Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Posts Tagged ‘Heuer’

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.

Rich

** 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. **


Heuer Chronograph Ref. 3641 (Valjoux Cal. 92)…

An early candidate for this year’s “ugly duckling” award was this Heuer ref. 3641 which had obviously seen its fair share of action…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Heuer ref. 3641 was first produced in the early 1960’s and pre-dates the similarly styled Carrera models. When Heuer introduced the Carrera models in 1963 they also designated some of the existing models as their “economy line”. The main differences being that the Carrera models were all housed in solid stainless steel rather than plated cases and some were fitted with the higher quality, 3 register, Valjoux cal. 72 – the benefits of a solid stainless steel case are evident from the condition of the watch in this post, with extended use and exposure to the elements the plating eventually wears away exposing the base-metal case underneath.

The ref. 3641 underwent a number of design changes during its production run as shown in the comparison picture below. The early models had dauphine hands and the case had small diameter pushers whereas the hands were changed to baton hands and larger diameter pushers were fitted to the later models.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

As evidenced by the picture above the watch in this post is one of the earlier models and was probably made around 1964-65. The dial on this watch is different to all the others I’ve seen however as the minute track print is slightly different and the dial has shorter applied batons for all but the 6 and 12 hour markers.

The owner of this watch had initially approached Tag Heuer to restore the watch but they refused due to a lack of available parts so I was asked if I would consider taking it on. On one hand I can see why they refused – when a watch is presented in this kind of cosmetic condition, you never know what you’re going to find inside.

Thankfully in this case the movement, a Valjoux Cal. 92, wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. The loss of plating was even more obvious on the rear of the watch case but once inside, aside from a little tarnish on a few of the parts the movement was in decent shape. The watch was still ticking, albeit weakly and the chronograph functions were all working, but the oils had all dried to dust so the movement was long overdue a service.

Out of the case the condition of the dial and hands was a concern. You can see in the first picture that the acrylic crystal had a number of cracks around the edge which had let water seep into the case over time, damaging the minute track on the outer edge of the dial and degrading the lume throughout. Curiously, the lume in the hands was two different colours which suggests that one of them must have been re-lumed or replaced at some time in the past.

One option would have been to send the dial out for refinishing i.e. stripping back to bare metal and re-printing, but I’m not a fan of that process as it’s rarely possible to replicate the original dial layout and fonts exactly. It also removes the history of the watch and often decreases its value so refinishing will remain a last resort for me.

Removing the debris and as many marks as possible was the chosen course of action this time as well as re-luming the hour markers and hands with a vintage cream lume. Given the starting point the result was never going to be perfect but I think it was the right thing to do in this case. (You can judge for yourself in the pictures below!)

As you have already seen the case was in very poor condition so while the service and cosmetic work was under way I placed a ‘Want To Buy’ ad for a replacement case on the OnTheDash forum – it was a long shot but worth a try. The Heuer community came through for me once again and within 24 hours an enthusiast in Italy had offered a complete early 3641 case in near perfect condition. Payment and postage was swiftly arranged and the case was soon en-route.

With the movement serviced and the cosmetic work complete, the watch was ready to be rebuilt as soon as the case arrived. Here’s the result.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Chris Nunn for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Heuer Autavia 73663T ‘Villeneuve’ (Valjoux Cal. 7736)…

Still in the possession of the original owner, this Heuer Autavia was in need of a little freshening up.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

This particular model is known as the ‘Villeneuve’ among Heuer enthusiasts because it was the choice of Canadian Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve. The watch is clearly in view in this iconic picture of the man himself.

Villeneuve was among a group of Formula 1 drivers who were effectively brand ambassadors for Heuer before the term had even been invented. Heuer chronographs adorned the wrists of many famous drivers in the 1960’s and 70’s, names such as Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Derek Bell, Clay Regazzoni, Jochen Rindt and Jo Siffert to name but a few – I wrote about the popular and now highly sought after ‘Siffert’ Autavia in a previous post, see that post here.

Although Heuer did evolve into a full sponsor in Formula 1, in the early days, rather than being presented with the watches, the drivers purchased the watches simply because they liked them and they were regularly bought and sold in the paddock.

As well as an Autavia, Villeneuve is known to have worn other Heuer models too, namely a solid gold Carrera 1158 presented to him when he was a Ferrari driver in the late 70’s and an early quartz, the Heuer Chronosplit LCD.

