Rare, Original

Early Heuer 844-1

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World-famous for its racing-inspired chronographs, the 844 was Heuer's first attempt to break into the professional divers' watch market, a segment that had been dominated by Rolex and Tudor Submariners.

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Although it shared a lot of traits with the Submariner, among it the state-of-the-art depth rating and the unidirectionally rotating bezel, the 844 was quite a bit larger larger, measuring 42 mm in diameter versus 39.5 for the Rolex/Tudor. The screw-in crown was better protected, and the Heuer used a genuine saphire crystal when Rolex was still using plastic.

To test the waters, the first batch of these 844 watches was produced in 1979 by Monin in France. In late-1980 production was moved to Switzerland, and the 844 became the 844-1, later to be followed by 844-2, -3, -4, and, after Heuer was swallowed by TAG and became TAG-Heuer, the 844-5.

My 844-1 is, aside from a correct replacement cystal, a 100% original watch. It has been owned and worn with pride, never been restored, never needed restoration. While not quite as valuable as a Monin-made 844, it's even rarer, and few watchmakers have seen one in the flesh.

The proverbial tool watch just like the Rolex Submariner, the 844-1 can be worn on a daily basis, and I often do, especially in pouring rain. It is certified waterproof to 20 ATM / 200 meter/ 660 feet and powered by a Swiss ETA 2872, a 25-jewel workhorse quipped with anti-magnetic protection, self-winding in both directions, date quick-set feature, and a fascinating regulation system patented as the Etachron, which enabled very high precision tuning of the movement's running speed.

Despite being classified as a tool watch, this 844's condition is quite remarkable, more so given that at the time of this writing (2017) it's already 36 years old.

Only very light signs of use can be found on the case, and although the claim "never been polished" has certainly been overused and oftentimes abused, the lines of the case are so crisp that it's fair to say that if the watch has ever been polished, it must have been only to a minimal extent.

This Heuer wears a Vera Pello leather band, hand-crafted in Italy from vintage leather, and a genuine Heuer stainless steel buckle.

Everything taken into consideration, the 844-1 is still extremely undervalued in the marketplace. When new, this was a very competent attempt by Heuer to break into a Rolex-dominated field and compared side by side, reference 844 stands up well against a Submariner of the same age.

Good Rolex Submariners from the late 1970s and early 1980s command high prices now, making them the prime target for counterfeiting. Luckily, this has not happened to the vintage Heuer divers yet, making them all the more a viable and quite smart alternative to the discriminating enthusiast.