Heuerville

Vintage Heuer / TAG Heuer watches, and a few others. Plus Handmade straps..

Heuer 844 Monnin

with 41 comments

Heuer 844 Monnin, Automatic (France Ebauche) FE 4611A. 42mm case. c1979

The legendary Monnin, the first dedicated divers watch from Heuer. The Daddy…
Back in the mid-late 70’s, Heuer received numerous requests at various trade shows for a (moderately) affordable high quality divers watch. Heuer took note, and saw an opportunity – something welcomed during the quartz crisis, when many Swiss watch companies were disappearing down the pan. Heuer too were in trouble, so they decided to dip their toe into the divers market. Not really knowing how they would sell, Heuer outsourced prototype production to G. Monnin in France, saving the expense of tooling up. They quickly realized that they were proving a hit, so production was swiftly moved to Switzerland, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There were several (844) designs, the first having different bezel markings and a cathedral hour hand, then came the ‘Submariner-esk’ bezel with cathedral hands, then finally the version you see here, with the iconic Sub style bezel insert and Mercedes hands.  Also note that the bezel does not have an inner steel surround, like the later Swiss models. (There were also some Monnin Quartz models in varying case sizes, but I’ll leave those to another day).

This example has been on quite a journey, I acquired it a long time ago from a collector in the US, as an incomplete watch. It has take considerable time to finally collect all the parts I needed to put it back to factory condition. The dial is truly stunning, the finish is a satin deep charcoal, with the most gorgeous rich cream patina to the lume, the nicest I’ve ever seen. Note the French spelling of ‘Professionel’ and ‘Made in France’ script. The deep gloss red 24hr numerals are beautifully delicate, and lift the design. It’s a shame these indices were dropped on all the later Swiss made models. There is something pleasing about red script on a monotone divers dial. (Just ask the Rolex guys). All housed in that iconic 42mm oversized case design, which graced the Heuer range for many years, and survived (in a slightly thinner form) until the early 1990s, when TAG Heuer finally dropped the design. The general case design has lived on, and can be seen in other small watch company offerings. I presume the rights to the design were sold off, or were openly available. (I’m not sure these are identical, they look similar).

Update: Movement is ‘France Ebauche’ FE 4611A – Not Felsa
Thanks to Thomas Moeller for the correction on this, I, and quite a bit of info online too, wrongly presumed this is a Felsa movement – from the FE, but Thomas has set me straight! The FE stands for French Ebauche, and was (obviously) a French made movement, whereas Felsa was a Swiss made movement – Thanks Thomas. (You can read Thomas’ comments below).

The Divers saved Heuer
This is essentially the watch that saved Heuer. That isn’t a statement made without foundation… an interview conducted by David from Cal. 11 with Jack Heuer himself saw the subject brought up… Jack saying (in reference to the Monnin and the later Swiss divers during the time of the ‘quartz crisis’)

“…would you believe it, these watches started selling like crazy. The company came out of trouble because of these watches. You know, Bo Derek wore one; we have it now in the museum” – Jack Heuer.

Military Connection
As with many watches from this period, there is some information kicking around online that can be taken out of context. One such common belief is that this model was military issue for the French Foreign Legion (FFL), and some suggestion that it was associated with DINOPS, the FFL’s combat diver unit.

There is certainly no solid evidence that this was specifically DINOPS issued, but the initial reference to the FFL came in mid 2008 from collector Jim Poseidon (SCWF) who acquired a Monnin from a retired FFL soldier, who claimed the watch was supplied as military issue by the FFL. This is the only reference I’m aware of that directly links the Monnin and military use. Maybe it was on test, or freebies from Heuer to the FFL, I don’t think anyone knows for certain. But right now, there is insufficient collective knowledge to say that it was official issue, in the sense of a wide distribution across the various FFL units.  I’m inclined to err on the side of caution with this military connection, but I have no reason to doubt any of the facts that Jim openly discussed on the Heuer forum.
On a side note, Jim spoke to Chuck Maddox, shortly before he past away, and Jim recalls that they both agreed that “this watch may be about the most collectible and historically significant Diver’s watch that Heuer ever made.