Heuer enthusiasts and regular readers will have spotted that although the 73663 Autavia shares the same case as many of the other Autavia models, the crown is on the right hand side of the case between the pushers rather than the left and the watch has the hour register rather than a date in the bottom half  of the dial.

The reason is that inside this model is a Heuer Leonidas branded Valjoux cal. 7736, an 18,000 bph, manually wound, three register chronograph, rather than the Heuer cal. 11 and 12 automatic found in the majority of the Autavia range.

The movement was in decent shape but as the watch had been relegated to a drawer around 20 years ago, it was long overdue a service as the oils had completely dried out.

The more observant will have spotted that the chronograph start/stop pusher cap was also missing and being one of the Heuer specific ‘fluted’ pushers I was concerned that sourcing one would be a problem. However, just a couple of hours after placing a WTB ad on the excellent OnTheDash forum, a Heuer enthusiast in the US came to our aid and payment/shipping was quickly arranged.

While the pusher was en-route the movement was fully serviced and thankfully contained no hidden surprises. (I wrote a post several years ago showing how the hour register functions on the cal. 7736, click here if you would like to read it.)

The case was then disassembled and cleaned in the ultrasonic tank and the last job was to tackle the crazed crystal. As you can see clearly in the first picture, the original crystal had crazed quite badly but being of sufficient thickness it was possible to carefully sand out all the crazing and polish the crystal back up to a clear finish.

Here’s the watch all finished up and sporting a new strap.

As a final note, the ‘T’ at the end of the model number denotes that the watch has a Tachymeter bezel. It was also sold with a minute/hour bezel with the model reference 73663MH.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Jill Sparks for letting me feature her watch on the blog and to David Bull for providing the pusher. **


Heuer Camaro 7220T (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Another classic vintage Heuer chronograph, this time it’s a Camaro.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

It could be argued that the Camaro is something of a hidden gem among vintage Heuer chronographs. Though it is essentially the same watch as the eternally popular Carrera, the Camaro doesn’t seem to have the same appeal among enthusiasts. Surprising really as at 37mm it’s only 1mm larger than the Carrera and the cushion shaped case makes it ‘wear bigger’ which should appeal to many given the current affinity for larger watches.

In contrast to the majority of Heuer chronographs which were named after motor racing events or circuits ie. Monaco, Carrera, Silverstone, Monza, Jarama, the Camaro was named after the Chevrolet Camaro in an attempt to appeal to US motor racing fans – the Chevrolet Camaro was the pace car at the Indy 500 at the time.

First introduced in 1968, the Camaro was the last model released before Heuer brought automatic chronographs to market in 1969. Against stiff competition from within, sales of the Camaro would I suspect have suffered and as a consequence production stopped in 1972 after a run of just 4 years.

Given that it had such a short production run there were lots of Camaro variants. The early models were all fitted with the excellent Valjoux cal. 72 and there was also a two sub-dial model fitted with the Valjoux 92. As production moved into the 1970’s the calibres were switched to the Valjoux 77xx family – V7733, V7734 (date) and V7736 (12hr chronograph).

Most models were offered with black, white or panda dials and there were also both solid and gold plated models available. Later models also had the fluted pushers seen on the Autavia chronographs rather than traditional round heads, which can be used as a good indicator as to the age and calibre that may be inside.

Here are a few examples of other models:

Getting back to the subject of this post, you may have noticed in the first picture that the watch arrived without a crown and stem, so it wasn’t known if the watch was fully functional. Opening the watch was encouraging as the movement, a Valjoux Cal. 72, was complete and in good cosmetic order with no sign of rust or damage. However, under the microscope I could see that the oils had all turned to dust so the watch hadn’t been serviced in many years.

Inserting a suitable stem and crown into the movement from another V72 chronograph, the movement started ticking right away and all the chronograph functions worked which was a good start.

There weren’t any hidden surprises this time so once a crown and stem had been sourced and fitted, the watch only needed a movement service, a thorough clean and a new crystal to bring it back to full working order.

