Heuer Carrera 1153N

The Chrono-matic story continues.

I saw this watch on a watch trading forum which has its software rooted in the 1990s and despite having supposed rules about what is and isn’t allowed, is not officially policed – so scammers and thieves abound.

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After a good deal of due diligence, I bought it because I’d intended to switch the bracelet from the dark-faced (“N”) to the silver (“S”) 1153 Carrera, as discussed previously. The bracelet is a “Gay Frères BoR”, aka Beads-of-Rice, and is valuable in its own right – in good condition and with the end-links, it’s worth north of £1000.

IMG_8537Gay Frères made bracelets for all sorts – Heuer, Zenith, Patek Philippe etc, before being acquired by Rolex in 1998, in a move to hoover up former suppliers so they could do everything in-house.

The bracelet dates to February 1969, so fits with the expected age of the watch and is supposedly original to it.

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But after I got the watch, I couldn’t separate it from the bracelet – and quickly decided that I preferred the dark dial. It supposedly started life as a charcoal/black colour (hence the “N” for “Noir” in the reference number):

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… but in some light, it is definitely a beautiful blue, and the white subdials and bezel have taken on a creamy colour. The hands look to have been re-lumed in the past, and don’t quite match (they’re a bit too green).

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As expected with an early watch, it’s got the first-execution Cal11 movement.

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The serial number is in the range 1477nn, so it’s only a couple of hundred later than the 1153N which sold for nearly £30K at the “Heuer Parade” auction in November 2017. That one is in spectacular condition and is probably unique, though…(Heuer put Chronomatic on the dial for a few months, before selling the name to Breitling – and they had a long association with Abercrombie and Fitch, so this is thought to be the only one with both marks on the dial…)

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Heuer “Calibre 11” Carrera 1153S

As mentioned in the Watch out for Franken Watches post, the first Heuers I appreciated were smaller cased, manual-wind Carreras. At the time, I thought the larger automatics from 1969 through to the late 1970s were a bit gauche, but over the course of a few years, tastes can change and I started looking out for them instead of the early ones.

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The first generation of automatic Carreras used the same “Calibre 11” movement that featured in the Monaco and Autavia watches from Heuer, themselves a major part of the “Chrono-matic” group that was in the race to build the first automatic chronograph. The case style was different from the earlier models in that the mid 1960s style was basically a round case with lugs protruding, but the late 60s/early 70s featured a “cushion” or “C-case” design where the curves of the case extend to the end of the lugs.

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This Carrera is a 1153S, and is quite early in the life of the model so probably originated from 1970. It has 12 / 3 / 6 / 9 on the subdial at 9 o’clock (later ones had 12 / 1 / 2 / 3 etc so that subdial looked a lot busier). The tachymeter scale is also from the first generation (known in Heuer circles as “1st execution”) as the word TACHY appears at 3 o’clock, and the scale starts at 200. Later models had TACHY at 1 o’clock and scale starting at 500, like most chronographs do.

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The hands on this 1153S are actually 2nd execution; it means that at some point either the original hands were replaced, or quite probably, the watch is a mixture – a 2nd execution watch with a 1st execution dial. There are numerous variants like this – Heuer just used whatever parts it had to hand, it seems.

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In common with all of the Chrono-matic watches, the crown is on the left side, and in this case features a Heuer “shield” logo and the two pushers on the right are round but with fluted cut-outs. The case finish was vertically brushed – this particular watch has lost some of the brushing through wear, but I don’t think it’s ever been polished.

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The Calibre 11 movement came in several revisions; this one is a first generation Cal 11, further underlining that it’s likely a 1970 watch, as the Cal 11i would have been used from late 1970.

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I bought this (from eBay; the usual story, badly-described, poor photos but intact) and had it serviced to keep it running well. It went onto a replica “Corfam” rally strap that suited it well, but I had a hankering to find a suitable bracelet… to be continued…

Watching out for Franken watches

When I first started taking a shine to the Heuer Carrera, it was the original mid-60s one that I liked, manual wind with a small case (36mm) and a chronograph but no date. Examples include the 3-register, Valjoux 72 powered 2447 series or the 2-register Valjoux 92 3647.

