#TBT Heuer Temporada Chronograph
#TBT is back from Baselworld 2015 and it’s time to jump into more affordable vintage. Hot on the heels of our recently published TAG Heuer Carrera article, we’ll now spend some time talking about a true vintage piece from the brand.
It’s no secret that vintage Heuer chronographs are hot. The allure of strapping on a vintage chronograph with a strong connection to racing ticks a lot of boxes. In fact, I’ve met people over the years that really don’t care much about watches but they like racing and, therefore, desire a Heuer (or even TAG Heuer) chronograph. For vintage watch and chronograph collectors, the design language of vintage Heuer is undeniably cool and, for the early models at least, about as clean and purposeful as one can find on oft over-populated dials. With values apparently having no upper limit, is there still a way for collectors to “break into” vintage Heuer at a decent price?
When we review the popular pieces in the vintage Heuer stable, we come across a lot of “named” pieces that have designations from races, tracks or some other relation to motor sports. Some of the top pieces are the Carrera, Autavia, Daytona, Silverstone, Camaro, and Monaco. Today, though, we’ll discuss a bona fide motorsports piece from Heuer that gets very little press: the unloved vintage Temporada.
Before we discuss the watch, a little background on Temporada is in order as its affiliation with motor racing may not be as obvious as some of the other Heuer models. Some quick research shows that the Temporada races were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were open Formula races held during the late 1940’s through the early 1950’s in the winter off-season and allowed drivers to continue working and to keep their skills in check. Drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio and Frolian Gonzalez raced. It honestly sounds a lot like the Nassau Speed Week, which followed a decade later and also attracted some of motor racing’s largest stars. While there isn’t a ton of info out there on these races in Argentina, we have at least established some credible racing history that ties to the name of the watch.
A brief search on the web for the Heuer Temporada will leave one with a dearth of information regarding the watch. For reasons that we’ll discuss later, largely pertaining to case design and color palette, the pieces have never been popular. In any case, this lack of information was exactly what I was dealing with when I bought this piece almost 15(!!!) years ago on eBay from a seller in the UK. I ended up paying about $400 for it, which turned out to be a nice deal for a correct, perfectly running watch. Why did I buy it? I was gearing up for a visit to the long-awaited return of the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2000 and I wanted to wear something vintage. Oh, and despite Carreras being MUCH cheaper than today, I could not afford one at the time. Ok, that story is not completely true; I wanted to give my Dad something cool and vintage to wear as he was meeting me at the race. How the watch is still in my possession, versus my Dad’s, is consistent with the overall market sentiment on this piece: namely, he didn’t love it!
Depending on sources, one finds out that the Heuer Temporada 733809 was produced from roughly 1972 to 1975. It was, aside from the funky, yet admittedly terrible Easy Rider-branded pieces, the low cost Heuer offering for chronographs with pricing in the $85-95 range. It carries a modern 42mm diameter and is powered by a Heuer-signed, manual winding, 17 jewel, Valjoux 7733 movement. It is a 2-register chronograph with running seconds on the left register and minutes on the right. Aside from carrying a manual movement while many of the pricier Heuers were firmly pushing automatics, recall that Heuer debuted the caliber 11 automatic chronograph in 1969, the Temporada also introduced something else novel to Heuer branded chronographs: a plastic/fiberglass case. Here, readers, is the big negative as seen by many collectors as most desire stainless steel as the case material of choice. I suppose that in the early 1970’s, plastics, and precision molded products for that matter, were really only just starting to become commercially common and affordable. In order to survive in the low cost, entry level, chronograph market, Heuer must have seen a savings by offering a plastic-cased model. As an aside, the Easy Riders also offered cases from a similar material. Lightweight and surprisingly durable, one also notices that there is no rear entrance to the movement via the case. Instead, the movement is accessed via the front of the case. Incidentally, I like the case shape with its short, semi-hidden lugs.
When we head back to the dial, this becomes the second, albeit unfair in my opinion, concern about the Temporadas. The Temporadas were offered in some fairly ugly colors, especially when pairing them with gold plated bezels. However, I find this one to be relatively harmonious and simple. A similar dark blue/gray piece was also offered that looks great too. Nice details abound on the dial such as applied hour markers, lume pips and the famous printed Heuer symbol. Hands contain lume and are well suited to the dial and pair nicely with the orange chronograph hands. The acrylic crystal is well domed and is surrounded by a reasonably complex-shaped screw-on plated base metal bezel. Pushers are well-sized pumps and the crown is a beefy unsigned piece. Regarding the crown, I’ve seen a fair number of pieces for sale and it seems to me that, perhaps in another nod to cost savings, this was the way it was actually shipped.
Using the Temporada is fun because, well, the Valjoux 7733 is a nice movement to activate and wind. The movement was used in a massive number of brands during the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a proven workhorse. Funny enough, I do find that it is very loud when placed on the night table because the plastic case provides very little sound insulation. It’s so loud that I usually have to put it in a drawer to keep the noise down! I don’t measure my pieces for timing accuracy, but this one seems to keep great time. Wearing the Temporada is interesting because it is so light. The diameter, on the other hand, is large but very much in keeping with today’s trends; it’s almost like wearing a Casio G-Shock weight and size-wise. I paired mine with an inexpensive 19mm rally-style strap. To me, some sort of vintage styled black strap with holes seems to fit the bill. From a wearability perspective, I think one look at the Temporada likely tells you that this watch is resigned to casual or sporting occasions.
If we come back to general information on the Temporada, we again bring up the lack of good solid information about relative production numbers, variations, etc. I consulted Jeff Stein, one of the world’s foremost experts on Heuer, and even he confessed that the Temporada is a somehwat enigmatic piece. I do need to give tremendous thanks to Jeff, though, as he did provide some great information for this article and the original catalog pictures were sent by him as well. By the way, I do have a confession to make; I provided front and back shots almost 10 years ago to Jeff for his fabulous “On the Dash” resource. The fact that they are still there and no others have been added give you a feel for how rarely these are discussed or seen.
Assigning a value to the Temporada is difficult. I tend to see them transact anywhere from $800-1500. Condition is the tough part. Ensuring that the dial and hands are original is key as replacements are very difficult to find. I also have seen pieces placed into metal cases, which is certainly not correct. The bezel plating is often worn on the edges so re-plated pieces are common. The problem with this is that many also receive a polish, which ruins the brushed finish on the bezel and often removes the fine parabolic shapes along the bezel itself. Again, finding a replacement is a tall order. I am not sure if the pushers are common with anything else, but many are shown with missing pieces. Crowns, due to the non-branding, are probably easier to find something close to original.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this interesting Heuer. Once the entry piece into new Heuer chronographs, the Temporada today serves as entry to the unofficial club of vintage Heuer chronograph owners. If you’re like me and enjoy attending vintage races, car shows, etc, this is a credible piece to wear if you wish to look the part. Also, you’ll likely be the only one wearing it. Further positives are that it’s made by one of the big brands in vintage watches and, in the right color; the design has actually gone past its awkward stage. I don’t ever envision the Temporada surpassing any of its stable mates in value, but because it’s old and because it’s Heuer, expect that it will slowly continue to climb. Why not try one if you can find one?