An incredibly rare ‘McLaren’ Heuer Carrera from 1974...
Brazilian racing driver Emerson Fittipaldi was known for a number of unique things: spectacular sideburns, an unpronounceable middle name of Wojciechowska, and becoming the youngest-ever Formula 1 champion when he first won the title at the age of 25 with Lotus in 1972. He went on to win the title again with McLaren, in 1974 – and that is where our story starts.
Like most dashing Formula 1 drivers of the age, Emerson was well aware of Heuer, having begun his Formula 1 career with Lotus: perhaps the single team that was most synonymous with the Swiss watch brand, thanks to driving legends such as Jo Siffert and Jochen Rindt – both of whom were close to Jack Heuer.
Not only were they Heuer ambassadors, but also salesmen: as well as Jack supplying them with watches, they would receive a commission for selling them to other drivers in the paddock. It wasn’t quite as if they went onto the starting grid with a roll of watches stuffed into their overalls – but almost.
Over the years though, the relationship between Heuer and Formula 1 became more commercial, expanding to teams as well as individual drivers. By the time 1974 came around, the distinctive Heuer logo was on the side of the McLaren. Formula 1 cars at the time were as outlandish as 70s fashion: they sported enormous air boxes above the drivers’ heads that made them look like oversized teapots, complete with lurid paint jobs and drivers who were more like rock stars than athletes. Emerson Fittipaldi was typical of the breed; in fact, he was often seen wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson hat. And he had the swagger; like of all of his colleagues, he just lived for the moment.
All this was entirely normal in 1974. Scottish legend Jackie Stewart had just retired, so there was no defending champion that year: it would turn into a duel for the title between Fittipaldi for McLaren and Ferrari’s Clay Regazzoni. In fact, they came to the 15th and final race of the season in the United States tied on points. But then disaster struck for Regazzoni, as he struggled with a broken damper. Even though Fittipaldi didn’t have a stellar race either, by his high standards, fourth place was still enough to secure his second championship.
McLaren too had won the manufacturers’ title, and to celebrate a victorious year, a very special Heuer Carrera was commissioned: identical to the standard model in every way, apart from the unique engraving directly on the dial. Not a huge amount is known about this McLaren Carrera, but without a doubt, it’s incredibly rare. In fact, it’s believed that only 10 were ever made, given at the time to the senior members of the pit crew.
This example, found by Jonathan Scatchard at VintageHeuer.com, came directly from the son of one of those lucky few. This is truly a ‘once in a lifetime' watch, in that you’ll never see another. But the absolute charm of this particular example is that it’s been very well-loved. Pristine it isn’t – but what stories it would have to tell, if only it could talk. The original owner wore it every day: perhaps even during some of those frantic pit stops of the 1970s and 80s. This watch will have travelled the world and probably attended hundreds of grands prix from the inside, sharing a pit garage with some of the greats of the sport. Not to mention a few post-event parties.
The only real problem with a watch as rare as this one is working out a value. It’s hard to be sure, but it’s likely to be worth in the region of £15,000 or possibly more: a considerable premium over a non-McLaren Carrera of that vintage. There were so many Carreras produced over the years as it was the original and archetypal racing watch, but this one is something truly special: a piece of memorabilia that harks back to an era where drivers were gladiators, and one of the biggest achievements was just staying alive.
Don’t get this model confused of course with the much more modern ‘TAG Heuer McLaren 1974 edition’ – released in 2014 to mark the 40th anniversary of the team’s inaugural world title. What we have here is the very watch that inspired it.
To find out more about this watch and where it has come from, click here.
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