While many vintage Heuer models are now well-known by collectors- and therefore have prices to match- one of the most stylish models from the late 1960s continues to fly under the radar- the Heuer Camaro. Named after the Chevrolet Camaro that was launched in 1966, the Camaro offers a similar style to the Carrera, but in a slightly larger, cushion-shaped case.
A Swiss watch named after an American muscle car? Jack Heuer once told us that he named the watch after the Chevy Camaro because he was seeking to strengthen Heuer’s position in the US market by aligning the brand with US motor racing. And given the popularity of the Chevy Camaro in the late 1960s and its position as the Pacecar at the Indianapolis 500 in 1967 and 69 helped convince Jack that the name was a good fit.
A nice piece of trivia: There is also a one connection today between Chevrolet and TAG Heuer, as TAG Heuer’s head office is located on Rue Louis Chevrolet, a street named after the founder of Chevrolet who was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The Heuer Camaro was launched in 1968 and was the last series introduced before focus turned to the Chronomatic-powered watches of 1969. The Camaro was never sold with an automatic movement, and with Heuer focused on selling its new automatic chronograph models, the Camaro slipped out of production in 1972.
Understanding the Camaro- the Movements
The key to understanding the Camaro is to start by looking at the various the movements that were offered. There were many different Camaro models, but these can be confusing, as there are several different colour combinations that share the same reference number. There are three families of movement offered in the Camaro, each supplied to Heuer by Valjoux, which today is part of Swatch Group.
The Valjoux 72 is a three-register, manual-wind chronograph movement, which traces its origins back to the 1930s. A relatively small movement (13 ligne), the V72 was used in the Heuer Carrera, as well as the Rolex Daytona.
The Valjoux 72 models offer no date complication and has the following dial layout:
- 3 o’clock: 30-minute chronograph register
- 6 o’clock: 12-hour chronograph register
- 9 o’clock: running seconds
The Valjoux 92 followed the success of the 72 in the 1950s and is also a 13-ligne movement, but with only 2 registers
- 3 o’clock: 30-minute chronograph register
- 6 o’clock: running seconds
Valjoux 773X family
The Valjoux 7730 is a fascinating movement in that it forms the basis of today’s Calibre 17 (Valjoux/ ETA 7750). The 7730 is actually a re-named Venus 188, which is a manual-wind 30-minute chronograph 14 ligne movement with two registers.
Valjoux upgraded the movement in 1968, calling the revised calibre the Valjoux 7733, which serves as a base for several modified versions, including:
- 7733- base 2-register movement
- 7734- as above, but with date
- 7736- as above, but with the addition of a 12-hour register
The 773X family is larger than the Valjoux 72, both in diameter (31.3mm vs. 29.5mm) and height (7.4mm vs. 6.25mm).
What confuses people with the Camaro is that the 3-register model can have either a Valjoux 72 or the Valjoux 7736- the only way to tell the difference is that the case is thicker for the 7736-powered models and the chronograph pusher placement is different.
In many ways, the Camaro is the sister-watch to the Heuer Carrera, with both models sharing similar dial, hands and movements. The difference is of course in the case, where the Camaro features a 37mm cushion-shape case. It’s beautifully finished, with a range of different surface finishes- the starburst pattern on top of the case contrasts with the polished sides of the case, which makes for a wonderful design.
The dials are first rate- the 7220S below has a starburst dial, applied hour-markers and indented registers, which feature an azurage pattern in the centre. Some model variants have a single, thick hour marker at 12 o’clock, but most have a double-marker.
The Camaro Range
There are three lines to the Camaro family- the Camaro 12 (3 register with 12-hour counter), Camaro 30 (2 register with 30 minute counter) and Camaro 45 (2 register with 45 minute counter).