Who is/was/are Monnin?
Strangely, I can’t find a definitive answer, maybe readers can set me straight.

There are three ‘Monnins’ I’ve found whilst doing my research,  the first is ‘Gaston Monnin’, a French watchmaker from Charquemont in the French alps, near the Swiss border. Very little information is to be found, and he appears to be a sole trader, so unlikely. The second reference is the ‘Phenix Watch Co.’ founded in 1873 by Dubail, Monnin, Frossard & Co., but there is no reference to this company surviving into the 20th century. The third, and most promising reference is ‘Monnin Holding AG’ …

The house MONNIN was founded in 1946 by Gerald Monnin and MM.Valéry.
Taken from their website: “In 2001, Monnin Holding AG is acquired by three shareholders well known in the watchmaking world. (Patek Philippe, Richemont Group and Rolex)”.
They appear to be a precision lathe/tooling specialist for the Swiss watch industry, which would fit the bill. I did email them, but so far I’ve not received a response.

See the cathedral hand version in the 1979 catalogue on Heuerboy.com.

Written by Heuerville

October 17, 2011 at 5:19 pm

41 Responses

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  1. What’s really strange is that there is a spelling mistake on the watch, as “professionnel” takes 2 N’s in French…

    Arnaud

    October 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    • Not *really* a spelling mistake, more a mix between anglicised text & French.

      Heuerville

      October 20, 2011 at 4:18 pm

  2. Cool site…stumbled over here from Perpetuelle blog!

    RobBlac

    October 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

  3. Great blog! I especially admire this watch in particular. If I wanted to find any of the bands featured on this watch how would I find them specifically? They’re all really nice bands but the light brown leather watch is pretty awesome. I’d like to see it on one of my own watches.

    Engo

    November 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm

  4. I’ve been looking for one of these for quite some time and just happened to find an Automatic & Quartz version of the Monnin. They’re both in pretty good shape except for the bezel inserts. Any idea where I might find original replacements? If not, any suggestions?

    Tracy

    December 5, 2011 at 9:05 pm

  5. Congratulations Heuerville,

    This was a very well done & historical review of the Heuer 844 Auto Military 12/24 Diver by the House Of Monnin, and I sincerely enjoyed finding and reading this fine work by you. (Chuck indeed would have loved to read this reference!)

    Thank you,
    Poseidon-Jim

    Jim Collins

    February 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    • Thanks Jim, that’s high praise indeed. I appreciate it.

      Heuerville

      February 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      • Hi Rich,

        Thanks mate & I was pleased to read the post & add to it.

        These watches depending on Condition worn to excellent bring in the $750 to maybe $1500 usd on a good day from what I’ve seen over a period of the past 4-5 years, with the hobby getting tighter this past year slowing down, due to the economy issues worldwide no doubt.

        Cheers,
        Poseidon-Jim

        Jim Collins

        June 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm

  6. Beautiful watch! Will be dreaming it is on my wrist. Dont you have a duplicate?

    Josef

    March 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm

  7. Good afternoon. Nice job on both the watch and its provenance. Was wondering what the retail value of the watch would be as I have one exactly like it that is about to undergo a complete overhaul.

    Rich

    June 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    • Rich, any valuation depends on condition, the smallest wear or damage can make a huge difference. A chipped bezel could knock hundreds off any valuation. As all of these watches have some wear, a ‘retail value’ is almost impossible to give. Ball park would be £750-£1200.

