Single subject watch auctions have clearly graduated from the absolute exception to somewhat of a normal occurrence. We’ve seen remarkable results from the Christie’s Speedmaster auction of almost 2 years ago and the trailblazing Bacs & Russo team has done the same with auctions focused on the Daytona and the Datejust. For fans of a given type of watch, watching and/or participating in these auctions must seem a lot like the scene when the lucky children are first turned loose in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. For those who like variety or who don’t favor the featured watch, it probably feels like a serious case of overhype. Well, whatever your interest level, today, I’ll discuss the upcoming Phillips Heuer Parade Auction in association with Bacs & Russo.
42 Vintage Heuers – the Collection of Crosthwaite & Gavin
On November 11, 2017, the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction will be held in Geneva at the auction house’s normal stomping grounds, the Hotel La Reserve. The auction features 42 vintage Heuers from the collection of Crosthwaite & Gavin and one new TAG Heuer Autavia. The new piece is being presented in honor of Jack Heuer’s 85th birthday and will be auctioned for charity.
A Heuer-only Auction on the Big Stage
The Phillips Heuer Parade Auction is significant and, perhaps, controversial for a number of reasons. Firstly, and positively, it contains well-documented and oft-seen (at least on the internet or within books) pieces from the collection of Crosthwaite & Gavin. Second, and more controversially, the lots focus entirely on the Autavia, Carrera, Monaco, and Seafarer. Granted, the pieces for sale are of fantastic quality and come from one collection, but they do eschew pieces such as the Camaro (as seen above), Bund, Monza and others from the auction’s subject period of the 1960’s – 1980’s. But let’s not worry about what the auction may be missing and, instead, let’s talk about two things – the fact that a Heuer-only auction will take the main stage by what is arguably the highest profile watch auction house in the business and by taking a look at some of my favorite lots.
An Unthinkable Event Two Years Ago?
If you recall an article from two years ago that I wrote on the Heuer Carrera 2447S, you’ll remember that I picked up the watch for my father’s 65th birthday. The watch I profiled was an early Carrera with a white/silver dial, but without a “T” denoting the use of tritium. It’s a desirable piece, and was when I acquired it, but I bought it for roughly $4,000 at the time. It would sell for quite a bit more today, but I use it as a point of reference for what will occur in roughly a month’s time. The Phillips Heuer Parade Auction would have registered as unthinkable a little more than a year ago.
The Phillips Heuer Parade Auction focuses on several sub-models
Even with the huge surge in interest in vintage Heuer, it’s a slightly different auction versus the single model events of the past. As mentioned, with the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction, there’s a focus on four sub-models. Taking away the fact that this sale is comprised purely of one duo’s collection, one could surmise that either no one Heuer model is strong enough to carry an auction or, maybe, that there aren’t enough great quality vintage Heuers of any one sub model out there to fill an auction. I’ll offer a third point. In the history of Heuer collecting, it’s actually the 1970’s automatic models – especially the “McQueen” Monaco – that really got things going more than 10 years ago. It helped re-launch TAG Heuer to a large degree. Then, about four years ago, collectors “rediscovered” the simply pure first generation Carrera and it took over as the hot piece to own. Today, we’re arguably in the era of the menacing 60’s Autavias. Seriously, why did it take so long for these to gain in popularity?
THE Racer’s Watches
Why else is it that Heuer has taken off so greatly over the last couple years? While Heuer will never be mistaken as vintage Rolex in terms of watchmaking, the niche that the brand holds onto of being the de rigueur racer’s watch has served it well. And with a vintage car market currently on fire – and anything vintage racing for that matter – what 6-7 figure sports car owner wouldn’t want to own a fitting Heuer chronograph? The fact that early Heuer “named” chronographs were also sold at the track or alongside dashboard timers give them unique credibility in the vintage world where so many others only showed their watches together with fast cars and men in helmets. I think it’s fair to say that if Rolex was the “go to” for diving adventure, Heuer found its place at the track and on the wrist of so many champions. So, history is certainly supportive of the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction.