The case had picked up a few marks over the years, mostly on the case sides and chamfered section between the brushed case top and sides. Polishing this area by hand is tricky as it’s all too easy to remove case edge definition on the sides or chamfer, but patience prevailed and it was well worth the effort in the final result.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Paul Denham for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Heuer Monnin (FE Cal. 4611A)…

An iconic diver to kick off the New Year, a Heuer Monnin.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Monnin is something of an enigma in the Heuer back catalogue, as the time-line of its production history hasn’t been fully determined.

What is known is that in the mid-late 1970’s Heuer were being approached regularly by diving enthusiasts asking why there was no Heuer diver? Recognising a potential gap in the market, Heuer approached the French manufacturer G. Monnin to re-brand one their existing diver’s watches so they could test the market. Monnin agreed as they were already doing the same for other manufacturers (you’ll see almost identical watches from other brands such as Alfex, Bessa and Le Cheminant) which suited Heuer perfectly as it gave them an entry into the diver arena without the pre-production cost of tooling.

To say the watch was a success is an understatement. At a time when Heuer was struggling to stay afloat during the quartz revolution, the sales of the Monnin saved the company. To quote Jack Heuer from a recent interview “…and would you believe it, these watches started selling like crazy. The company came out of trouble because of these watches. You know, Bo Derek wore one; we have it now in the museum”.

The earliest printed record of the Monnin is this Heuer catalogue from 1979 which featured the watch on the cover.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

Much of the confusion around the Monnin exists because the dial, hand and bezel insert designs were changed during the brief production cycle, resulting in a variety of combinations being used in the watches sold.

Comparing the watch in this post to the picture above it has all the hallmarks of an early model. A ‘cathedral’ hour hand, the early style bezel insert and the ‘professionel’ text is in lower case letters on the dial.

Curiously, the subject of this post also has a second hand with a large lume ‘lollipop’ whereas most of the automatic Monnins have a much smaller one like in the picture above. The owner says that this second hand has been fitted since new – he had the watch bought for him as an 18th birthday present by his father in the late 1970’s (from Harrods no less!).

For comparison, here is a picture of a later model with the Rolex Submariner style bezel insert, a ‘Mercedes’ hour hand and a dial with capitalised text and “Made in France” printed at the bottom.

(Picture: Heuerville)

The watch in this post received regular maintenance throughout its life, but due to the caseback not being fully screwed down after a movement service, the watch suffered an ingress of sea water during a dive several years ago. On returning to the surface the owner immediately unscrewed the caseback by hand and rinsed the watch out with fresh water in an attempt to minimise the damage.

Fast forward to the current day and after hearing the story I was still expecting to see a significant amount of rust. With the caseback removed, some rust was evident but I was expecting it to be worse.

The calibre in this watch is the French Ebauche (FE) cal. 4611A. A Swiss mid-level 17 jewel automatic with a beat rate of 21,000 bph. This calibre was only used in the Monnin as the calibre was replaced by the ETA cal. 2872 when production moved to Switzerland and the watch became an ‘official’ Heuer model, the 844.

With the automatic winding mechanism removed, the signs of rust were increasing; several of the screwheads were rusty and the balance cock / regulator showed signs of corrosion. Seeing this, I was already concerned about the condition of the pivots on the train wheels and other delicate steel parts…

Sure enough, with the train bridge removed I could see that all the train wheel pivots were corroded, along with the balance staff pivots, the mainspring, the barrel arbor, and several parts in the automatic winding mechanism. Here are some of the parts that we beyond salvation.

Thankfully, parts for the FE 4611A are still available, so the majority could be replaced without a lengthy search this time. Some effort was still required to remove rust from other parts, but the movement could then be cleaned and rebuilt.

From a cosmetic perspective the lume on the dial and hands were largely unaffected by the salt water, but the dial did have some staining where water had dried on the surface.

Deciding what to do in these situations is never easy as attempting to remove any staining can make it worse, or damage the dial print or paint. After consulting the owner we decided to re-wet the stain and try to remove it. As the dial dried I was pleased to see that the staining was disappearing before my eyes… phew!

With the movement back up and running, the case was cleaned and the watch rebuilt. Finally a new caseback gasket was fitted… and the caseback secured properly this time.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Nigel Glen for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Heuer Autavia 1163T ‘Siffert’ (Heuer Cal. 11-I)…

Another classic Heuer on the blog, this time it’s a Siffert Autavia.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Instantly recognisable by its white dial, black subdials and blue highlights, this watch is known in the Heuer community as the ‘Siffert’ as it was the model worn by the Swiss racing driver Jo Siffert.

