Vintage Heuer collectors are often frustrated with the major auction houses.  We are accustomed to seeing Christie’s and Sotheby’s sprinkle a handful of vintage Heuer chronographs among the 250 watches that they will offer in an auction, and in many instances these Heuers appear to be “filler”.  Often, they are common models that are readily available on eBay or dealer sites, with the condition being very ordinary.  In 2017, we saw Phillips offer 42 vintage Heuer chronographs in the “Heuer Parade” and Christie’s offer 34 Heuer chronographs in its “Rare Watches and American Icons” auction in New York. Since then, however, the line-up of Heuer chronographs offered by the major auction houses has been limited.  Bonhams has offered a fair number of vintage Heuer chronographs over the last couple of years, but many of these watches have been the run-of-the-mill variety.

So it is noteworthy that Monaco Legend Group will be offering 24 vintage Heuer chronographs in its auction of “Exceptional Watches” on Saturday, October 31, 2020.  These 24 watches are from a single collector and, to my knowledge, they appear to be “new to the market” (meaning that I don’t recall seeing any of them in other auctions over the last few years).  So it appears that our collector / seller assembled this collection some years ago.  All 24 of the watches will be sold without reserve. [Our page covering the auction includes high resolution photos of all 24 of the watches.]

Not Your Ordinary Heuers

What is most interesting about the 24 vintage Heuer chronographs being sold by Monaco Legend Group is that these are not the “usual suspects” that we usually see offered by the auction houses or dealers.  In almost every instance, the watches in this collection are special watches, not necessarily the rarest of the rare, but watches that would be pursued by the discerning collector.  We can illustrate the type of watches included in this collection by referring to a few examples.

In the world of Reference 1163 Autavias, the most common varieties are the “Viceroy”, among those with the black dials, and the Mark 6 “Siffert”, among those with the white dials.  These are the models we would expect to see if we are looking for “filler” at the major auction houses or browsing eBay on a given night.

The Monaco Legend Group auction includes five of the Reference 1163 Autavias, but all of them are less common models.  We see early executions of the Reference 1163 MH (black dial) (Lot 9) and 1163 T (“Siffert”), with ridged markers(Lot 188), along with an “Orange Boy” (Lot 88) and a “White Orange Boy” (Lot 206).

Heuer made three versions of the Reference 1163 GMT, and the one included in the Monaco Legends Group auction (Lot 185) is the first execution, which is the version valued most highly by the collectors.  Rounding out the automatic Autavias, we have a Reference 1563 “Exotic”, one of the grails among the Heuers (Lot 89), and a Reference 113.603 with its black-coated case (Lot 7).  It’s fair to say that all seven of the Autavias included in this auction are prized by vintage Heuer enthusiasts.

Other vintage Heuer chronographs included in the auction also are the stuff of the connoisseur.  They are not always the rarest or most coveted of a model, but they are usually toward the top of the Heuer food chain.  The “Skipperrera” (Reference 7754) was the first model of the Skipper and is the grail of the Skipper models (with one selling in another auction on October 26, 2020 for $72,200), but the Skipper Reference 7764 (included as Lot 47) would be second on the list for many collectors.  Heuer made four versions of the Jarama chronograph.  The two most common executions are the ones with the bi-metallic cases (stainless steel case with gold-plated bezel), one is so rare that we have seen only three samples, and the one that is included in the Monaco Legend Group auction is the Reference 110.233 (Lot 186), which has a stainless steel case and a black bezel.  This is the version that many collectors view as different and desirable; this is the one that will be offered by Monaco Legend Group.

If it sounds as though I am describing watches that get onto the podium, but never win the gold medal, a correction is in order.  Included in the sale are several of the most highly-valued of the vintage Heuer chronographs.  Lot 111 is a black-coated Monaco, Reference 74033, which collectors call the “Dark Lord”.  We can expect to see two or three of these offered for sale per year.

The auction includes two of the 18 karat gold automatic Carreras, Reference 1158, produced from 1969 through the 1970s.  Lot 113, with the champagne dial and contrasting dark registers, is the most prized of this model, typically selling at a premium to models where the registers match the dial.

Lot 209 is the version with the silver / white dial, also prized by collectors.

The Bottom Line

“Curation” is a popular word in today’s watch market, as collectors rely on the experts to select nice samples of the most desirable watches.  Whoever assembled the collection being sold by Monaco Legend Group on October 31 has done an excellent job of curation, and we wish Monaco Legend Group every success in finding new homes for these special watches.

Jeff Stein
October 26, 2020