Great Designs & Famous Racers
It doesn’t hurt that the bulk of Heuer’s racing chronographs are eye-catching. While I am not a true fan of the brand’s post manual-wind period, I can appreciate the legibility and bold design found on watches such as the Monacos and Cal.11 Autavias. But it’s the 1960’s designs that strike a real chord with me and there are plenty for sale within the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction. They’re purposeful, tough, and highly confident looking watches that match perfectly with the typical black and white photos of 1960’s race drivers that we so often see. A lot of that can likely be chalked up to nostalgic longing, but these watches just look legitimate and less jewelry-like when compared to their, often, mechanically similar competitors from Geneva.
Interest in Heuer at an all-time level
Consider that a nice Heuer Autavia 2446 “Rindt” would have sold for $3500 – 5000 (on the very top end) little more than 3 years ago. Today, good examples trade hands in the realm of $20,000 plus – and correct examples don’t come up very often. Earlier Autavias have now shown an ability to cross the $50,000 mark with amazing examples eclipsing the century point. And then, we saw an Autavia with Indy logo cross well over the six-figure mark this Summer in NYC at Christie’s. So, while auctions are a unique space and hardly an absolute value determinant, I think that the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction will serve as one hell of a coming out party.
A Beautiful Catalog
A special thanks to Phillips for sending the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction catalog. It’s actually a beautiful piece of work (pick one up if you’re in Geneva) with great photography, descriptions and layout work. Cheers to the team for putting out something that joins my quickly growing library of watch-related books! Now, let’s take a look at a few of my favorites in the upcoming sale. I’ve not had the chance to handle anything in person or photograph, so please excuse the stock shots!
Lot 1 Heuer Carrera 2447S “Eggshell White”
Estimate: $8,000 – 12,000
A 1963 Carrera 2447S kicks things off at the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction with “Eggshell White” dial and without “T” marking. For so many, the original series of Carrera (whether in eggshell or metallic dial) is the ultimate chronograph. Ultimate in the sense of distilling the chronograph form into its basic timekeeping elements all while maintaining superlative legibility and in a graceful case. One could also say that it’s the perfect chronograph for those who don’t love chronographs. Whatever the Carrera means to you, it certainly ranks as one of the more significant watches in history and that means that it should start with a real bang. I predict that $8,000 on the low end of the estimate will be achieved faster than someone can depress the start pusher!
Lot 3 Heuer Autavia 2446M “Big Sub”
Estimate: $80,000 – 120,000
The first manual wind Autavia at the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction comes in hard and fast. A first generation Autavia “Big Sub” from 1962 is rare in its own right and one in this condition should shatter records. Everything is here; a great case, amazing and even lume, small pushers and even the correct domed crown. This watch is like so many described in the catalog and that means one of just a handful known. As one of several pieces with a high estimate in the 6-figure range, it’s notable that most Phillips auctions contain many with such ranges. Let’s see which types of bidders show up for this event.
Lot 5 Heuer Autavia 3646M “Big Sub”
Estimate: $50,000 – 80,000
If lot #3 in the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction is too dear for you, or, hey, you desire the matching relative, then lot #5 might be the answer. Here, we have a 3646M Autavia “Big Sub” from 1962. This is the 2-register version of the previously discussed lot and I actually like it better. The big subs are big indeed and I find the symmetry of the 3646 a bit more attractive. Both are stunners, though, and I’d expect them to go big.
Lot 18 Heuer “A&F” Seafarer 2446
Estimate: $25,000 – 35,000
I count 5 different “aquatic” chronographs in the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction and several relate to the brand’s once upon a time contract with outfitter Abercrombie & Fitch. The Seafarers, in general, are rare, expensive and are seen as the exotics within the Heuer family. They typically used Autavia cases and featured a 9:00 crown to adjust a tidal indicator found within the 9:00 sub register. These watches are colorful and, therefore, often found with serious dial damage. That isn’t the case with this lot, but I chose it because I just love the dial in conjunction with the early Autavia case. Apparently, there are only 3 known examples of this watch; I’d expect it to crush its estimate.