Heuer Camaro 12
- Camaro 7220 with Valjoux 72
- Camaro 7228 with Valjoux 72
- Camaro 73643 with Valjoux 7736
Heuer Camaro 30
- 73345- Gold-plated Case with Valjoux 7733; no date
- 73445- Gold-plated case with Valjoux 7734; date
- 7843- Stainless steel with Valjoux 7732; date
- 73443- Stainless steel with Valjoux 7734; date
- 7743- Stainless steel with Valjoux 7730; no date
- 73343- Stainless steel with Valjoux 7733; no date
Heuer Camaro 45
- Camaro 9220- Stainless steel with Valjoux 92; no date
Collecting the Camaro
It’s not that hard to find a Camaro on the second-hand market, but finding one in nice condition is more of a challenge. The issue tends to be the case itself, which can attract scratches and dings. In particular, its common to see the starburst case pattern scratched and damaged.
Unfortunately this leads people to try and polish the cases, which unless you have the skills of Abel Court, will look worse than when you started…people can’t help themselves and inevitably over-polish these cases.
One point to note if you are looking to add a strap to the Camaro is that the lugs are an unusual size- 19mm. If you want to find an original Gay Freres bracelet, then you need the end-pieces marked HLA.
Finally, a confusing area for collectors is the inconsistent application of hands on the Camaro. Take a look at the magnificent Camaro 7220 sold by Arno Haslinger in 2010. One white sub-dial hand, two Orange sub-dial hands…and a red Chronograph hand. All original and correct, but to a first-time buyer it does look wrong.
The Camaro range is very broad, with a huge range of variations on offer. Allow us to pick the five highlights of the Camaro range.
The Panda dial with the Valjoux 72 movement is our favourite. The model above features a black tachymeter flange, and there was also a second Panda 7220 that was the same but without the tachy scale- Ref. 7220SN.
Our second choice is a little more unusual- a Gold-plated Camaro with the Valjoux 7733. The example above was sold in the 2010 Haslinger auction, and is an absolute beauty. The contrast of the White dial and the Gold coloured details looks perfect if you want to bling things up a little.
Longines Heritage 1973 Chronograph- Re-edition
While TAG Heuer might not have made a Camaro re-edition Longines has in this watch- the Longines Heritage 1973 Chronograph. The 1973 has a nicely modernised case, but still keeps the essence of the original design.
Of all the vintage Heuers that I have owned and moved on, I don’t miss many as much as I do the Silver-dial Camaro 7220S you see at the start of this article. My secret shame is that I’m not a huge fan of the vintage Carrera, mainly because I find the size too small at 36mm. While the Camaro may only be 1mm larger, its square shape gives the watch a larger feel than its Carrera brother. The cushion case sits perfectly on the wrist, and to my mind the case detailing is more interesting.
The other aspect of Camaro ownership not to be underestimated is the joy of a manual-wind watch. I guarantee that it will feel special every time you wind the watch, and it certainly adds to the vintage legitimacy of the piece. Speaking of movements, the Valjoux 72 is a very pretty movement- you won’t find much nicer detailing on a modern movement, and many of those sit behind display casebacks.
The model range of the Camaro is one of the more confusing in the Heuer range, which perhaps has slowed its status with collectors, as it is harder to pin-point the exact model that you are looking for.
So next time you are looking for a vintage Heuer, make sure you check out the Camaro. You won’t find many watches with the same high-end movement and classic 1960s style at what is still a reasonable price-point.
Credits and Thanks
- Background history on Valjoux
- Amer Sibai: Pair of Camaro 7220 with Heuer Box and Sticker
- Abel Court: Valjoux 72 movement
- Chronoaddict: Heuer Camaro 45, Valjoux 92 movement
- Cyclopath: 7220T Panda
- Hertie: 7220SN Panda
- HeuerTime: Orange 7220NT Dial
- AnalogShift: Camaro 7743NS
- Heuerville: 73443 Dato
- Arno Haslinger: 7220NT, 73345T and 7228S
- Monochrome: Longines Conquest and Heritage 1973