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Re: Heuer Registry -- A Few Thoughts; Many Questions

: . . . .
: So we need to determine, as a community, what we want
: to do regarding a registry (or registries).
: . . . .

I was blessed by developing a passion for vintage Omegas, the brand that has perhaps the best publicly available information regarding serial numbers, and one of the best set of surviving factory records regarding watch production.

I was frankly amazed at the information that Jeff has accumulated (with the help of many others) and published regarding Heuers. What was most amazing is the reliance on "secondary sources" -- advertisements, catalogs, and personal experience that formed the basis of this knowledge base, rather than information from an authoritative company source. In making these remarks, I am fully aware of three things: I have understated the efforts, oversummarized the sources, and perhaps implied less reliability than I believe exists.

: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!!
: . . . . .

Those not intimately familar with Omega serial numbers may be unaware that there are similar issues with Omega's serial numbers, with both case and movement serial numbers used, and "wandering" locations of serial numbers.

First, Omega serial numbers of any sort were not used for the first 50 years or so of existence (Omega started in 1848).
Second, Omega had two sets of serial numbers on every watch produced: a movement serial number and a case serial number.
Third, production records were based on the case number until the 1930s or so.
Fourth, case numbers stopped being used for stainless steel cases in the early 1940s, but continued to be used for most, and then some, gold cases until the late 1950s.
Fifth, the manner in which movement serial numbers were assigned changed dramatically three times, once in 1986, once in 1995 and again in 2007.

-- pre-1986 numbers were assigned to a production range for a calibre; not to a watch model, not when produced, but when the decision was made to set aside a group of numbers for this calibre for when we produce them
-- 1986 numbers are assigned sequentially as watches leave the factory for the first time, but are first inside the case then outside the case and there are significant exceptions to the sequence, including all chronometers and all "moonwatch" calibres
-- 1995 multiple simultaneous ranges begin being used, making the serial number charts far less useful
-- 2007 even more multiple ranges are used

Thus, even when you know exactly, more or less, how the factory used serial numbers, the variations over time can make interpreting the data challenging.

I suspect that similar issues with serial numbers may emerge for Heuer. I would imagine that adding to this mix the fact that Heuer produced watches for others at times will complicate interpreting serial numbers further.

The published Omega charts include both case and movement serial numbers. The case serial numbers are more aggregated, but are far more reliable for pre-1940s watches. A Heuer serial number chart may have to have a similar bifurcation of what numbers are relied upon for what dates.

: 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.

And I might add, often inaccurate if you wish to get within more than a range of 5 years, at least in the case of Omega.

: 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.

And generally available only for a fee. Omega formerly gave this service away, but does so no longer.

: 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?

An unintended consequence of a "validated" entry in a simple registry of only serial numbers is that there is a serial number which can be duplicated and the scammer can point to the registry as proof of validity.

A registry of owners is something that TAG-Heuer (and every other watchmaker) should be interested in, but does not provide. I suspect the cost and liability associated with misinformation is one that no maker has perceived as being outweighed by benefits.

: 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?

As Jeff is aware, I have a very detailed database of my purchases and current watches owned. It is difficult to find the time to enter the details relating to less than 100 watches, much less the number of watches this project would likely attract. It takes a lot more effort than you think.
: 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!!
: . . . . . .

: Jeff

I have designed any number of simple databases from an end user's perspective. I am, however, not a database technician. But I have learned one thing.
Design the reports and tables you want to have when it is complete, and design the database from these end results.

It is also tremendously helpful to enforce common terminology and format by only allowing certain terms to be input into certain fields. For instance, the shape of hands is one that comes to mind, and a visual guide would be helpful.

Good luck with the project, on whatever scope you choose to attack it.

Remember anything is better than what is currently available.


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