It must have been an interesting day in 1975 when the new Heuer catalogue arrived at the retailer. Take a look at the 1974 catalogue- all the classics are there with a range of Calibre 12/ 14 and 15 movements: Monaco, Autavia, Carrera, Calculator, Silverstone and Montreal. Most of us would be happy to just collect the watches that appear in this single catalogue, as each of these models is coveted by collectors today.
Imagine the shock in 1975 when Heuer introduced the Chronosplit range- a combination LCD/ LED solid-state quartz watch that looked like nothing else the company had produced before. As the name implies, the watch had two displays, each powered by its own movement.
The Chronosplit is a pretty powerful reflection on the manner in which quartz movements were initially positioned by the Swiss houses- not as a cheap alternative to a mechanical movement, but as heralding a revolution in watch design. Heuer could have packaged the quartz movement in the Autavia case to show the world that quartz watches could look exactly like their mechanical cousins, but with the advantage of less servicing and greater accuracy. Instead, they chose the bold route- to showcase the new technology in a space-age design watch that looked like nothing else.
According to an interview with Watchtime in 2007, Jack Heuer had been inspired to enter the electronic watch market by a trip to Silicon Valley in 1972, where among others he met with Bob Noyce of Intel.
By 1977 the Chronosplit had lost the LED display, replaced instead by a LCD screen- apparently to improve the reliability of the watch, although significant problems continued. The Chronosplit range extended to include the Manhattan (also dual display- digital and analogue- with the movement being supplied by Citizen) and single screen LCD watches, such as the Kentucky- although Heuer did make a limited number of the Chronosplit Kentucky.
These watches have a fantastic F1 heritage, not just due to the incredibly rare Ferrari branded version pictured above (significantly cooler than the Tiffany branded version!), but also with the support of Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni.
Despite this heritage, the fact is that most Heuer collectors would never think of investing in a Chronosplit. Why? Not just because it’s a quartz- because these are unique enough to rise above that “problem”- but mainly because of the dire reliability of these watches.