In the past decade, there has been a tremendous surge in vintage sports watches in the collector market. Divers, chronographs, sport luxury, and rugged tool watches from brands such as Omega, Rolex, Tudor, IWC and Audemars Piguet have enjoyed huge popularity from both seasoned collectors and beginners. Prices realized at auction and through private sales have set numerous records year after year. Furthermore, all of these brands have released “heritage” inspired models in their modern collections, stoking the fire of vintage fascination and capitalizing on consumer demand to great effect.
However, one significant brand has been notably absent from the list of those experiencing significant increases in the past decade: Legendary sports chronograph manufacturer Heuer (now TAG Heuer). With the exception of one highly publicized auction of the Haslinger Collection by Bonham’s in 2010, and a massive appreciation for the iconic Monaco chronograph (due almost entirely to an epidemic of Steve McQueen/Le Mans mania), collector attention to vintage Heuer has remained cool, and the brand has sat on the sidelines of the sports watch swelling while its counterparts have seen meteoric increases. This is an interesting and noteworthy case, particularly given the brand’s visibility and popularity in the new watch marketplace, as well as their pertinence in the development of important sporting chronographs in the 20th Century. There are several interesting theories as to why vintage Heuer has been off the radar, but even more interesting is that this has recently and rather dramatically ceased to be the case.
That’s right, race fans- vintage Heuer is finally heating up in the collector marketplace, so it is time to really start paying attention. Here are a few vintage models worth considering investing in now, before prices jump exponentially.
Vintage Heuer – Autavia 1163/11630
The Heuer Autavia is perhaps most likely to be the “next big thing” in vintage sports chronographs. In fact, a very early manual winding example just sold for a world record $20,000 ($25K including buyer’s premium) this past September at Antiquorum in New York, blowing away pre-auction estimates and getting the attention of collectors and enthusiasts around the world. There is little question that as attention is drawn to the Autavia name, these later cushion-cased automatic versions will become popular as well.
Already having doubled – or in some cases, tripled – in value over the past few years, reference 1163 and 11630 Autavias are still a tremendous bargain when it comes to vintage automatic chronograph with serious chops. “Standard” black dial variants were produced in significant quantities, and prices for quality examples typically run about $2500-$4500. Numerous variant versions, including the already-popular “Jo Siffert” white dial versions, regularly command up to $12,000. The Autavia is every bit as important to Heuer as the Daytona is to Rolex. Think on that for a minute.
Vintage Heuer – Camaro 7220
The Camaro is arguably one of the most underappreciated models to ever have come from Heuer. Released in an era where thick, automatic, oversized chronographs were all the rage, the Camaro’s somewhat demure proportions (37mm diameter with a relatively thin case) never caught on, and was only produced for a few years.
The Camaro was offered in both a two-register version, powered by the Valjoux 92 and a three register layout, which was powered by the much lauded Valjoux 72. Today, the twin register versions can be had in the $2500 range, whereas the Valjoux 72 powered versions can command up to twice as much in excellent condition. As modern watches begin to slim and come down in size, our bet is on sub-40mm vintage timepieces becoming exponentially popular, and wouldn’t be surprised to see the wonderful Camaro jump dramatically in value.
Vintage Heuer – Carrera 3147
Few Heuer timepieces carry the iconic stature of the legendary Carrera line. Developed in 1963 and named after the La Carrera Panamericana road race in Mexico, the Carrera is the only model in the Heuer to have remained in continuous production since its inception. A multitude of references and variants have been produced over the past fifty years, making it somewhat difficult to pick and choose which models are likely to see the most appreciation.
Early steel manual-winding double and triple register versions are always a good choice, as are the more unusual variants, such as the reference 3147 date model Carreras. Rare on the market, Datos can be had in the $3500-$4500 range. Strap on any of these fantastic 36mm Carreras, and you may start wondering why sporting chronographs ever evolved into the behemoths so many have become today.
Vintage Heuer – Daytona
A shared name is about the only thing this model has in common with the legendary high-roller chronograph from Rolex. This unusual Heuer has much more in common with several other major luxury sports watches from the 70s from a design perspective, including the Audemars Piguet reference 5402 Royal Oak, IWC Ingenieur SL, Vacheron Constantin 222, and Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700. Integrated bracelet design was a very popular design trait in the mid 70s, and Heuer tried their hand with the short-lived Daytona.
Despite its unique and interesting design, the model was unsuccessful for the brand, and it was dropped from their lineup after only a few years of production. Values on quality vintage examples are typically in the $2500-$4000 range, but given its rarity and Genta-like sport luxury design, we can definitely see these blowing up in value over the next few years.
While Heuer is by no means the only undervalued brand in the realm of vintage watches, it is one with significant and important historical value, which could very well make it the next big thing in the collector market. Of course you should never just buy a watch for investment purposes; buy it because it speaks to you personally. But if you also happen to score a timepiece on the upswing value-wise, that doesn’t hurt matters one bit.