Diving Watches: From Sports Watches to Certified Icons
Military watches are hot, and always have been, in the land of watch collectors. Add a chronograph, no, a flyback chronograph in the mix and some of you already might have guessed that we are talking about the Heuer Bund Flyback Chronograph here. These Heuer chronographs were – for their time – large pieces with their 42mm diameter cases and officially issued to military pilots. This also means that these watches needed to be given back after missions for servicing and/or repair at given times.
You have probably come across images of these watches if you are an avid collector or watch enthusiast. Many people praise the looks of these watches, big case with a hefty bezel, two-register chronograph and large white hour and minute hands. A true pilots watch and almost as legible as a watch can be. Several other brands made these watches according to military specifications, but we are looking at the Heuer version. However, you might come across similar watches having ‘Leonidas’ on the dial as well. That is actually the original version, before Heuer bought that company somewhere mid-1960’s. You will also probably recognize the ‘Bund’ strap, also made to military specifications, with the leather cuff to protect the pilot’s wrists.
Inside the Heuer Bund Flyback Chronograph you will find one of the following movements. The (now ETA) Valjoux 22, 222, or 230 hand-wound chronograph movements have been used for these Heuer Bund watches. It is interesting to note that the movement of these watches load into the case via the front. The caseback in fact, attaches the bezel to the watch case. By turning the caseback, you will also fix the crystal. This way, it was easy for the watchmakers to quickly open the watch and replace parts were and when necessary.
There are a couple of variations of the Heuer Bund Chronograph, the reference 1551 SGSZ being the most difficult one to source. Why? Well, this model is Sternzeit regulated (Sternzeit is also the nickname of this watch) is not the oldest of the Bund Flyback Chronographs out there, but very rare as it was only issued to the artillery units in the early 1970’s. It is Sternzeit regulated (meaning regulated to Sidereal time, a standard that is 4 minutes slower than normal time), and meant to assist the positioning of artillery units using a theodolite. The dials of this reference 1551 SGSZ model also indicates ‘Sternzeit Reguliert’.
The more common Heuer Bund Flyback Chronograph watches are reference 1550 (SG), one with “3H” indication on the dial and one without. However, don’t be fooled though, identifying an original and authentic Heuer Bund Flyback Chronograph is not an easy task as there are many little variations around on the market. According to some sources, well over twenty dial variations.
The circled 3H on the dial is the most popular one. This small red logo stands for Hydrogen-3, which is the chemical composition for the luminous material used for the dial and hands. You might know it better as ‘tritium’. You will find them around on the market, with small dial variations including several sizes of the 3H logo on the dial and different sized Heuer logos. Older production models tend to have smaller printed ‘Heuer’ logos. As parts of these watches have been exchanged by military contracted watchmakers all the time, these kinds of things don’t do real damage to the value of these watches. Strange, but true, as long everything is at least original and authentic.
On Chrono24 you will find a couple of these Heuer Bund Flyback Chronograph 1550 references for sale in the range of 3500 till 7500 Euro. The latter being a rather exceptional high price for this watch, but it all depends – as with most things – on the condition of such a watch. A Sternzeit 1551 SGSZ is more difficult to find and thus more expensive. Expect to pay over 10.000 for an example, probably more if the condition is mint.
In any case, if you are looking for a Heuer Bund Flyback Chronograph, always make sure to validate the watch for authenticity and originality before making the final purchase. There are several watch communities out there on the internet, with a strong focus on military watches and know their stuff. Make sure to do your research before making the purchase for this special Heuer military pilot’s chronograph.
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