Exciting news: last night the vintage Heuer fairy flew to the Cayman Islands and deposited USD 40,000 into the secret Calibre 11 bank account. The condition? That it all gets spent by Christmas on at least five vintage Heuer watches. Fortunately, the Bonhams auction of Arno Haslinger’s vintage Heuer collection is fast approaching- December 15 in London.
I’ve previewed the Auction back in May, but last week the on-line catalogue was launched, allowing a much more detailed review of exactly which watches from of Arno’s fabulous collection will be on the block.
So, with an imaginary budget of USD 40,000 to spend on five watches, below are my top five choices.
The Top Five
Before we get into the chosen five, a quick word on what I was looking for.
- Firstly, I wanted each of the five watches to be special in their own right, as opposed to buying 1-2 “trophy” watches and then the rest being more “common” Heuers;
- Secondly, I was looking for models that don’t appear on the market that often- these are premium prices, and to my mind worth paying only for watches that you simply will never find elsewhere in a similar condition. As an example, you’ll note that I haven’t chosen a Silverstone, despite the fact that I love this watch. Why? Because today I could buy at least 3-4 examples on the web, allegedly in NOS condition…so why wait until December?
- Thirdly, I’m looking for value, and so I’m going to avoid getting into a bidding war on some of the trophy watches that could really blow out in price- I have “only” $40,000 and I need 5 watches, so I can’t afford to go crazy on a Chronomatic Siffert.
- Finally, I’ve tried to steer clear of models that I already own- partly because I was thinking of what I’d like add to my collection and partly to avoid the self-interest of pumping up the valuations on my own watches!
What you’ll see is that three of the five watches are from before the “Chronomatic Era”- that is, the series of watches from 1969-late 1970s that were powered by the Calibre 11/ 12/ 14/ 15 movements. Most of the interest in Vintage Heuers has focused on this period, and I believe that there is now better value in the pre-Chronomatic watches. There is no doubt that this is where the market is shifting.
For the exercise below, I’m going to assume that the watches sell for the mid-point of the published range- wishful thinking perhaps. Click on the model name to go to the Bonhams information page for that watch.
Model: Ref. 2446 M
Price (Midpoint of range): USD 6,350
When most people think of the Autavia they think about the Second-generation series with the Chronomatic movement, the thicker case and the famous models such as the 1163T Siffert and the Viceroy model. But while the auction has three Siffert’s up for grabs, including an ultra-rare Chronomatic labeled watch, the pick of the bunch is this Autavia from 1963. In fact, to me this is the most interesting watch in the whole auction and the one that I would be chasing hardest.
This 2446 M is powered by the famous Valjoux 72 movement, also found in the Rolex Daytona, and was the first Autavia wrist watch available- previously, Autavia was Heuer’s key brand for dashboard timers.
One of these sold on eBay a few weeks ago for almost USD 5,000- a real eye-opening price to some, but no shock to those who know how rare this 3 register variant with Dauphine hands really is. That watch was not as nice as the Haslinger example, so I’d expect this one to go for a fair bit more than the stated range. And so it should, because this one is the “best in show”.
Model: Ref 2547 N
Price (Midpoint of range): USD 7,900
Continuing the 1960s theme is this 2547 N Carrera. Again, I’m going to focus on pre-Chronomatic era Carrera and let the big money chase the Chronomatic Carrera 1153 also on auction.
This fabulous Carrera has the distinctive triple date function, with the window at 12 o’clock showing Day and Month and the hand with the half-moon showing the date (in this case, the 19th).
While many people prefer automatic movements, I love the theatre of a manual wind movement, this one being a Valjoux 723.
These early Carrera’s are a small watch by today’s standards and usually not my favourite Heuer line- but this model is the exception with the distinctive “Panda” colour scheme.
In this case I think the pricing estimate looks pretty good- lets put it this way, I think it will sell for less than the Autavia 2446M.
