Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Heuer Skipper Ref. 15640 (Heuer Cal. 15)…

It’s been a few years since I’ve written about a sailing timer on the blog, so let’s have a look at this Heuer Skipper.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Heuer’s first Skipper model was released in 1968 and is now known as the ‘Skipperera’ among Heuer collectors due to be it housed in a Carrera chronograph case. The Skipperera is an incredibly rare watch as it was only produced for a year or so and there are only thought to be around 20 known examples in collections today.

The second iteration was introduced just year later in 1969 and was based on the popular Autavia ref. 2446C. The watch featured an oversized 15 minute subdial and the calibre inside was a modified Valjoux cal. 7730.

From 1971 onwards production moved on to the Autavia case, the earliest models based on the then current Valjoux 7734 powered chronographs (recognisable by the crown and pushers all being on the right) and the later iterations were built around the Heuer cal. 15 automatic. The watch in this post is one of the earlier cal. 15 models, known as the 1st generation ref. 15640, recognisable by the blue dial and glossy blue bezel insert.

The other Autavia cased iterations are pictured below, clockwise from the top left; the Valjoux 7734 powered ref. 73463; the earliest cal. 15 based Skipper, the ref. 1564, fitted with an acrylic rather than mineral crystal and slightly different case details; the early black ref. 15640 made between 1978 and 82 and finally the late black ref. 15640 made from 1983 until 1985/6.

For a complete history of the Skipper and Heuer’s other sailing timers, check out Henrik’s excellent site HeuerChrono.com.

According to the owner, the subject of this post had spent a good few years in a drawer – sliding around face down by the looks of things as the mineral crystal was completely scratched up. (Thank goodness that the crystal protrudes above the bezel insert on these models or that too would have suffered the same fate and wouldn’t have been nearly as easy to replace.)

Under the damaged crystal everything was in good original condition. The watch was running which is always a good start but as the subdial hand was off and floating around the dial, it was hard to say if the sailing timer was fully functional.

The owner and I were hopeful that the hand had just come away from its post but on disassembling the watch the reason the hand was loose was immediately obvious. The shaft of the minute recording runner had broken clean off at the base.

The good news is that the minute recording runner is shared among all the Heuer 12, 14 and 15 calibres but that isn’t the case for the wheel onto which the sweep second hand is mounted, the central chronograph runner, which is unique to the cal. 15 Skipper movement.

As you can see when you look at any Skipper the minute subdial only has 15 minute graduations opposed to the 30 seen in a traditional Heuer Autavia chronograph.

This is of course required specifically for the 15 minute countdown at the start of a yacht race and to implement this Heuer adopted the same system as the Valjoux cal. 7737 used predominantly by Memosail (an example here), namely two fingers on the chronograph runner instead of one.

In operation this effectively moves the minute recording runner forward every 30 seconds rather than every minute, very simply transforming the mechanism (and subdial) from a 30 minute to a 15 minute counter.

Thankfully the centre chronograph runner was in good condition as I’m told that it’s now an incredibly difficult part to source. Even though the minute runner should have been a relatively common part, as Heuer parts are getting harder to source these days I needed to call out to the Heuer community to help me find one. Needless to say they came through for me once again and things were quickly back on track.

With the minute runner replaced and the base movement serviced, the rest of the build was straight forward. The chronograph module and the rest of the watch was rebuilt, the case cleaned and a new crystal fitted returning the watch to full working order.


** Many thanks to Richard Perry for letting me feature his watch on the blog and to James and Gianluca for helping me out with the minute runner. **

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