      Heuerville

      June 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm

  8. Hi, Just to let you that I am the original owner of a heuer 844 that’s quartz. Keeps perfect time, like the day I bought it in 1978. A beautiful watch!!!! If any ones interested, let me know and I’ll post or send some photos
    Barry ‘

    Barry Kurland

    June 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm

  9. Hi, first of all a very nice article. I have one of these under a different name (Claude Cannes) with the same case and movement. The FE stands for France Ebauche and not Felsa this is a French movement and the Felsa is a Swiss one. The later 844 were made with Swiss ETA movements but not with a Felsa.
    Regards Thomas

    Thomas Moeller

    May 31, 2013 at 10:04 am

    • Hi Thomas, that’s very interesting.. I didn’t know, so just for clarity, the FE4611A is not a Felsa movement then?

      Heuerville

      May 31, 2013 at 10:16 am

      • That is right the FE is France Ebauche and this is why there is also no Swiss Made on the Monnin ones , they are completly made in France. This changed later of course. The left over cases were then sold in France under various names, I found mine on the fleamarket in Nice earlier this year for €40. If you are interested I can send you pictures but you must let me know where to.
        Regards Thomas

        Thomas Moeller

        June 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      • Thanks Thomas.. I’ve updated the blog posting – thanks for your information, very kind.

        Heuerville

        June 2, 2013 at 10:23 am

  10. Hi
    I just bought a very nice ”Le Forban”. I would say that looks identical with Heuer, except the logo from the dial. When I say identical, I mean that everything is like the watch presented above : case, crown, case-back inside, movement. This shows that Heuer bought directly from France this watch. The question is: Which watch worth more? Heuer which is a replica of ”Le Forban” or Le Forban which is in fact the original?

    Sceptic Coroana

    June 24, 2013 at 6:13 am

    • It’s fairly well known that there are other brands that used the same design, I don’t think any are ‘replicas’ of each other, who knows which watch was actually designed first – does anyone know that the ‘Le Forban’ is the first, it could have been another brand. Even if it was, the design was clearly licensed out, so there is no exclusivity.
      As for value, I know nothing about ‘Le Forban’, but I’ve seen other branded examples sell for considerably less than the Heuer – I’ve seen them sell for a few hundred pounds. Market forces dictate, and a Heuer example is going to be more desirable. Imagine if Rolex/Auricoste/Aquastar et al had commissioned the same design – they would be more valuable than an unknown brand.

      Heuerville

      June 24, 2013 at 8:17 am

  11. i am absolutely agree with your comments regarding ” no exclusivity” for a certain design. Here is another situation : we are talking about two identical watches; both watches made in same factory (in France), in same period, by same people(workers). The question is : Then, what make the difference between them?The logo?

    Sceptic Coroana

    June 24, 2013 at 9:23 am

    • Possibly, and probably – yes, but I can’t say with any certainty as I don’t have both watches to compare. Throughout watchdom there are many such examples of a design/cases/dials being used by many brands. If you look at the Autavias, you will find ‘poor mans’ examples with a different brand name, same goes for the Carrera – but it doesn’t make the Heuer versions any less desirable or make the other branded versions equal in value. If you don’t mind me saying, it reads as if you are angling for a ‘They are both the same, they are both equal value’, but these things are subjective. As a Heuer collector, would I want something identical to the Heuer Monnin but without the Heuer? – no. In my mind at least, it’s not ‘just a logo’, it’s the story behind the model, the history, how it opened up Heuer to design and produce diving watches – there is a heritage, and this is all part of what makes any watch desirable.. like the old BMW adverts used to say, the total is greater than the sum of the parts. (or something like that).

      Heuerville

      June 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

      • I am watch collector also and I am agree with you. But, in spit of this, also like collector, sometime i become subjective in valuing the watches. For example I have a Carrera (2447) ”panda dial” and i have same watch with white dial. Why should be panda more expensive than the other? is only a question of collectors/collecting

        Sceptic Coroana

        June 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

      • I agree, but then, it all comes back to desirability. People desire a Sub with Red writing = more valuable. Personally, I think that ‘value’ is only a very tiny part of collecting, and to ponder if watch A “is/isn’t/should be/why not” worth that of watch B is a never ending circle. Why isn’t a Monnin worth more than a vintage Tudor Snowflake? It’s a valid question, with a multiple faceted answer – but ultimately, who cares. I couldn’t care less if watch A is more valuable than watch B. Some people get hung up on prices/values – I don’t.