Model: Ref 73633
Price (Midpoint of range): USD 9, 450
OK, so I guess we have to have a Monaco. And not surprisingly, there are some fantastic Monaco models in the auction. The one that I have chosen is a “New Old Stock” manual-wind Monaco from 1971. Because we are paying a NOS premium here, its great to also have the outer and inner box set, because this one won’t be worn- straight to the safe.
The Monaco is powered by the Valjoux 7736 manual-wind movement and has the three white registers and not the two found on the McQueen 1133B Monaco. If ever you’ve doubted the attraction of buying NOS, just take a look at the case back of this beauty.
The other point worth making is that Monaco prices have declined from say 2007, when the best 1133B variants were getting close to $10,000. This NOS example, with box set (alone worth $800-$1000) comes in at less than $10,000, even taking into account a “NOS premium” of say 20-40%. You just don’t see many Monaco watches in NOS condition, which is why this one is on the list.
Model: Ref 110503W
Price (Midpoint of range): USD 4,800
Firstly, I should declare that I have one of these and I simply love it. It is the rarest of the Montreal family and I think that I would have seen maybe 3-4 good white Montreals come to market in the last 5 years. The Montreal case is a big 1970s style affair, a long way from the more delicate design of the Autavia and Carrera previewed above. I’d also say that this is one of the nicest and most colourful Heuer dials- just take a look below.
This Montreal from 1973 has the Calibre 12 movement inside- the only Chronomatic Heuer in my Top Five.
The Montreal is not one of the most obvious vintage Heuers to collect, and so it might just be that it falls to the lower end of the price range. The only disappointment is that this one doesn’t have the original bracelet, which I can tell you from experience is difficult and expensive to find.
Model: Ref 7220 NT
Price (Midpoint of range): USD4,000
I have posted before about the fact that the Camaro also runs under the radar of most collectors. This one is also powered by the Valjoux 72 movement and has a wonderfully quirky dial- who knows why the designer didn’t go for three sub-dial hands of the same colour?
Again what makes this one special is the case, with this one retaining the sun-burst pattern that it would have had when it was new back in 1968. The Camaro was the last watch designed in the pre-Chronomatic era and sadly Heuer never tried to put the Calibre 11/ 12 movement inside the Camaro, meaning that the model had a very short life span.
Good news: at the prices above, we only get to USD 32,500. Bad news: don’t forget about the 20% buyers premium, which takes our bill up to USD39,000. The remaining thousand dollars will go on the bar to celebrate these great purchases.
Who are Valjoux?
One fact that only became clear after I’d made my choices was that four of the five watches are powered by Valjoux movements, a name that has sadly disappeared. Valjoux were one of the famous ebauche houses of the Swiss watch-making industry, the name being derived from Vallée de Joux, (“Joux Valley”).
But even if you don’t know of Valjoux, you probably own a watch with one of their movements: 1973 saw Valjoux announce the new 7750 movement, a now ubiquitous chronograph movement that can still be found in many of the modern TAG Heuer range, now known as TAG Heuer’s Calibre 16.
Valjoux was swallowed up by Swatch in the early 1980s when it joined Lemania and ETA as the movement houses of the new Swatch group. After a few years, ETA decided to drop the Valjoux name all together, which is why the 7550 is known today as the ETA 7750.
And there is an interesting final link between Valjoux and Heuer- the Valjoux 7740 movement (the one found in the manual-wind PVD Heuer Monaco) is, in essence, a manual-wind version of the Heuer Calibre 11/ 12 movement, but with a Valjoux designed base tractor replacing the Buren base of the Calibre 11/ 12.
Valjoux also manufactured the Chronograph components for the Calibre 11/ 12- while the Chronograph was designed by Dubois Depraz, but manufactured by Valjoux.
Seeing the Collection
Good news if you live on the East Coast of the US- the entire collection will be previewed in mid-October- see Hodinkee here for more details.
Finally, if anyone does come across a spare $40,000 that they would like to donate to see if I really could buy all five of these watches, please feel free to send me an e-mail. I will accept without shame.