Vintage Heuer values look to be on the rise. Here’s why you should be interested
If you’re looking at vintage and not considering Heuer, you should seriously rethink your plans. With all but the most vanilla vintage Rolex commanding prices equal or in excess of the contemporary output, chasing down interesting watches is for the alpha collector only, requiring serious knowledge and an eye keen enough to spot the hazards – it isn’t just franken-watches and outright fakes that trap the unwary, it’s subtler tricks that can prove expensive – is that clasp originally from the same watch? Are you a catalogue condition purist? What about “period correct parts”?
The comparatively low value that vintage Heuers still, for now, command, means that there’s less gain to be made by “improving” these watches and that means less risk when buying them (though a certain amount of care and research is still required). But apart from being easier, or at least less risky, to collect than Rolex watches of a similar vintage, why look at Heuer? Here are five good reasons:
- Heuer has great history.
The brand matters, even in vintage watches, and Heuer’s story is one of the best in the industry. One of the few companies to have been a major player in the industry throughout the wristwatch era and up to the present day, Heuer’s history is full of innovation and interest. Indelibly associated with motorsport from the 60’s, Heuer has always been associated with technical, utility watchmaking and had its strongest era, arguably, from the late 50’s through to the early 70’s. In Jack Heuer, who ran the company through most of that period, the company had a visionary boss who was as au fait with avant-garde designers such as Oscar Niermayer as he was familiar with the intricacies of watch production.
Heuer Autavia, 113.603, c.1985 from Phillips’ Start-Stop-Reset sale earlier this year (sold for SFr.87,500)
2. Quality stock.
That means there’s a wealth of good quality, interesting watches out there that were at the forefront of watch design at the time. Autavias, Carreras and Monacos aside, Heuer produced watches for the Bundeswehr, for sailing and diving, while the company was part of the consortium that produced one of the first automatic chronograph movements.
A c.1960 Heuer Maréographe, ref. 2446C, from Artcurial’s July sale (sold for €17,550).
3. Growing Interest.
While TAG Heuer has pivoted to concentrate on a younger clientele in recent years, it has also adopted a more useful approach to the back catalogue. Rather than simply producing updated versions of catalogue classics, TAG Heuer is generating longer term, deeper engagement through activities such as the recent Autavia competition. And that’s had the effect of stimulating interest in the vintage story.
4. Better condition.
More knowledge and interest means better quality watches on the market – there are fewer over-restored watches, and more respect for the original state and natural patina, while prices are not yet high enough to tempt the unscrupulous in numbers.
5. Growing knowledge base.
There are enough good specialists out there to make collecting and learning about Heuer a relatively simple and enjoyable process. Jonathan Scatchard of vintageheuer.com is one of the more experienced, but see also onthedash.com and calibre11.com. Scatchard, who thinks that demand for vintage Heuer is on a steep upward curve, says that ‘serious’ collector interest is, for the moment, focussed on 1960’s Autavias and Carreras, though more generalist collectors gravitate to ‘McQueen’ Monacos and ‘Siffert’ Autavias.
A 1966 Heuer Autavia 2446 from Phillips’ Start-Stop-Reset sale earlier this year (sold for SFr.75,000)
The bonus reason is that activity on the vintage Heuer market is on the rise. Scatchard’s thinking isn’t the only reason to keep a close eye on Heuer; sales over the spring and summer have seen some good prices realised: a black PVD Autavia made for the Israeli Defence Force went for just under SFr.90,000 in Phillips’ Start-Stop-Reset sale in May, while Crown & Calibre, a US based dealership, is working with Jeff Stein of onthedash to put together a Heuer sale that they clearly think will be a game changer for the brand.
Bonham’s sale of the 81 piece Arno Haslinger collection in 2010 proved that there’s strong enough interest in Heuer to support a themed sale, so will Crown & Calibre’s sale fulfil their ambitions? They have over 70 consignments so far including a PVD black Heuer Monaco, (aka “Dark Lord’, seen at the top of this page) that’s likely to fetch north of $70,000 (£53,000). That seems to be a realistic premium compared to the £48,000 that a similar watch went for at the Bonham’s sale and reason enough for savvy collectors to put Heuer on their wish lists.