From the 1950’s onwards Heuer had strong links with motor racing, initially providing timing equipment for races, and later as a personal and team sponsor. Throughout the 1970’s in particular the Heuer logo can be seen on the cars and race suits of many legendary drivers; Niki Lauda, Jochen Rindt, Jody Scheckter and Derek Bell to name just a few.

Jo Siffert was the first driver to receive a personal sponsorship contract from Heuer when he became an ambassador for the brand in 1969. The move was well orchestrated as 1969 was also the year that Heuer released (arguably) the first automatic chronograph to market, and Jo Siffert was filmed and photographed extensively, both on and off the circuit, wearing a white dialled Autavia Chrono-Matic.

Although referred to as such, the watch in this post is not a true Siffert, but a third generation model with several differences from the original, namely; the hands are wider and have a blue stripe, the dial markers have been re-designed, the hour register is numbered from 1 to 12, and the word “Chrono-Matic” disappeared from the dial in later models.

The watch arrived in working order and opening the caseback revealed a Heuer cal. 11-I in decent condition.

In the rush to bring the first automatic chronograph to market, Heuer released the cal. 11 before it had been fully developed which resulted in a revised version, the cal. 11-I being introduced just a few months later. The 11-I is recognisable by an ‘I’ stamped on the mainplate underneath the balance (see below).

The 11-I introduced some technical improvements over the original calibre, specifically a ‘slow roll’ date change mechanism, a thinner mainspring, and an all steel oscillating pinion. However, even with these changes it was still not technically perfect as the calibre was revised for a final time in 1971 to become the cal. 12 seen in the majority of Heuer’s 1970’s chronographs. Here are the cal. 11-I and 12 side by side;

Of the visible changes the most obvious is the difference in plating, the mainplate and bridges of the cal. 12 being rhodium rather than nickel plated. Other visible changes include the jumper springs for the hour and minute registers which were re-designed to remove the micro-adjustment slot, and were also made thinner/lighter, needing less power to move the registers forward.

The reset hammer was also re-developed as in the original design the hammer cam jumper could jump out of place and render the chronograph inoperable. The new design provided a cover plate to prevent this from happening, but needed an oiling hole to allow correct lubrication during servicing.

There were also a number of non-visible changes, the most significant being the increase in beat rate from 19,800 bph to the industry standard rate of 21,600 bph which meant the re-development of all the train wheels and the escapement.

One last thing to note is that any watch with an cal. 11-I inside is marked on the back of one of the lugs with either arrows or a star, this watch being no exception.

With no cosmetic work to take care of the job was quickly turned around this time. With the movement serviced and the case cleaned, here’s the watch all back together again.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Rod Aitchison for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **


Heuer Autavia 2446C (Valjoux Cal. 72)…

Kicking off 2013 is this Heuer Autavia 2446C from 1969.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The name Autavia is short for ‘Auto-Aviation’ which combined Heuer’s two main markets at the time; timing devices for motorsports, and cockpit instruments for civil and military aircraft. Released in 1962, the Autavia was the first Heuer chronograph with the model name printed on the dial. Many more were to follow, the Monaco, Carrera and Silverstone, to name just a few.

The watch in this post is the third execution of the 2446, and in many ways was a re-design, as the earlier versions had lumed rather than applied dial markers, dauphine hands, and the chronograph subdials were much larger. The case too was different, as it had much thinner lugs.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

The ‘C’ in the 2446C model number denotes that the case has a snap back or compression caseback  as opposed to the screwed back seen on many of the earlier versions. The caseback on this watch wasn’t too bad as the Autavia name and Heuer shield were still legible. It isn’t uncommon to see these watches with a caseback that has worn completely smooth – or is hideously scratched as these cases aren’t easy to open, even with the right tools.

Though the watch was in reasonable cosmetic condition, there were several issues to address. The outer bezel was in poor shape, with obvious wear to the outer edge, all the way down to the markings in places. The lume had also deteriorated significantly over the years, and would all need to be renewed.

Things inside looked much better, as the movement, a Valjoux cal. 72, was in good shape and with no obvious signs of mishandling or corrosion.

