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Heuer Registry -- A Few Thoughts; Many Questions

With the launch of Rich's wonderful registry for vintage Monacos, it seems timely to share some thoughts and pose some questions on the subject of registries for our vintage Heuers. As many of our readers know, a few of us have been playing with the serial numbers (and the smaller sample registries) for a while now . . . this is a huge subject, that holds great promise for our community of collectors. But there are also a lot of questions to be considered -- we need to do this right, if we are going to do it at all . . . and I will admit that at the moment, I'm not sure what is "right" for this registry. So we need to determine, as a community, what we want to do regarding a registry (or registries).

Here are some thoughts and some questions . . . I don't think that we need to debate or answer the questions now, but we do need to start considering some of these issues.

  • Who is Doing What? As of this moment,
    • Rich has launched his registry for Monacos; a great start with lots of entries (and Rich has the interest in, and available technology for, doing a registry for Silverstones) . . .
    • I have created a small, sample registry for the "no name" chronos of the 1940's and 1950's; you can have a look at it here to get an idea of what a registry might look like -- Of course, you will need to keep in mind that we follow the serial numbers on the movements for these older chronos, and then we switch to serial numbers on the cases from the 1960's onward. Yes, all this gets confusing.
    • I also have what I call my "Cheat Sheet" with approximately 100 serial numbers from the 1960's and 1970's chronographs, which is an attempt to cover some key dates / transitions in some of the most important models . . . sorry, this "Cheat Sheet" needs to remain private for a while longer, while I develop it further . . . but I can tell you that with only 100 entries, we can learn a lot about these chronographs. I can only imagine what a fantastic resource it will be with the first 1,000 entries!!
    • another prominent collector has started a sample of what a registry might be like for the 1960's and 1970's Heuers.
    All these early projects are using different formats, etc. But the key point here is that we are all cooperating and sharing information . . . we have not even discussed coverage, format, style, naming conventions, technology, support, data entry, etc., but we are sharing ideas and information, at least on a preliminary basis. In a sense, the little registries are trial runs for the Big One!!
  • The Big Question -- What is the Purpose of a Registry? This is the big question, for all of us. At a minimum, we might develop a simple page, so that a person can see, for any particular year, the range of serial numbers that was used. We see these types of sheets, for the Breitlings, Rolexes and Omegas. Simple and useful, but no detailed information. At the other extreme, a watch owner could submit a serial number, and receive complete "build information" about his watch . . . Of course, this is impossible, given the fact that the Heuer factory does not have this information. Between these two extremes, we have some options: Do we want to compile a database of every Heuer that wishes to be registered, with various features being identified for each watch submitted? What do we do when a blatant "Franken" is submitted for registration? Do we identify the current owner, so that "title" may be checked, or is this limited to the watches themselves, with no ownership information? Is a primary purpose to detect the "fakes" or are we seeking to authenticate, with a stamp of approval?
  • And Who Is This "We"? Another question is who will operate this Registry? The dream might be one centralized registry, with a panel of experts to pass on the authenticity of the watches and approve the entries (and some sort of "staff" to do the routine data entry work)? Of course, there could be multiple registries, by period or even by model? Could there be a role for TAG-Heuer, in supporting or operating a central registry? Of course, the scope of the "we" must depend on the scope of the project. It will take a real crew if we are seeking to register every surviving Heuer; producing a list of years and ranges of serial numbers is not much of an effort at all . . . we could do that on the back of an envelope, by the first of November . . . maybe!!
  • Here's What I (Think I) Know.There has been much recent interest in the serial numbers. Ever since a few of us started trying to "break the code" of the numbers, we are seeing more and more information flowing from these numbers. Notice that many ebay auctions of Heuers are now including serial numbers . . . this is a recent development. Serial numbers are becoming a valuable part of our vocabulary, with more and more information being developed every day. Every day, I receive questions by e-mail about vintage Heuers. People want information about their watches -- dating, authenticity, valuation, etc. I am finding that the "Cheat Sheet" is a valuable tool in assessing the vintage Heuers. Give me a photo of the dial and tell me the serial number, and we can learn a lot about many of the models.
  • And a Couple of Concerns. At this early stage of the game, I do have a couple of concerns: I am concerned that if we are too ambitious, and the registry project is of too large a scale (or under-supported on a technical or human level), the registry may not be sustainable or it may crumble under its own weight. For every number shown in my sample registry of 1940's and 1950's chronographs, I have three chronos more waiting to be entered . . . it is very labor intensive, at least unless the project is supported by a good database. And I don't know how to do databases! So we must be realistic about what we are undertaking. There are also some policy questions: the frankens; the controversies; etc. When the novice collector has just paid $8,000 for the Chronomatic Autavia, with a case from 1974, and a Cal 12 movement, he will not be happy with whoever is operating the registry. Yikes!!

OK . . . these are just a few preliminary thoughts . . . sorry for the rambling and lack of organization in these thoughts. . . in my view, there is no urgent need to address all these questions now . . . but it is probably timely to begin thinking about these issues. And we should think about the Big Question: Why do we want to undertake this project?

Thoughts? Thanks!!


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