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Shortly before TAG's takeover of Heuer in the mid-1980s, it produced a line of legendary divers, first in Monin, France, with automatic movements, and subsequently in Switzerland with Swiss quartz movements - the example here is one of those latter divers, an increasingely seldom-seen and full serviced Heuer Ref. 980.006 "Jumbo" diver, on its original Heuer-signed bracelet and Heuer instructions manual. 

 

Make no mistake - this is the watch, made from 1979 - 1984, that saved Heuer from bankruptcy during the 1980s.  Per Hodinkee in "Why The Heuer Diver Professional Deserves A Lot More Credit Than It Gets," "Its stunning success was unexpected and came at the best possible time for the company.  In Jack Heuer’s own words: 'We could not imagine that this model would be the very watch that was to help the company recover.'  Surprisingly, this glorious hero was not a chronograph – hell, most of the time it's powered by a quartz movement.  So let's settle this injustice and look at a relatively obscure diving watch, despite it being a bestseller from 1979 to this very day.  This is the Heuer Diver Professional."

 

This quintessential no-nonsense Heuer tool watch was produced between circa 1979-84, but in some important way it continued to be made throughout the 1990s (more on this below).  For a brief history of these amazing Heuer divers, as noted in a fascinating Hodinkee article, “A Personal Note: Marking Time With A Humble Heuer” - “In 1980, Heuer decided it was time to build a proper dive watch.  Sure, years earlier, it had fitted its "Automotive-Aviation" Autavia chronograph with a diving bezel, but the brand was largely focused on motorsports watches, which is where it had built its reputation."

 

But in the late 1970s, as Jack Heuer tells it in his autobiography, “The Times Of My Life,” Heuer was at a sporting goods trade show in Europe and was approached by a diving equipment company having trouble finding quality dive watches.

 

Before that fateful show, Heuer was not doing well as a company and its situation had begun deteriorating as early as late 1974 (along with most of the Swiss watchmaking industry, badly hit by the quartz crisis caused by Seiko).  Quartz watches were more technically advanced than mechanical watches, and at a lower price point too, making them fierce competitors for the traditional Swiss companies.

 

It is in this grim context Jack Heuer saw an opportunity at that 1979 sporting goods trade show.  Heuer got the idea to address a recurrent complaint voiced regarding the difficulty in finding reliable private label watches for underwater sports – Heuer’s expertise at this time was racing chronographs, but it took the challenge regardless, and teamed up with French supplier G. Monnin.

 

Per Heuer, “To our great surprise our new diving watches were very well received by the market."  So much so, in fact, that the following year Heuer began offering the Diver Professional in four different sizes and a multitude of dial configurations.

 

After a year of outsourcing to Monnin, Heuer took over the manufacturing of the Ref. 844, re-named the 980.XXX, and sold in a myriad of versions, with different case sizes in gold or steel (even two-tone), a PVD version (both black and camo green), and orange, black, and full-lume dials, all with bracelet or rubber strap.  Most came in four different sizes (28mm, 32mm, 38mm, and 42mm, with different finishes – and yes, even a full lume dial variant.

 

But did Heuer’s overall efforts help the company?

 

As Hodinkee tells it, “When it comes to vintage Heuer, it's the historic chronographs that constantly grab the headlines.  I mean, who hasn't recently read a story about some uber-rare, record-breaking Autavia, Carrera, or Monaco?  Yet, there's one watch that played a critical role in Heuer’s history that remains almost entirely overlooked." 

 

The Heuer diver “…immediately sold very well for Heuer, and continued to do so even after Heuer became TAG Heuer in 1985.  After the merger, the line was kept as is, and quickly expanded… [and] eventually became the Aquaracer in 2004.  Looking at the history, the real impact of the Heuer Professional is striking: In some form or another, these dive watches have been a best-seller for (TAG) Heuer since 1979!"

 

"There was no formal endorsement, although it was recently discovered that Timothy Dalton wore two examples in the James Bond film "The Living Daylights."  If you have read Jack Heuer’s biography you might also remember the actress Bo Derek sporting a ladies’ piece, naked on a beach (it's page 258 of Jack’s biography).”

 

This Heuer 980.006 "Jumbo" diver comes on its original Heuer-signed bracelet, and with nylon strap, rugged travel case, and springbar tool.

Early 1980's Heuer 980.006 Jumbo-Case Diver Professional

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Out of Stock
  • DIAL: Solid Heuer-signed black dial features crisp writing, with correct Heuer “Mercedes” hour, minute, and second hands.  Date display at the 3 o’clock position works as designed, and lume shines brightly.

     

    CASE: Stainless-steel case measures 42mm (45mm w/crown) x 46.5, with matching Heuer caseback.  Black Heuer bezel insert, with intact lume pip, evinces surprisingely little patina.

     

    CRYSTAL: Mineral crystal, which looks to be original, remains blemish and deep scratch-free.

     

    BAND: Stainless-steel Heuer-signed bracelet, which will fit up to an approx. eight inch wrist (or approx. nine inch wrist if the diver extention is utilized).  This Heuer also comes with a black, grey, and red nylon strap.

     

    MOVEMENT: Heuer ETA 536.121 quartz movement; we have performed a full service on this movement.

     

    CROWN: Heuer stainless-steel crown, which screws down as designed.

     

    Of note, this Heuer 980.006 comes with its original Heuer instructions manual.

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