‘Shelby Cobra’ Dial 3147N Heuer Carrera Dato 12
This is just a Heuer in the same way that an original Shelby Cobra is just a car; it isn’t. It’s more akin to a mythical beast, one that will get your blood pumping if you know what you’re looking at. Toward the later half of the 1960s, Heuer worked with a few different companies and events to produce limited run dials. You’ll find Volvo, Mercury Cougar, Champion Spark Plug, Car and Driver, and other brand names on Carrera dials. They even made specific dials for the watches given to Indy 500 and ARRC winners. But they also made this, arguably the most collectible iteration ever, a 3147 ‘Dato 12’ with one of the sexiest logos the world has ever seen: the Shelby Cobra.
There are two different styles of Shelby Cobra signatures you’ll find, one on a Dato 45 with a circle around the snake and text and this earlier Dato 12 without a circle. On the latter Dato 45, the story goes that two dozen were commissioned for the ’68 NY Auto Show, where the Shelby Mustang was first unveiled. These earlier Dato 12s, well, no one knows. It is hypothesized that they may have been made for a specific race or event, or to celebrate the upcoming partnership with Ford. I’ll dig in to that in a second. But worth noting that the signature is also considerably larger at 6 on this dial. This is the only known surviving example today of a Dato 12 with this signature.
The Dato 12 was introduced in 1966 but quickly replaced with the Dato 45 by 1968 as the chronograph hand ran over the date. This gives us a two-year window to speculate. The Supersnake Cobra, with twin Paxton superchargers, was released in ’66. Interestingly, the six Shelby Daytona Coupes built for racing were all finished and sold to the public in ’66, then at 24K a piece (now millions). Shelby American also won Le Mans in ’66 and ’67 with GT40s. It makes chronological sense that this Carrera could’ve been conceived to commemorate any one of these four events, or perhaps some other role yet to be uncovered. In any case, it’s a one-of-one Carrera grail which will run you about the ask of a Factory Five replica Cobra today. I know which I’d rather have, no word of a lie.
In terms of condition, this one is singing. The case is full, with sharp factory angles you love to see on those long Carrera lugs. Interestingly, this dial is non-luminous. I’m not sure if this was a service job where tritium was removed or if it was born this way, we’ll likely never know. The hands look to have been relumed with Luminova, though it’s hard to say without having the watch in hand; could be a lighting artifact. In any case, it really doesn’t matter too much as the dial is the only thing anyone will care about here and that is perfectly undamaged. It comes from a well-regarded private collector based in London.