With the watch out of the case the deterioration of the lume on the hour markers and hands was clear to see. All of the old lume would need to be carefully removed before the new lume could be applied.

There was one issue with the movement as watch would only tick for a few seconds when shaken and wouldn’t wind, so there was definitely a problem with the winding mechanism which would need further investigation.

With the movement stripped for servicing, the problem was very quickly uncovered as several teeth were missing from the ratchet wheel. A new wheel was the only solution here.

Thankfully there were no other issues, so with the ratchet wheel replaced and the rest of the movement cleaned and oiled, everything was looking good, and working perfectly again.

As bezels for the 2446C are much in demand these days, I knew that finding a ‘new old stock’ bezel to replace the current one would be hard (and expensive!) The one I found was much better condition than the original, it still has some wear around the edges, but is in-keeping with the rest of the watch.

After reassembling the watch, the case was cleaned, a new crystal installed, and a new strap finished the job.

Rich.


Heuer Monaco 1133B ‘Transitional’ (Heuer Cal. 11)…

A real classic this time on the blog, a vintage Heuer Monaco.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

To many vintage watch enthusiasts this watch will need no introduction, as it is one of the most widely recognised watches in the world. First introduced in 1969, the Monaco was ground breaking for Heuer as it was their first square cased chronograph, and also one of the earliest models to be powered by their new self-winding (automatic) chronograph movement, the Calibre 11.

Produced from 1969 until 1975, the 1133B is the original Monaco, and is highly prized by collectors as only 4500 are thought to have been made. The model in this post is particularly rare, as it has a number of design features used only on the earliest models. Known as the ‘1133B Transitional’ it has a dial with a metallic blue finish, and undecorated hands with a ‘squared off’ profile. In the later models (from 1970 onwards), the dials were painted with a matt blue finish, and the hands were replaced by pointed versions sporting a red stripe.

(Picture: OnTheDash)

Other variations followed, some featuring the simplified Heuer Cal. 15, and manually wound versions were released later in the production run, all powered by Valjoux cam-lever chronograph calibres. Here are a few of the other models.

(Pictures: OnTheDash)

Anyone with an interest in vintage Heuers will surely have seen the pictures of Steve McQueen wearing a Heuer Monaco during the 1971 movie “Le Mans”. Although it had no impact on watch sales at the time, the images of ‘The King Of Cool’ wearing a Monaco have been used heavily from the 1990’s onwards to promote a wide variety of Monaco re-issues and special editions.

For more information on vintage Monaco models, check out Richard Crosthwaite’s excellent site www.heuermonaco.co.uk, and also the home of online vintage Heuer knowledge, OnTheDash.

The watch in this post arrived in fully working condition, though losing 10 minutes per day, which is usually a sign that the movement is ready for a service. As the case is of ‘non-standard construction’ (and is yet another one piece case!), it’s worth taking a closer look.

The first step is to remove the outer shell which clips onto the main case to ensure a watertight seal around the crystal.

With the case separated, the crystal lifts away to reveal the crystal gasket – a source of much heartache to many a Monaco collector, as if left unchecked for many years, the rubber has a tendency to break down and turn into a black sticky mess which seeps onto the dial causing irrepairable damage. Thankfully that has never happened to this watch, the dial is still in excellent condition.

The next step is to split the two piece stem, after which the whole watch can be carefully removed from the inner case.

The movement inside is exactly what you would expect to see in an early Monaco, a Heuer branded Calibre 11 – later models were fitted with the revised Calibre 12, which had a number of technical improvements. The movement looks quite discoloured as you can see, and under the microscope it was obvious that the oil in the oil sinks had congealed – the extra friction undoubtedly being the cause of the poor timekeeping.

For those thinking, “Huh? I thought this was an automatic, where’s the winding rotor?”, the answer is; it’s hidden inside. Rather than the full rotor system seen on the majority of automatic calibres, the Cal. 11 is based on a Buren Cal. 1281 which has a micro-rotor automatic winding system. Here is a picture of the base movement taken during the post-service rebuild.

… and here is the movement fully rebuilt again and looking much improved.

With the movement serviced and the case cleaned, the watch could be rebuilt. Here she is fully assembled.

Rich.

** Many thanks to Andy Ogg for letting me feature his watch on the blog. If you would like to see more of Andy’s vintage Heuers, check out his blog 24Heuer.com. **