Perspectives on the Heuer Globetrotter Exhibition

The Heuer Globetrotter Exhibition is now in full swing, having opened simultaneously across nine cities last week. The exhibition is a fresh take on how a watch brand can recognise and celebrate their heritage, as instead of simply showing watches sourced from the TAG Heuer Museum, the Globetrotter exhibition displays both watches belonging to local collectors, as well as selected museum pieces, all coordinated by a local collector. This engagement with the global Heuer collector community helps to set the exhibition apart and give it a unique energy and feel.

In many ways the exhibition is not only the most significant celebration of TAG Heuer’s heritage, but also represents what could be considered to be the third wave of vintage Heuer collecting- the move to the mainstream.

Heuer Globetrotter- Travel through Time

The idea for the project began back in June when ten cities were selected to participate in the exhibition, each with its own theme:

  • Paris- Classic Heuer
  • Geneva- Major inventions
  • Munich- Military watches
  • Venice- Cars and tmekeeping
  • Dubai- Sailing and Diving
  • Singapore- Formula 1
  • Hong Kong- Cars and drivers
  • Sydney- Multi sports
  • Tokyo- Design through history
  • Miami- Design

More than 400 watches, timers and stopwatches are involved in the project, by far the largest global display of vintage Heuers at any one time. There is also some fantastic brochures and other sales paraphernalia, which help to transform the modern TAG Heuer boutiques of 2017 back to what a Heuer boutique may have looked like back in the day. In each city a collector helped to pull together the local collector community, sourcing watches, as well as liasing with both head office and the local country team.

What The Globetrotter Project tells us about Collecting Heuers

Collecting vintage Heuers has certainly evolved over the years. I was by no means in the first wave of Heuer collectors- by the time I started getting interested in the watches there was already a wealth of knowledge in small corners of the internet. I recall reading the wonderful article Chuck Maddox wrote on the history of the Carrera , a seminal piece that served as an inspiration for the format of Calibre 11 articles. I also remember speaking with Jonathan Scatchard of Vintage Heuer in 2005 trying to work out where to find watches as I scoured Chronotrader/ OTD. Looking back, the underground phase was the first wave of Heuer collecting…strictly for the hardcore.

In these early days, walking into a vintage watch shop and asking whether they had any Heuers was a strange experience, because not only did they almost never have any Heuers, but there was bemusement as to why anyone would even ask. To its credit, TAG Heuer was ahead of the game and embraced the collecting community early on, with eight die-hard collectors participating in the first Collectors Summit held in 2008. It would be almost a further 12 months before this website was launched.

The original Collectors Summit- 2008

Over the last handful of years we have been in the second wave of Heuer collecting, as the watches have come onto the radar of the general watch collector. And if you need evidence of this, just take a look at the much more impressive roll-call of the 2016 Collector’s Summit below. Some familiar faces, but plenty of new ones too.

2016 Collectors Summit

There was now a broad range of watch collectors interested in Heuers, collectors who collected many other brands and got their information not only on  websites and forums, but also on Facebook Groups, Instagram and Whatsapp. This broader interest has driven up prices of the rarest pieces, although this increase has not been across the board. The biggest change has been the incredible appreciation of 1960s pieces, with the unspoken truth being that many 1970s watches have only marginally increased in the last decade, with the exception of the very rarest watches. Of course, the early collectors benefited from these prices increases, even if the unfortunate side-effect has been an overemphasis on recording and celebrating record prices at the expense of simply enjoying the watches.

To my mind, the Globetrotter project represents the third modern wave of collecting Heuers- the return to the mainstream. No longer is the Heuer community a small, exclusive club, but instead a central pillar of today’s TAG Heuer where the brand has taken back control of its past. In the old days, you had to know someone to access spare parts, a contrast to today, where TAG Heuer has reasserted its control over the distribution and availability of parts, including the fabrication of new components.

It’s true that collecting Heuers is not what it used to be, but while some collectors have struggled with losing “ownership” of the Heuer community, overall it’s been a process that TAG Heuer has managed well, making sure that the contribution of the old school collectors is respected and recognised. To me, the “mainstreaming” of vintage Heuers is something to be celebrated. I would never have imagined 10 years ago that you would be able to walk into ten of the largest boutiques around the world and only see a collection of Heuers where you’d normally find TAG Heuers. Having a broader set of people appreciate and understand the legacy of Heuer/ TAG Heuer is the only way for the collector community to continue reinventing itself, even if “our little secret” is now a widely known narrative.

The 10 Globetrotter Cities

Below are some of the highlights of the exhibition from each particpating Boutique, with these photos taken at the official launch last week.

1. Sydney

2. Venice

3. Tokyo

4. Paris

5. Dubai

6. Hong Kong

7. Singapore

8. Munich

9. Geneva

10. Miami

While Miami is one of the Globetrotter cities, the exhibition was unfortunately postponed due to cyclone Irma, which caused significant damage in Florida and the surrounding areas. A shame for sure, but in the context of the losses and devastation caused by the cyclone, this was not the time to be celebrating vintage watches. The plan is to reschedule the Miami exhibition to February 2018 to allow US collectors- one of the most passionate collector groups- to show off their watches and join in the celebration of vintage Heuer.

Exhibition Times

If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit the Globetrotter Exhibition, the good news is that it runs through to the 30th of September at the TAG Heuer boutique in the cities mentioned above. If you like watches even just a little bit, you’ll enjoy the seeing these beautiful watches. If you’re a watch lover, then the Heuer Globetrotter exhibition is something you can’t miss.


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