You need to be really careful when dabbling in these, though, since there are precious few records (Heuer managed to lose them all in a fire, apparently) so it’s very hard to definitively prove that a given watch is all original. The watch at the top of the post is a put-together watch with a series of features that were never seen together at the same time, as well as some questionable parts that hint to it being a fake.

Another case in point…Here’s a watch that’s for sale by a dealer in the Netherlands – a 3647T, looking in pretty good shape, and it’s on for €7500 as of May 2019. It compares well with photographed examples in the Carrera reference book by Crosthwaite & Gavin, two of the most respected Heuer collectors.

It doesn’t have T SWISS on the dial (as later ones would have), it doesn’t say Heuer on the crown (which is also correct), the hands look correct and its serial number seems to fit in the right range for a watch of that age.

Look at the movement of the watch for sale,

and a reference photo of the same Valjoux 92

or another reference pic here.

There’s one little inconsistency, and that’s the orientation of SWISS on the bridge… maybe a fluke? It may be nothing to worry about and the watch in question could well be as straight as a die, but it pays to question these little details as they could be a tell tale of other nefarious goings on.

Definitely Fakey

What about this, from a vendor who is widely known to sell “prepared” watches (read: Frankens), in this case asking £5200.

The movement in that one is deeply suspect – the bridge engraving looks different to other examples, and there’s no UNADJUSTED SEVENTEEN JEWELS on the plate towards the top of that picture (compare to the previous two photos) . It’s almost certainly a Valjoux 92 that’s been harvested from another watch brand and made to look like a Heuer one, and dishonestly so.

The same vendor is on eBay, and has similarly iffy pieces – look at the 1st generation 2447, with Valjoux 72, here.

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At first glance, the movement could be OK – it wears the number 72, it is inscribed with the “unadjusted…” text… but the HEUER-LEONIDAS SA on the bridge has a different radius than the curve of the piece itself, whereas a genuine one looks more correct…

Even more modest watches can be a minefield, too – most of the Seiko 6139-600x, a favourite of mine,  you’ll find on eBay, are not all they purport to be. Take this one for example – another eBayer who regularly sells dodgy, mucked-about-with stuff.

The dial doesn’t show the usual signs of being a replacement after-market one, but the spidey sense says it’s not kosher. The watch has the wrong hands, an aftermarket bezel and an aftermarket bracelet… none of which are pointed out by the vendor. Steer well away and consult an expert before buying this kind of keich.

Heuer Carrera Re-edition #2

An addition to an earlier post is this smart-looking white-dialled version of the “Carrera” reissue, which TAG Heuer brought out in 1996, reference CS3110 .

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Here it is, next to its black-faced brother, the CS3111.

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I put both of them on perforated racing straps with a Heuer deployant clasp, which I think makes the watch feel (and look) so much better.

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The clasp is numbered FC5012 and retails for a hefty £250 or so (though they can be had for less if you shop around) and the strap (FC6167) is a good £150 though equivalent-sized straps are available elsewhere; one of these is the original TAG Heuer strap, and the other was an equivalent that was a fraction of the price and maybe even better quality.

Heuer Monaco(s)

A lot has been written about Heuer’s iconic square “Monaco” watch, which first appeared in 1969 housing one of the first automatic chronograph movements inside. Rich Crosthwaite – who literally wrote the book on the Monaco – has a definitive reference site, here.

If you want to buy a pristine vintage Monaco, though, you’d better have deep pockets – one of Rich’s own was auctioned for 30,000CHF in November 2017 – about £22,500 or $32,000.

TAG Heuer have released a good few modern Monacos, though, many bearing the TAG logo and coming in a variety of colours and dial designs.

The first one to hark back directly to the original, however, was a recreation of the original 1133B, famously worn by Steve McQueen in the film, “Le Mans”. The crown was on the left side (like the original), and the watch was designed to be a close match visually, too.

The CAW211A release from 2009 was celebrating 40 years of the Monaco and was in tribute to Steve McQueen. Only 1,000 were made – they can be picked up now, but at a premium over the original RRP. The watch came with a couple of straps, a nice wooden presentation box, and a heavyweight coffee table book all about McQueen and Le Mans.

