The fine timepiece collections of TAG Heuer's greatest fan, Arno Haslinger

paulfrasercollectibles

2015-06-26 12:10:42

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The fine timepiece collections of TAG Heuer's greatest fan, Arno Haslinger

A ten year obsession has led to Haslinger owning the best selection of the brand's watches anywhere

Arno Michael Haslinger was born in Austria. Hestudied at the Vienna University of Economics and wrote his master's thesis on the Porsche 911 before pursuing a career in luxury industries, starting with the fragrance industry.

Haslinger has a long-standing passion for luxury cars and motor racing, and initially he began collecting fine cars. However, as he followed his passion in chasing his career, and decided to make his interest his occupation.

He went to work in what was then the Premier Automotive Group of Ford. Perhaps surprisingly, with this move came a change in his collecting habits from cars to fine timepieces.

Whilst it might seem like a surprising move, there is a long association between motorsports and complex watches - perhaps due to the common theme of pieces which are beautiful or striking on the outside but with functions supported by incredibly fine tuned engineering within.

Initially Haslinger started collecting Rolexes, but quickly concluded that the brand which captivated him was TAG Heuer. It was a combination of distinctive looks, rarity and the motor-racing link that are embodied in this watch that had Haslinger hooked. On the first factor, he notes,

"For me this portfolio is so utterly creative because you get all different shapes. The watches are very colourful."

Haslinger's collection is regarded as one of the greatest collections of a single brand in the world, and certainly the greatest private collection of TAG Heuer watches. TAG Heuer is using it to showcase the company for its 150th anniversary, and then all 81 watches will be sold for charity.

"I think it's probably one of the best collections focused on any brand," says Paul Maudsley, International Director of Watches at Bonhams.

"The brand is huge and Arno could have gone into pocket watches, or early-1930s chronographs. But he focused his collection on his other love, cars. And that's where the area excites me as well. I think most collectors are into the car link."

Silverstone TAG Heuer watchSilverstone TAG Heuer watch

Indeed, the first Heuer that Paul sold to Haslinger in 2000 (which started his collection) was a piece that went into production when the latter was nine or ten years old: the Silverstone. It was an eccentric choice - the majority of Heuer wearers are introduced to the brand through the square-cased Monaco worn by Steve McQueen in Le Mans. But as Haslinger says, the Silverstone is arguably more interesting and certainly far rarer:

"Production volume of the Silverstone in all the three colours was 1,200 pieces a year and it was only in the catalogues for two and a half, three years. So when you think of a phase in and phase out, you have a total production of around 3,000 pieces in three colours."

Haslinger's obsession with TAG Heuer has led to his becoming quite an expert, and he has written a number of articles and (so far) one book: Heuer Chronographs - The Fascination of Timekeepers and Motor Sports in the 1960s and 1970s.

The book is something of a love letter to his collection. It begins with an interview with Jack W Heuer himself, and has small sections devoted to watch accessories and racing car drivers.

But the rest of the work is devoted to detailed descriptions of 81 different models of Heuer chronographs across 14 model lines: Autavia, Carrera, Monaco, Skipper, Jacky Ickx, Calculator, Montreal, Silverstone, Monza, Daytona, Cortina, Solunar and Verona).

In an interview for Bonhams, an Autavia chronograph Ref 11630 MH from 1977 was picked out to illustrate the collection. The model is itself striking, with the eccentric location of the crown (winding takes place at 9 o'clock rather than 3 o'clock) dictated by the construction of the automatic movement and the date at six, which makes it rare.

Argentinian airforce Autovia watchArgentinian Airforce Autovia

But there's more: this Autovia was ordered by the Argentinian air force (as the stamp on the caseback testifies) and delivered with high-visibility orange hands, a colour picked up in the accents on the baton hour markers, making it rarer.

Finally, what makes it unique even amongst the other Argentinian air force issue vintage Heuer Autavias is that this still carries the original Heuer swing tag corresponding to the number on the caseback.

As Haslinger explains, he has always chased the finest examples,

"From the beginning I always paid good prices. But I only collect perfect pieces. That's the reason why 80 per cent of the collection is new old stock: unworn, original boxes, original straps."

Bonhams' sale of the Haslinger collection takes place on December 15 in London.

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Images: Bonhams

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