Lot 20 Heuer Mareographe 2447
Estimate: $12,000 – 18,000
Ok, I chose another sea-related piece within the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction because of its case: this time from a 1966 Carrera. The Mareographe was Heuer’s name for their tidal indicator watch (A&F used the “Seafarer” name) and the Valjoux 721 powers this 1966 version. With only 5 documented examples in existence, I’d expect heavy bidding.
Lot 23 Heuer Carrera “LUM-FAE Belgian” 7553
Estimate: $12,000 – 18,000
Lot #23 from the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction would register as a favorite of mine in any sale. Despite the use of a relatively commonplace Valjoux 7753, this piece stands out because it’s a military issued Carrera once used by the Belgian Air Force. Apparently, a couple handfuls of these were ordered in 1970 and that’s a shame as a Carrera with Arabic numerals and large-lumed baton hands is a real looker indeed. This Carrera is appropriately signed on its case back with its issue numbers. While it is strange that a Bund has been omitted from the sale – plenty of rare ones to choose from – this should be an interesting one to watch as it crosses the bloc.
Lot 26 Heuer Carrera “Dato 12” 2547NS
Estimate $8,000 – 12,000
Ok, I selfishly chose lot #26, a Carrera “Dato 12” 2547 from the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction as I recently bought a similar model with white dial and I’ll be curious to see how this fares. In reality, though, the Dato 12 is the most “complicated” Heuer in history and it houses a very similar movement to the famous Rolex “Jean-Claude Killy” with its Valjoux 723. At 36mm, this second generation Dato 12 wears well and the fact that an original Gay Freres beads-of-rice bracelet (with endlinks that will fit an early Carrera) is included bodes well for this piece. The bracelets and end links alone are now commanding roughly $5,000!
Lot 28 Heuer Autavia GMT “1st Execution” 2446
Estimate: $50,000 – 80,000
Strangely, if I had to choose one piece within the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction to bid on, it would be this Autavia GMT “1st Execution” from 1968. This watch, with its Pepsi bezel, is gorgeous. When I first received the catalog, I sat on my favorite chair (negroni nearby), and flipped through the pages. Some pieces caught my attention more than others, but I froze on this one. The combination of the lume, that vibrant bezel and the perfect case make it my “best in show”. Apparently only 8 of these watches have been documented and that’s a real shame – the world needs more of these.
Lot 34 Heuer Autavia “All Lume” 2446
Estimate: $35,000 – 50,000
As much as I love the “all lume” on the previously discussed lot, I generally prefer applied markers on a standard Autavia. Still, lot #34 within the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction, an Autavia “All Lume” 4th Execution from 1968, holds interest for me as I recall when Jeff Stein picked up one of these a couple years ago – we even gave it a brief write up. Like the GMT, only 8 of these have been documented, so it will garner serious interest. I’m sure Jeff will be watching too!
Lot 40 Heuer Monaco “McQueen” 1133B
Estimate: $12,000 – 18,000
Of all the automatic pieces for sale in the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction, I chose the most famous one, a Heuer Monaco “McQueen” with Cal.11 movement. I chose it because these watches were so popular a decade ago, but since then – along with the Silverstone and early automatic Carreras – they’ve moved quite slowly. I’m purely interested to see how this watch performs. Good Monacos are tough to find. With dials often subject to serious “gasket melt”, redials, wrong hands, bad cases, and various other maladies, a gem like this is lovely to see. I have to admit that I’ve truly been tempted to pick up some version of a Monaco, preferably with the 7736, so I’ll be watching this. Say what you will about the Monaco and its often odd-fitting case, but this “McQueen” is about as close to popular culture art as a watch gets.
I’ll be tuning into the Phillips Heuer Parade Auction with excitement and I’m sure that many of our readers, and Instagram friends, will be watching as well. We wish Phillips an excellent event!