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In 2015, TAG Heuer brought out a regular production version of this watch – very similar though ever so slightly different if you put them side by side. The CAW211P has a sapphire display back to the case, and is arguably even more similar to the original 1133B. Here they are, side by side (CAW211A on the left):

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Finally, in this Monaco-fest (though somewhat out of sequence), there was another limited edition Monaco, the CAW211B – it followed the blue-dialled –A, but this time was a grey & black dial rather than blue & white, echoing the original vintage 1133G that is arguably rarer though less desirable (as in, less “collectible”) than the blue-dialled 1133B.

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The CAW211B was limited to 1860 pieces, as a celebration of 150 years of Heuer (and 1860 was the year of its founding). Here is the CAW211B next to the production CAW211P (the –A has now moved to another collector…) – it has some subtle differences that can be seen as an evolution from the –A to the –B and finally to the production –P (the hands, for example, on the –B are more like those of the –A, but the dial design is closer to the –P, apart from the obvious colour difference).

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Heuer Carrera Re-edition

Like lots of other brands, watch companies periodically raid their past for future inspiration, releasing new editions of classic watches or simply lifting design ideas from their back catalogue. Omega did it with their 60th Anniversary models, looking to recapture the design of the 1957 original Seamaster, Railmaster & Speedmaster lines. Buying an original-condition CK2915 Speedmaster would set you back a lot of money, so maybe the brands are looking for ways to put vintage style on the wrist of new buyers at a fraction of the price, but still at a healthy profit to the manufacturer (instead of an auction house).

Anyway, in the 1985, Heuer was acquired by TAG to form the now well-known TAG Heuer brand, and in the late 1990s decided to issue some new watches under the Heuer name again – dubbing them as “Heuer Classics”, starting with the “1964 Carrera Re-edition”.

Heuer Carrera CS3111 Re-edition

The re-edition was surprisingly faithful to the original 1964 Carrera, except that it didn’t have the name on the dial. Apart from that, it’s the same size (36mm, small by today’s standards), and has the same profile. See the original here.

Heuer Carrera WS2113 and CS3111 re-editions

There were other re-editions, in different colours too – above is the CS3111 side by side with a later, “Carrera GMT” (a watch that never existed back in the day but was part of the reissue set).

The movement in the original Heuer Carrera 2447 was a Valjoux 72, essentially the same movement fitted to the early Rolex Daytona, pristine examples of which can cost you more than $1m. For the re-edition, TAG Heuer took the off-the-shelf Lemania 1873 movement, as also used by Omega in the Speedmaster (post 1968, in what Omega cals cal.861). From Chronomaddox, here’s a picture of the movement inside the TAG Heuer CS3111:

Heuer Camaro

I love Heuer watches – there’s something a little off-piste and cool about them. They’re most famous for the 3 watches that came out in 1969, all featuring the same automatic movement – one of the first automatic chronographs, that featured in the Carrera, Autavia & Monaco watches.

But they had numerous other watches in the late 1960s and early 1970s, using a variety of hand-wound, off-the-shelf movements from Valjoux, including the relatively short-lived Camaro. It was launched in 1968 to celebrate the Chevrolet Camaro, but when Heuer focussed on the “Chronomatic” models (ie the automatic chronographs), they stopped selling Camaros in 1972.

Heuer Camaro 73343 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

This particular one was bought by a watchmaker from its original owner, serviced and sold to me – it’s in very original condition – clearly worn (with the original etched sunburst finish on the “cushion” case just about visible, though it’s pretty scuffed) but the dial & hands are, in my view, exceptional. In the sunlight, it looks almost dark brown.

Heuer Camaro 73343 -- Vintage Watch Advisors

It’s a bit of an unusual Camaro in that it’s model 73343 N, signifying that it has a black face with no Tachy track on the outside (partnering a similar looking watch which has a Tachy under the crystal, the 73343 NT). It’s a successor to the 7743, which looks very similar though has an earlier version of the Valjoyx 773x movement. It’s quite hard to date Heuers accurately for age, but I think this is from late 1970/early 1971.

Valjoux 7733 movement from Heuer Camaro 73343N  -- Vintage Watch Advisors

This Camaro has a 7733 movement, one of the last of the family before the automatic 7750 evolution was released, and is still used today (as either the ETA7750 or the generic parts-compatible copy, Sellita SW500).