A quick look at a vintage Heuer Silverstone made possible by Watches83.
Like Mozart and Van Gogh, the now iconic Heuer Monaco watch only became famous after it died. In fact, during its lifetime, the idiosyncratic Monaco – despite the best efforts of Steve McQueen – was so unpopular that it was quietly killed off in the early 1970s. And it was replaced by something that was arguably even odder: the Silverstone, which looks a bit like a vintage television set rather than anything that a modern racing driver would wear. At the time, of course, it was-cutting edge, with its swooping curves and contemporary shades of beige. And so, like everything from the 1970s, it inevitably became cool again – which led TAG-Heuer (as the company is now known) to re-issue a limited edition of 1860 pieces each in brown and blue in 2010, to celebrate the company’s 150th birthday.
Yet despite the updates, which remained loyal to the basic concept of the TV dial and left-handed crown layout, nothing can quite beat the vintage charm of the original. Which is why I was fortunate to wear one briefly to capture the feel of something that must have seemed truly avant-garde at the time. In fact, it still does now.
Tapping into the 70s vibe
This particular watch belongs to Sigfrid of the Barcelona-based Watches 83 firm: if you haven’t yet checked out their pleasingly esoteric selection of merchandise, make sure you do so here. As you’ll see, Sigfrid goes for the style icons, and like every good businessman, everything he has is for sale. But this is one that he’s keeping for himself, which speaks volumes about the desirability of this increasingly prized classic. Values have been creeping up, no doubt helped by that re-issue a decade ago.
The original watches are now all in the region of £5000 northwards, and the trend is only going in one direction. Grab one while you can. There were three different models of original Silverstone with identical cases and Calibre 12 movements: what differentiated them was the different dial colours (and finishes): brown, blue and red. The red was actually dropped for the reissue – although a one-off was subsequently made in red with Jack Heuer’s signature on it as part of the birthday celebrations: the only Heuer watch ever to carry this. The original Silverstone that I got my hands on is, to my view, the most spectacular of the whole range in brown: with a gorgeous fumé starburst dial and matching inner bezel. It’s hard to think of any other watch that is more obviously and emphatically a child of its time.
Art imitates life
First things first: the Silverstone is neither small nor subtle – but to follow in footsteps of the Monaco it could obviously never be. There’s a 42mm case, but if anything it feels even more imposing than that on the wrist. It’s always going to be a bit like having a television set strapped to your arm, but as a Monaco owner I don’t mind that at all.
In fact, the curves make it considerably softer and less confrontational than the Monaco while definitely maintaining a recognisable lineage. In the end, it’s the details that make this fumé model feel special, compared to the more mundane matt finishes of its siblings.
I particularly like how the subdials are holistically integrated into the whole aesthetic of the watch, giving a clean look that still incorporates all the functionality you need. Then there are those angled pushers, which echo the angled numerals. Anyone familiar with the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire will know that it’s all about straights and fast corners (with the place having originally started off life as a World War II airbase).
That ethos is translated perfectly into the design language of the Heuer’s cushion case, as opposed to the showy and more angular Monaco circuit, whose tight confines make it the circuit with the slowest average speed in Formula 1. Art imitates life.
The original and best
I only got to spend a short amount of time with the Silverstone, but during that frustratingly brief sojourn I began to love it.
Part of that affection is down to its whole motorsport history, which I love, while a growing desire to one day own one is also prompted by the fact that 1974 – when it was introduced – happens to be my birth year. But most of all, it’s the instantly recognisable aesthetic that grabs you. I would definitely go for the same brown fumé model that I wore, which is good news because it’s the blue that’s most prized by collectors: perhaps because it has the most obvious links to the Monaco and it was the one that Ferrari Formula 1 driver Clay Regazzoni was often seen wearing in the 1970s. The original Silverstone was produced until 1977, making a brief comeback in 1983 with a brand new model (the ‘Lemania’) that didn’t bear much resemblance to its ancestor but nonetheless wore the Silverstone name.
For me, there’s only one. And I feel lucky to have experienced it. We'd like to thank Watches83 for allowing us to have some time with this incredible Heuer Silverstone. To find out more and to explore a wide variety of vintage watches, check out Watches83's website here.