. If you have a photo, drop it through to info@calibre11.com

    dc

  • Chris

    i am in search of a working 220.206. if you happen to know someone looking to sell, please have them contact me at

    gansen
    @
    gmail dot com

    thanks all!

    • Bill

      Chris I do have one of these I purchased while in Zermatt back in 1982. The face was repaired to my dismay the Tag/Heuer Logo was on the new face when returned. Let me know if you are still looking for this watch.

      bstottfl
      @
      gmail dot com

  • Bruce Lachney

    David,

    You gave me some great advice sometime back about my 225.206. A quick question, I am still looking for a new movement (it has a Calibre 185). I see a couple of ETA Calibre 185.30 come up on ebay. Will those work a as substitute?
    All the best, Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      Yes, that should fit…although, its not really an ETA movement, so I'd be surprised if they are advertised as "ETA Calibre 185".

      I would check with a watchmaker first, unless you find one that is so well priced that finding out it doesn't fit later won't hurt!

      dc

  • Simon Pilkington

    Hi – found your site after purchasing a Titanium and thank you for your research. A question, if you can help: my purchase is in great condition but two links are missing their gold infill. I’ve already found out that parts are difficult to come by but do you know of any sources for infills or links?

    • calibre11

      Hi Simon. I don’t know of any sources unfortunately- keep an eye on eBay….that’s probably your best bet

      • Simon Pilkington

        Thanks – it would be such a shame not to have this piece back in “showroom condition”. I don’t know if it’s of interest or adds anything to your story but the gold infill on the (non-rotating) bezel on this piece is at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 position rather than as shown in your photographs. It is also lacking a serial number and shows only the reference 125.206

  • Val Lieberman

    Hello All! I have a Heuer titanium watch automatic movement Ref#125206/122117. Looking to sell if someone is interested. Please respond back to me and I will send you some nice pictures for your review. The watch is mint condition and all functions are working properly.