It is amazing to think that in the past few years in which we’ve seen the rise and rise of vintage Heuer, this is the first time we a are seeing a high-profile singular subject auction of Heuers, the last time there was an auction that featured just Heuers was Bonham’s Arno Haslinger Collection. We’ve seen all Omega and Rolex auctions and even auctions focused upon a single range within those brands. But this particular auction is perhaps more intriguing for a good couple of reasons. 1) Just 4 – 5-years ago, an auction like this would’ve been unthinkable – Heuers were trading in the lower part of 4 figures and this is including some pretty rare stuff too. And 2) well this high-profile auction will most definitely put vintage Heuer under a much bigger spot light that for better or worse will have an impact on the growing market value, though don’t expect to see sharp increases in value.
With that in mind in mind we decided to take a look at some of our favourite lots from this auction and share some of our thoughts.
LOT 3 & 5: AUTAVIA ‘BIG SUBS’ 2446M & 3646M
The very first Autavia is perhaps the purest of all Autavia’s in my opinion and this thematic auction has both the 2446 & 3646. You see, these early examples featured dials that just had so much detail. Its balance is pure genius and has wonderful symmetry, but its oversized chronograph sub dials, referred to as “Big Subs” by collectors, are its true signature and distinguish this first executions from all others. Another unusual trait is the use of Arabic numerals: 2, 4, 6, 8 10 & 12 within the hour subsidiary chronograph register. The dial featured applied radium luminous block hour markers and a singular Arabic numeral at 12 o’clock on the 2446 and Arabic numerals at 12 & 6 o’clock on the 3646. Another noticeable trait of these early Autavia’s is the intricacy of the outer minute track.
These two Autavia’s make use of the Valjoux movements, the triple register 2446 using the Valjoux 72 and the two register 3646 using the Valjoux 92, both signed Ed Heuer & Co. on its bridge. This movement was cased up in 39 millimetres of stainless steel, with bevelled lugs that boasts three separate surfaces – top, side and of course the chamfer in between these two angles, which only adds to the allure of these early examples.
Both the 2446 & 3646 sport hour rotating bezels, with a triangular Radium lume piece at 12 o’clock, that has a coin edge finish. The triple register Autavia sports a two-step screw-back case to accommodate for the slightly thicker movement, while the two register (3646) bears a one-step case back. Both bear the ‘Autavia’ model name above the Heuer shield, with an inscription on the outer edge that reads – Stainless Steel Chronograph – Waterproof – Guaranteed 330FT Under Water, a trait that can been seen on all Autavias from the 60s. Another indication of very early Autavias are the pushers, which appear to be just a tad smaller but interestingly enough, early Autavias did not feature signed crowns.
With Phillips being the trendsetter for record-breaking sales, it is entirely conceivable that we may yet see a couple more records this coming weekend for these particular Heuers but as you’ll be aware, it is all about timing too.
LOT 23: CARRERA ‘LUM-FAE BELGIAN’ 7753
Of all the Heuer lots from this thematic auction, this example is not only the most intriguing but one of my absolute favourites too. I for one have never seen such a piece like this before but with its Carrera style case, black and full Arabic numeral dial, it is instantly evident this is a military issued example – by virtue making it extremely rare.
This rather demure Carrera makes use of the commonplace Valjoux 7733, which can be found in other 7753 reference pieces but what makes this piece standout is the fact that it is one of less than 10 known examples. The Belgian military and air forces were heavily invested in following emergence from the “Congo Crisis” in the late 60s and some of this investment went into a number of watches made by Heuer – this being one of them.
It is noted that while civilian examples were in circulation at the time, they wouldn’t have had the LuM-Faé (Lucht Macht – Forces Aériennes) military marks on the reverse, nor the year and military personnel number beneath – of which this example bears both. There are no Heuer Bunds in this auction, which was at first rather odd but when you see this piece it more than makes up for the lack of any Bunds.
LOT 28: AUTAVIA ‘FIRST EXECUTION’ GMT 2446
Many of you may be aware that Heuer made GMT pieces but of all the examples they made under the Autavia umbrella, this first execution GMT 2446 is not only the most coveted but the rarest too. It was around 1968 that Heuer introduced the very first GMT chronograph, which also used the very rare all-lume fourth execution Autavia dial, which features tritium markers that are applied directly to the dial.
Just like all GMT’s from this era it features a 24-hour hand that enables reading of a second time zone via a red and blue bezel, more commonly known as a Pepsi bezel. That being the case, this additional complication for the GMT function was achieved by using a modified Valjoux 72, known as the Valjoux 724.
Interestingly enough, of all the Autavias made this particular piece is considered to be one of the “Holy Grails” in vintage Heuer collector circles and as such, is seldom seen in the wild, let alone at a major auction. It is noted that to date, only 8 have been uncovered and all fall within a tight series of serial number range and, as luck would have it, this is the earliest known example.
LOT 34: AUTAVIA ‘ALL LUME’ 2446H
Okay, I know I said the military issued Carrera is one of my favourites but at a very, very close second, it has to be this Autavia 2446H – it just such a special watch in my opinion. The seldom seen 4th generation Autavia only features one small change from the 3rd and was only available in the triple register version 2446. Known to only be made in small quantities the 4th generation Autavia featured a very distinctive dial that sported all-lume tritium hour markers, applied directly to the dial, a trait seen in very early Autavias.
Again, like the 2446 GMT above, this 1968 Autavia piece is considered to be a grail in vintage Heuer collector circles and as such, is seldom seen in the wild. And just like the GMT above, it is noted that to date, only 8 have been uncovered and this example appears to be in excellent condition.
This Phillips Heuer Parade Auction, that features only pieces from the collection of Richard Crosthwaite & Paul Gavin, is very significant. It contains examples of Autavias, Carreras, Monacos and Seafarers that have been well-documented and have featured online and in books. However, collectors alike may perhaps bemoan the lack pieces outside of these ranges. But I think the pieces that have been selected for this auction can be considered the best of the best in vintage Heuer right now – so supply and demand likely played a huge part in the selection process.
Regardless, vintage Heuer is at an all-time high and this is just a snippet into what timepieces Heuer made during the 60s and early 70s. The designs of their pieces during this era were both bold and legible, not to mention purposeful and rugged. They adorned the wrists of many famous racing drivers, something Jack Heuer himself was very proud of – seeing as he made it his mission to make sure racing drivers wore Heuer timepieces in the paddocks and in races. Maybe a reason why Heuers from this era strike a chord with so many…
For more lot information on The Phillips Heuer Parade: The Crosthwaite & Gavin Collection Auction that will take place on the 11th of November at the Hotel La Reserve, Geneva, visit the official Phillips Watches website to view the entire catalogue.