In 1860 Edouard Heuer founded his company Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer in St. Imier, a remote mountain village in Switzerland. He patented his first chronograph in 1882 and five years later he invented the oscillating pinion for mechanical chronographs, an important advance, which is still being used today by major Swiss watch brands.
The Next Generation In 1892 Edouard's sons; Jules and Charles took over the business and in 1911 they were responsible for inventing the first dashboard timer, which was quickly adopted by cars and aircraft. Just a few years later they adapted their timers to create the first wrist chronograph.
By 1916 Heuer introduced the micrograph, which was the first stopwatch to be accurate to 1/100 of a second. Soon afterwards Heuer produced the Semikrograph, which was a split-second version with fly-back hand, which meant two events could be timed simultaneously.
The exceptional reliability and accuracy of Heuer’s timekeepers meant that Heuer’s chronographs were selected as the official timekeepers for the Antwerp, Paris and Amsterdam Olympic Games in 1920,1924 and 1928 respectively, as well as numerous ski races.
AUTomobile and AVIAtion Heuer introduced the Autavia in the 1930’s, a dashboard timer for car and aviation use. The now famous brand name was derived from AUTomobile and AVIAtion. Heuer also introduced the “Hervue” at the same time, which was the first eight-day clock.
“Der Flieger” During the mid 1930’s Heuer manufactured these Autavia’s for the ‘Flieger’ pilots, who exclusively flew high-ranking German Generals of the Luftwaffe. The Treaty of Versailles had stated after WW1 that Germany was forbidden to have an air force, however pilots secretly trained at Lipetsk Air Base The ‘Flieger’ chronographs had two registers with a capacity of 30 minutes. Within the next decade Heuer had developed three registers, and one that included a full calendar; day date and month. These were available in steel or gold cases with white, black or copper dials.
Jack Heuer, the great grandson of Edouard Heuer, started his work in the family business as an apprentice for the watch department of Abercrombie and Fitch. In the early 1950’s Heuer teamed up with Abercrombie and Fitch to produce a line of chronographs known as Seafarers. They were high-end watches with three registers and sturdy waterproof cases, exactly what the sporty male customer wanted.
In the 1950’s the Autograph was introduced, it had a tachometer scale and manual reference hand which allowed a rally driver to record his speed over a given time. The Solunar, with tidal indicator for yachtsmen, followed shortly after.
Heuer produced it’s own Seafaring watch called the Mareographe. This was launched in the mid 1950’s and like all Seafarers it had had coloured dials showing tidal times, which could be used to track phases of the moon and a countdown dial for timing the start of a regatta race.
Dashboards and stopwatches 1950-1960’s Heuer continued to manufacture dashboard mounted timepieces for automobiles, aircraft and boats and in the 1958 extended this range to include the Master Time (8-day clock), the Monte Carlo (12-hour stopwatch), the Super Autavia (full chronograph), Sebring (60-minute, split-second timer) and Auto-Rally (60-minute stopwatch).
In 1962 Heuer made the first Swiss made stopwatch to enter space,. The astronaut John Glenn piloted the Mercury Atlas 6 spacecraft that orbited the earth and used the stopwatch as a back up.
In 1962 the Autavia wrist chronograph was introduced with a rotating bezel marking hours, minutes, decimal minutes or a tachymeter scale. These manual wind chronographs had black dials and white registers, and began with a screw back case, moving on to snap back cases from 1968. They used the V72 and V92 movements.
In 1963 Heuer launched Carrera Chronograph, as a tribute to the exciting Carrera Pan-American Rally of the 1950’s. It was housed in a 36mm stainless steel case with elegant lugs. It had a beautiful simple design with only the registers and markers being on the dial. It also had the sunken subs, giving it a modern three-dimensional look.
The second generation of Carrera’s had a chunkier 39mm case with shorter squarer lugs. Splashes of colour were added, for example an orange chronograph. They also moved on from the Valjoux movements, to the Heuer’s own Chronomatic automatic movement.
The Carrera’s sister watch is the Heuer Camaro, named after the American car, the Chevrolet Camaro. It has a larger cushion-shaped case but similar dials, hands and movements. It boasts a starburst dial, with indented registers and applied hour markers with a double hour marker at 12 o’clock. It was only ever a manual wind watch, powered by various Valjoux movements. It had domed crystal and 19mm wide lugs.
Heuer acquired the Leonidas brand in 1964, which included the Bundeswehr chronograph. This featured the fly back mechanism so that when it was reset, it immediately started again to time the next segment or event.
The automatic chronographs were introduced in 1969 after a partnership was formed between Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton. The winding crown moved to the left of the case. The earliest of these were named Chronomatics but this name didn’t go down well with the American audience so Heuer immediately returned to the name chronograph,. Very few pieces labeled Chronomatic were ever made, making them some of the most collectable Heuers on the market today!
The Monaco is widely known from the film Le Mans in 1971, when Steve McQueen wore it. It was the revolutionary square cased waterproof chronograph using the calibre 11 mechanism. To begin with it came in two designs; the blue dial and white registers, or the grey dial with registers.
Perhaps Jack Heuer’s greatest achievement was to sponsor some of Formula 1’s greatest drivers, this gave the Heuer name greater prominence and raised the sporting brand to an new level.
In 1971 Jack Heuer pioneered Formula 1 sponsorship with a deal with Ferrari. He equipped Team Ferrari with Heuer watches from 1971- 1979 and in return had a red Heuer logo put on the front of all F1 cars below the windscreen.
In the mid 1970’s Nicky Lauder became Ferrari world champion and to honour this great achievement Jack Heuer created the Monza, named after the Italian Grand Prix circuit. Heuer’s Calibre 15 movement powered it with its name engraved on the case back.
Introduced in 1976 the Daytona was the last model to use Heuer’s own automatic chronograph caliber. It came in a brushed steel 39mm case with an integrated steel bracelet. The dial was given a graded finish, where the colour gets stronger away as you move towards its outer edge; it came in either blue or fume.
First launched in 1972, the Montreal was big and colourful. It came in four different coloured dials, black, blue, white and champagne, the latter in a gold plated case. The in-house Calibre 12 movement powered the watch for the first series, then moving on to the Valjoux 7750
After the Monaco in the 1970’s, Heuer moved onto the Silverstone, retaining the square shape but in a softer form. Three models were introduced with the only difference being the colour of the dial. The Silverstone blue had a flat blue dial with metallic inner bezel. The fume model had the fume dial with a starburst and matching bezel. The Red Silverstone had a gloss red dial with matching inner bezel. All of them were powered by the Calibre 12 movements. Later in 1980 Heuer brought out a black one with the Lemania 5100 movement.
The extraordinary Calculator was produced in 1972, it had a large external split bezel allowing the wearer to keep the inner part still while measuring something using the outer scale. There were just two sub registers, and splashes of colour on the hands and accents. They came with either a black or blue dial.
TAG Techniques d'Avant Garde In 1982 a consortium led by Piaget and Lemania bought Heuer, who then sold it in 1985 to Techniques d'Avant Garde, a company that manufactured high-tech items such as ceramic turbochargers for Formula One cars. In March 1986 the company was re-branded TAG Heuer.