Auction Report – Three Interesting Heuers Sold Today (December 10, 2014)

Today, we saw two “live” auctions of interesting vintage Heuer chronographs, a black PVD-coated Heuer Monaco, Reference 74033, and an Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer, Reference 2443.  In this posting, we’ll take a quick look at these two watches and the results of the sales.  We will also take a look at a Heuer Carrera, Reference 2447S that achieved a strong price in one of these auctions

Heuer Monaco, in Black PVD, Reference 74033

The Black PVD Monaco is one of the icons of the Heuer world. There has been some debate about the origins of this model — prototype versus production — but there is no debate about the scarcity and value of these watches.  Over the last decade, we have seen fewer than 20 of these watches, and this model holds the record for the highest price ever paid for a vintage Heuer, with one selling in December 2010, for approximately $75,000.  If we are lucky, in a given year, we might expect to see one of these watches offered in a public sale.  It’s December 10, and I believe that this was the first Black PVD Monaco that we saw on the auction block in 2014.

The Black PVD Monaco shown below was sold by Schuler Auktionen AG, a Swiss auction house located in Zurich.  We might think that a rare Heuer being sold by a local auction house would go “under the radar” of the most passionate watch enthusiasts, but the auction was also conducted online through Live Auctioneers.  Here is the listing in the LiveAuctioneers catalog.

The Watch.

Compared with many of the Black PVD Monacos that we have seen on the market in recent years, this one appeared to be in exceptionally good condition.  The primary driver of value in these watches is the condition of the dial, and this one gets good marks in this category.  Of the 12 markers, 11 are in place and the color is excellent.  The handles and needles seem to be original (rather than replacements taken from other Heuer models), and the case seems to be in very good condition, with only some light scratches and marks.

With close examination, representatives of the auction house were able to provide both the reference number and the serial number (255933), and the coating of the case has held up reasonably well.

A “bonus” of this watch is the strap and buckle, both of which appear to be original.  The strap is Heuer’s proprietary Corfam material, which began its life with a black color but has aged to become “tropical”.

Though most of the finish has vanished, the black PVD-coated buckle is a nice extra with this watch, having the correct sun marking.

The Auction.

This Black PVD Monaco sold for $35,500 (the hammer price of 28,000 CHF plus 23% buyers premium). That appears to be a reasonable price for the watch, based on an examination of the elements of the watch.

  • Plus Factors — The dial appears to be in excellent condition — 11 of the 12 lume plots are in place and they have excellent color.  The condition of the hands and needles is excellent, showing strong, vibrant colors.  The case looks very nice, with the correct reference and serial numbers visible.  The original strap and buckle are also nice elements.
  • Negatives — The case shows some light scratches and scrapes, the coating appears light in certain areas.  It’s difficult to be certain from the one “head shot” provided in the auction catalog, but the dial may have suffered some relatively minor damage from a melting seal (which we often see on the Monacos).

The Bottom Line:  As vintage watch enthusiasts, we often fall victim to the “Lake Wobegon Effect”, under which the entire population thinks of itself as being above average.  Indeed, so many of the vintage watches that we see offered for sale are described as “mint” or “near mint”, with the descriptions included in most auction catalogs being full of superlatives.

Without a doubt, this Black PVD Monaco is well above average, compared with those that we have seen over the last decade.  This watch is strong in the most critical areas — the dial and markers, the hands and the case.  My guess is that the most significant negative factor affecting the price achieved in this auction was the fact that the auction was conducted by a local auction house, rather than one of the auction houses that specializes in watches.   [To see the vast array of paintings, furniture, silverware, jewelry, rugs, ceramics, figurines, clocks and other items included in the auction, have a look at the full auction catalog.]  It’s pure speculation to suggest that there would have been more bidders for this watch had the auction been held at a major worldwide auction house.  Still, if there were two bidders participating in the Schuler / LiveAuctioneers auction, who took the watch to $35,500, we have to wonder whether there might have been a third and a fourth bidder, at a more widely publicized auction.  We will never know for sure, but my guess is that this watch would have fetched a better price through Bonhams or Christie’s.

