Last Updated on August 17, 2021 by Calibre 11
In addition to being the backbone of the Heuer collection of the 1960s and 70s, the motor sport-orientated Autavia and Carrera also served as the base for specialist aquatic models- the Regatta, Skipper, Seafarer. In the case of the Skipper and the Seafarer, there are both Carrera and Autavia-based watches, while the 1980s Regatta was based solely on the Autavia, evolving from the Aquastar watches of the 1960s.
While the motor sport models will always be the classic iterations of the design, the water sports-based Autavia and Carrera are amongst the most collectible vintage Heuers thanks to being made in much smaller numbers and featuring both design flourishes and functional upgrades over their petrol-based brothers.
Today we’ll focus on one particular version of the Seafarer, which combines the dial design of the Heuer 2444 and the first-generation Carrera case of the early 1960s. The wonderful photos in this post were taken by Mika Ruottinen, unless indicated. Our thanks to Mika for sharing the story of his epic Seafarer.
The Story of the Seafarer
Heuer had a long association with the US retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, supplying a number of watches for A&F, with the ideas for particular models coming from A&F President Walter Haynes. Hayes would come up with ideas for what his customers wanted, and then leave it to Heuer to work out how to deliver the complications- several bespoke watches were created with this partnership, including the Auto-Graph, Solunar and the Seafarer.
Cracking the code of how to deliver Haynes’ requests was Jack Heuer’s first foray into the world of watchmaking, as he explained in his biography
One interesting thing that happened during my school days was that around 1947 or 1948, when I was 15, I made my first professional contribution to the family watchmaking business. One day my Father came home from work and said that Walter Haynes, who was then the president of upmarket sporting outfitters Abercrombie & Fitch in New York, had asked him to create a watch which could display the time of tides.
Funnily enough, some years earlier my father had thought it would be useful to have a watch that showed the phases of the moon because while mushroom hunting he had observed that morels seemed to spring up in greater numbers during a waxing moon. But a watch that could display the time of tides really stumped him. He had not seen the sea for quite a few years and was not at all familiar with the subject of tides. He scratched his head and admitted he had no idea how to do it. I told my father that my physics teacher at school, Dr. Heinz Schilt, was a genius and I was sure he would be able to find a solution.
Indeed he could and he performed all the calculations for the wheels and cogs needed for a watch to predict high tides at a given location. Thanks to him and my intermediation we were able to create our first tide watch, the “Solunar”, and later the “Mareograph-Seafarer”. This was my very first involvement with the creation of a watch.Jack Heuer- The Times of My Life
Heuer supplied the Seafarer for Abercrombie & Fitch and then offered the watch for sale in Europe under the Mareographe name.
The Seafarer/ Mareographe duo were introduced in 1950 and existed in several iterations before disappearing in the early 1970s from the Heuer range.
Think of the Seafarer as being the Chronograph version of the Solunar, which was a time-only watch. Both watches were designed to help sailors and fishermen work out high and low tides- you can read about the origins of the Solunar here.
Up Close with the Seafarer
The Seafarer that we are featuring today is one of the best that we’ve seen, and is based on the 2447 Carrera of the early 1960s. What makes this watch special, apart from its incredible condition is the branding on the dial- this is not a Heuer Mareographe or an Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer- it is a Heuer Seafarer.
The watch has a beautiful white/ silver dial with three large chronograph registers, with the key one being the 9 o’clock register (the lunar dial), which shows both the two high tides and tow low tides of the day. The owner needed to set the watch with the left-hand pusher once the local tide charts had been consulted.
While there are several Seafarer models, this classic white with blue highlights dial in the most special in our view, especially when the lume is as original and beautifully aged as this one. The dial and dauphine hands are not shared with any other Carrera- in fact, they are carried over from the previous Heuer Ref. 2444 based Seafarer.
Powering the watch is a modified version of Valjoux’s 72 hand-wound chronograph movement, the same movement you’ll find in most of Heuer’s 1960s Chronograph collection and of course the Rolex Daytona.
Mareographe or Seafarer?
The general rule for these watches is simple: if it has the Heuer logo, then the watch is called the Mareographe. If it has Abercrombie & Fitch branding, then it’s a Seafarer- but as you can see from the image below, there are some watches with Heuer branding and no model name and the version that we’ve featured here, where the Seafarer brand is offered as a Heuer. While it’s not known how many examples of each variation was made, we can say that the Heuer Seafarer is a true grail watch and incredibly hard to find.
You can read more about the Seafarer at the specialist Heuer Chrono website here.
Looking back at the Seafarer
Whether we’re talking about a watch with the Seafarer or a Mareographe branding, the nautical versions of Heuer’s racing chronographs are far harder to find that their motor racing cousins on which they’re based. What makes them special to our eyes is that in an era of monochrome dials, the Seafarer offered a subtle splash of colour. The beautiful baby blue and the fact that the watch combines two Heuer chronographs (Ref. 2444 and Ref. 2447) from the 1960s makes the Seafarer unique in the world of Heuer and justifies the watch’s position on the very top tier of collectible vintage Heuers.