Mythic Vintage Carreras - Jeff Stein from OnTheDash talks on historical timepieces
For the 50th anniversary of the Heuer Carrera we met with Jeff Stein, the vintage Heuer and TAG Heuer expert. He talks about the most interesting and important Carreras.
Jeff, can you tell us about an especially interesting Carrera from the 1960s and 1970s?”
The 18 karat gold automatic Carrera (reference 1158) is most well-known as the watch that Jack Heuer personally presented to each of the Ferrari Formula One drivers during Heuer’s sponsorship of the team, including Clay Regazzoni, Mario Andretti, Jacques Villeneuve and Nikki Lauda. Apart from this Ferrari connection, the 18 karat gold Carreras is distinctive for its thick mesh bracelet, comprised of hundreds of small links of gold, in "Maglia Milanese" style. With the bracelet’s fine craftsmanship and 73 grams of gold (compared with 48 grams for the watch itself), we can understand how, in the mid-1970s, the bracelet cost over two times as much as the chronograph. In 1976, for example, an automatic Carrera cost $235 in steel, the 18 karat gold version cost $1,280 and the gold watch with the bracelet cost $4,100. Few of these bracelets have survived, making it among the rarest of the Heuer collectibles.
The very first Carreras, the 2447
While Heuer and TAG Heuer have offered hundreds of models and executions of the Carrera since 1963, many collectors contend that the very first models represent the Carrera in its purest form. The three register Carrera 12 was powered by the legendary Valjoux 72 movement; the two-register Carrera 45 was powered by the Valjoux 92. The dials were either white-on-white or black-on-black, with tachymeter or decimal minutes scales offered as options. Cases were stainless steel, as well as gold-plated or 18 karat gold models.
The Heuer Carrera 45 Dato « Shelby »
1969: In order to sell watches, Jack Heuer put the Heuer logo on racers and racecars. In order to sell his cars, Carroll Shelby put the “Shelby Cobra” logo on just about any type of promotional item – bracelets, key chains, coffee mugs, beach towels and the full range of jackets and tee shirts. But as the 1969 New York International Auto Show approached, Ed Casey, a Field Sales Manager who called on East Coast Ford dealers, wanted something special for the dealers and VIPs attending the show. The Shelby Mustang had been redesigned for 1969 and this would be the biggest auto show of the year.
Casey decided that a Heuer Carrera with the Shelby Cobra logo on the dial would be a nice give-away for the dealers, but time was short, with the show opening in two weeks. Ed ordered 24 Carreras, and Heuer’s New York office provided expedited service. Ed Casey was thrilled to get the call from Heuer that he could pick up the watches, a few hours before the opening of the show. The 1969 New York Auto Show was a success for Shelby Automotive and the Carreras were also well-received. At the end of the show, Carroll Shelby told Ed Casey that he can keep the one left-over Carrera.
In 2012, TAG Heuer acquired this 24th Shelby Carrera from Ed Casey’s family and it is now on display in its Museum, in La Chaux de-Fonds.
In the 2013 novelties presented by TAG Heuer, which are the most interesting for a vintage “Heuer Guy” like you?
The “50th Anniversary Jack Heuer Carrera” introduced in Geneva in January 2013 is the third “Jack Heuer” edition of the Carrera, with first one being the “40th Anniversary” model, produced in 2004, and the second model issued to celebrate Jack Heuer’s 80th Birthday, in 2012. With this third “Jack Heuer” model, we see confirmation of his personal preferences -- contrasting dark gray and lighter silver, symmetrical bi-compax design (plus running seconds at six o’clock), and red accents, just for fun. This 50th Birthday represents some innovations, however, with the crown at pushers being at the top of the case, in a “bullhead” configuration. Collectors are enthusiastic that the 50th Birthday Carrera is powered by TAG Heuer’s recently developed Calibre 1887 movement, rotated 90 degrees to achieve the bi-compax design. I believe that this is a beautiful watch, with a fantastic movement that will be very popular.
Heuer introduced several new Carreras at Baselworld, just a few weeks ago. Do you have a favorite among these?
Although I have not yet seen them “in the metal”, I believe that the new Carrera Calibre 36 Flyback chronographs are pure genius. The visual design of this new Carrera is derived from the Heuer stopwatches of the 1960s, with the central area for time of day and the outer track for the chronograph seconds. This is a brilliant way to pay tribute to Heuer’s heritage in stopwatches and race timing. The Carrera Calibre 36 gives us the legendary El Primero movement, with its origins in 1969, in a traditional bi-compax lay-out, with the “flyback” feature. The flyback feature was used by Heuer in only one chronograph, the iconic Bundeswehr pilots watches from the 1960s. So every element of this watch pays tribute to the Heuer heritage, but this Carrera also looks entirely up to date. I believe that the Calibre 36 Carrera will look just as fantastic in 2063, when TAG Heuer celebrates the 100years of the Carrera.
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