In trying to suggest what the results of this auction might tell us about values of the Black PVD Monacos, this auction may not represent much news at all.  I believe that true “mint” sample (with all the lume plots and better coating on the case), offered by a watch specialist with global exposure, might sell in the $50,000 to $60,000 range, and that any sample that is complete would sell for half this amount (say, $25,000).  In simplest terms, at $35,500, the Black PVD Monaco sold this morning fell into the lower half of this range, and I believe that it could have done considerably better.

Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer, Reference 2443, Second Execution

While few would suggest that the Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer belongs in the same league as the Black PVD Monaco, the Seafarer sold by Bonhams in an auction this morning deserves a write-up.  This watch is an especially good sample of a model of the Seafarer that is relatively rare.  It was sold in Bonhams auction of Fine Watches and Wristwatches, held at its New Bond Street location.  Here’s a link to the listing in the auction catalog.

The Watch.

Earlier this year, we published a posting covering the history of the Abercrombie & Fitch Seafarer.  A quick overview of the models and versions shows that Heuer made two versions of the Seafarer in the Reference 346 case, two versions in the Reference 2443 case, two versions in the Reference 2444 case, one version in the 2446 screw-back case, one version in the 2447 case and one version in the 2446C (compressor) case.

The Seafarer sold this morning was the second execution of the Reference 2443, produced in the mid-to-late 1950s.  This model has a screw-back case and is powered by a derivative of the Valjoux 72 movement.

The Auction.

This Seafarer sold for $7,845 (the hammer price of £4,000 plus 25% buyers premium).  Looking at the plus and minus factors for this watch, this seems like a reasonable price.

  • Plus Factors — Condition of the dial and hands seem to be absolutely superb.  On the 1950s Seafarers, both the dial and hands often suffer from severe deterioration.  Whether dues to the composition of the paint and lume material, or the watches’ exposure to the elements, we just don;t see many of these Seafarers in pristine condition.
  • Negatives — The only obvious “negative” on this Seafarer is that the 1950s models tend to sell at a discount to the more desirable Reference 2447 model, from the 1960s.  This second version of the Reference 2443 might also be a bit of an “in betweener”, coming after the larger cases of the Reference 346, but before the Reference 2447.

The Bottom Line:  All in all, $7,845 represents a fair price for this watch.  In view of the pristine condition, I thought that this one might sell for a shade more than this amount.  Perhaps this result tells us something about the hierarchy of the Seafarers — there are the Reference 2447 models, which sell above $10,000, and then there’s everything else.  The collector who likes the second execution of the Reference 2443 will not do any better than this beautiful sample.

Early Carrera, Reference 2447S

When I started this posting, I intended to cover only two watches — the Black PVD Monaco and the Reference 2443 Seafarer, described above.  Along the way, however, I noticed an early Carrera sold at this morning’s Bonhams auction and decided that this one deserves some coverage.

The watch is an early Carrera, Reference 2447 S, with Serial Number 54149, and it achieved a price of $5,478, including the buyers premium. Here is the listing in the auction catalog.

 

The reason that I had not planned to cover this Carrera is that, with the exception of the prices achieved at the December 2010 Bonhams auction of the Haslinger Collection, the 1960s Carreras have generally remained within a relatively narrow band of prices.  Over the last decade, as we have witnessed explosions in the prices of many interesting Heuer chronographs, the simple Carreras seem to have drifted along, never moving either up or down the scale, in any significant way.  As we have witnessed something akin to irrational exuberance for the Chronomatics, Black PVD Monacos, Sifferts, Orange Boys, Transitional Monacos, Exotic Autavias, Panda Carreras and many more vintage Heuers, the plain old Carrera Reference 2447S seems to have traded like a stable commodity, selling at something like $3,000 on a bad day and something like $4,000 on a good day, not much more and not much less.

So what I find interesting about this morning’s sale of a simple Carrera 2447S for approximately $5,500 is that it may represent something of a break-out for the model.  Yes, this one is special, with the early serial number and distinctive early features.  And what is most interesting is this this Carrera was recognized as being special, and achieving an appropriately strong price.  I don’t think that every Reference 2447S Carrera will suddenly jump above the $5,000 mark, but it is good to see that a nice one like this can do that.

I overlooked this wonderful Carrera when reviewing Bonhams auction catalog, but someone recognized it as a special watch, and bid accordingly.  That bidder now owns a very nice Carrera.

Jeff Stein
December 10, 2014

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