        Heuerville

        June 24, 2013 at 11:38 am

  12. so you a real collector 🙂
    i would also to be like you

    Sceptic Coroana

    June 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

  13. Just orderd this light brown strap for my 844, it came back from service yesterday 🙂 i hope i can make it look that good to..

    pontus

    September 26, 2013 at 10:20 pm

  14. just found an 844 in my attic. its in pretty good shape but needs an escape wheel and a mainspring. anyone know where i can find replacement?

    Kramer

    October 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    • Kramer, It would be helpful if you can clarify which movement it is, French, or later Swiss ETA?

      Heuerville

      October 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      • It’s a FE 4611a monnin.

        kramer

        October 19, 2013 at 2:31 am

      • Hi kramer , I have a doner movement but I will need to check what is still left in it. Send me your email and I will send you pictures of what is there. Cheers Thomas.

        Thomas Moeller

        October 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      • Much appreciated Thomas
        leder.b@gmail.com

        Kramer

        October 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm

  15. hi, i have recently bought a Heuer 844 quartz and would like to fit a submariner/oyster style strap to it, like the one in a couple of the photos. Does anyone know where i can source a good quality one from, it’s proving more difficult than i imagined! Many thanks Nick.

    Nick

    February 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    • Nick,
      Aftermarket bracelets designed for older Rolex Subs fit well (5513 / 1680). There is a great selection on ebay, ranging from fairly cheap to more expensive quality products.

      Heuerville

      February 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      • hi, thanks for the reply. I have tried a couple of straps off ebay but haven’t been impressed with their qualitly. I will persist though. cheers

        Nick

        February 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      • Hi nick, I’ve got an even older one, and I’m the original owner! Bought brand new in 1978, still going strong. Try my friend Steve Cotton, one of very few Licensed rolex repair technicians in Canada. He has everything.

        His company is qualicum micro engineering or something like that, he’s in qualicum beach bc, that on Vancouver Island. Google him, he’ll help you
        Barry

        Barry Kurland

        February 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

  16. […] Stewart, so this one has passed through the hands of serious Heuer collectors. According to an article by Stewart, he had to sort of piece this one together, making it not original, yet correct. With all of the […]

  17. Thanks for your write up here. I have a very nice Heuer 844 dive watch with the Monnin movement. Unfortunately it recently stopped working. Do you know a good watch repair that might service this particular watch?

    Rob

    January 10, 2017 at 3:45 am

    • Hi Rob,
      Not sure where you are in the world. For the US, try Craig at chronodeco.com, for UK, try Rich at thewatchspotblog.com or Nic at Chronomatic.com or Abel at heuertime.com (EU)

      Heuerville

      January 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm

  18. Great article – very informative with good pics.
    I’m trying to learn a bit more about the early 844 Automatic that I got from my dad. The serial is 12243 and the dial says “Made in France” but unlike the Monnin pictured above, “Made in France” is at the absolute bottom of the dial (not bisected by the dash at the 6 position). Also there are no red markers like those on the Monnin face pictured.
    After an extensive Google Image search, the only 844 faces without the red Monnin markers say “Swiss Made”. The only faces that I’ve seen that say “Made in France” have the red Monnin markers.
    Any ideas?
    Thanks,
    JPT-L

    JP Thal-Larsen

    August 14, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    • JP
      Difficult to give you a solid answer, but the Monnin/early 844’s have many minor variations, from bezel inserts to the script on the dial. It’s possible it’s a cross-over piece. Seems they were kinda experimenting with the design until it switched to production in Switzerland.

      Heuerville

      August 14, 2017 at 10:25 pm


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