Heuer Autavia: the First big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

Photo: www.onthedash.com

In the variety of Tag Heuer chronographs, two flagships can be distinguished: Carrera and Monaco. There is a third, which the company recalled 5 years ago, when it decided to relaunch the Autavia line. In the middle of the last century, the Autavia watch became one of the most popular chronographs of its era. Over the years of production, so many versions of the model have been released that it is impossible to fit everything into one article. And yet we tried to make something like a mini-guide to the brightest models from different generations of Autavia.

The history of the model dates back to 1933, when Heuer released the first stopwatch for the dashboard of racing cars, yachts and aircraft. The model name has become an abbreviation of the words AUTomobile and AVIAtion.

Photo: timeandtidewatches.com

Despite having been releasing a stopwatch for 25 years, Autavia’s readability left a lot to be desired. In 1958, Jack Hoyer took part in one of the Swiss motor rallies, acting as a co-pilot. His team had every chance of winning, but on the way to the finish line Hoyer misread the stopwatch. As a result, the team took 3rd place, and this mistake infuriated the young rider so much that it was decided to remove the illegible stopwatches from production.

Chronograph in 4 generations

In 1961, Jack Hoyer took over the family business, preventing the sale of Heuer SA to Bulova. The newly minted director set the task of updating the range of chronographs. Jack Hoyer noticed that the company did not have a single chronograph with a rotating bezel and took to filling the gap. After 12 months of development, a new chronograph is finally born. It was decided to call the novelty Autavia – the familiar name seemed to Jack Hoyer suitable.

Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

The Autavia was the first timepiece that Jack Hoyer created for his company. I must say that the watch came out more than successful. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were worn by the most successful Formula 1 drivers and champions: Jo Siffert, Jochen Rindt, Derek Bell, Jackie X, Emerson Fittipaldi, Clay Regazzoni, Mario Andretti, Gilles Villeneuve and others.

Heuer Autavia "Mario Andretti" Ref.  3646. Photo: timeandtidewatches.com

Heuer Autavia “Mario Andretti” Ref. 3646.

There are 4 generations in the collection. The design of the first generation turned out to be perhaps the most elegant. The watch received a classic 39 mm steel case, equipped with smooth lugs. The back cover was screwed. The very first models in the collection featured a discreet black dial, large counters and Dauphin-style hands. At first, the hands were flat, completely covered with lume. Later, the lum was applied already in the narrow grooves inside the arrows.

Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs
Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

On the hour scale, in addition to the marks of the sticks, Arabic numerals were used. In early models, the minute counter was counted at 30 minutes, later at 45. Depending on the number of counters, the hands on the dial set in motion the Valjoux 92 (two counters) or Valjoux 72 (3 counters) calibers. In the version with a second time zone function, a modification of the Valjoux 72 caliber – Valjoux 724 was used.

Heuer Autavia Ref.  2446. Photo: pinterest.com

Heuer Autavia Ref. 2446.

Around 1963-64, the models slightly changed their design. The case and bezel remained the same, but the counters on the dial became smaller. Instead of Dauphin style arrows, more standard arrows were used. The design of the labels has changed – they became smaller and were duplicated by luminescent dots.

Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

In 1965/1966, the Autavia was again slightly upgraded. The bezel has become narrower, and instead of luminous rounds, rectangles have appeared at the base of the indexes.

Photo: www.fratellowatches.com

The second generation of Autavia models came out in 1968. The watch was distinguished by a snap-on case 40.4 x 13.5 mm. Other characteristic features include a wider bezel and flatter lugs with a square outline. These models were powered by the Valjoux 7730/7732 movements, which later evolved into the iconic ETA Valjoux 7750 caliber.

Heuer Autavia Ref.  7763T.  Photo: Photo: iconeek.com

Heuer Autavia Ref. 7763T. 

The third generation Autavia was presented at the Basel show in 1969. Inside the watch was the same Chronomatic Caliber 11 with an independent Dubois-Depraz chronograph module that powered the first Monaco models. If you remember, all watches with this movement had a crown on the left side of the case. This underlined the fact that the watch does not need to be wound daily.

The new Autavia has completely redesigned the look, presenting to the public in a cushion body with short, square-shaped integrated lugs. To accommodate the self-winding movement, the case has grown to 42.5 mm. If in the first generation the watch dial was exclusively black, then the new models offered a whole palette of colors.

Heuer Autavia Ref.  1563T.  Photo www.calibre11.com

Heuer Autavia Ref. 1563T. 

In the third generation, 4 series were presented: 1163 (plastic instead of glass on the dial), 11630 (mineral glass), 11063 (mineral glass) and 11X.603. The most famous of these, the 1163T series, with a white dial and bright blue accents, is known as the “Siffert” Autavia.

Heuer "Siffert" Autavia Ref.  1163. Photo: www.watchpool24.com

Heuer “Siffert” Autavia Ref. 1163.

Jo Siffert of Switzerland (1936 – 1971) was the star of the Porsche Sportscar works team and one of the first racers to sponsor Heuer. He received 25,000 francs for placing the brand’s logo on his suit, but his contribution to Heuer advertising did not stop there. Siffert was a born businessman. Having bought a batch of watches from the company, he freely sold them right on the race track. All Formula 1 riders began wearing Heuer chronographs.

Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

Viceroy 1163V (1972) became no less famous. This watch could be purchased for as little as $ 88, assuming you bought a pack of Viceroy cigarettes.

Heuer Autavia "Viceroy" Ref.  1163V.  Photo: timeandtidewatches.com

Heuer Autavia “Viceroy” Ref. 1163V. 

The third generation of Autavia made it to the mid-1980s almost unchanged, except for the different dial colors and minor changes in the case design (ref. 11630 and 11063).

Heuer Autavia "Orange Boy" Ref.  11630. Photo: timeandtidewatches.com

Heuer Autavia “Orange Boy” Ref. 11630.

In 1982, Jack Hoyer leaves the company with a scandal. Three years later, the Heuer brand merges with the TAG holding. A new chapter in the history of the company begins with the renewal of the model range, in which the Autavia chronographs simply did not find a place. However, the history of the collection did not end there.

Heuer Autavia Ref.  114.603, 1985.  Photo: www.calibre11.com

Heuer Autavia Ref. 114.603, 1985. 

TAG Heuer became part of the LVMH Group in 1999. The company is headed by Jean Christophe-Babin, who invites the great-grandson of the brand’s founder to return. Jack Hoyer returns and immediately offers the new management a list of ideas for new watches. Top of the list is the idea of ​​reviving the Autavia line. Like 60 years ago, Jack Hoyer is directly involved in the development of the next, fourth generation of Autavia chronographs.

Jack Hoyer in his youth and in 2001

Jack Hoyer in his youth and in 2001

Contrary to the expectations of the public, the novelty released in 2003 did not become a simple remake of the first model. The watch received a 42-mm steel case with a fixed bezel and an updated Caliber 11 movement, in which, like in the third generation models, the crown was located on the left side of the case.

Photo: www.onthedash.com

The fans did not appreciate Jack Hoyer’s decision to modernize the collection – the model was discontinued in 2005. And yet the watch received its share of popularity, albeit not immediately. In recent years, aftermarket prices for 4th generation models are even higher than the early Monaco and Carrera models.

Bezel options

Looking at Autavia chronographs, you will notice that they differ not only in small details in the design of the case and dial, but also in the design of the bezel. Depending on the functional load of the bezel, there are at least 6 design options.

1. Bezel with tachymeter scale. Model reference has a “T”

Heuer Autavia "Villeneuve" Ref.  73663. Photo: www.watchpool24.com

Heuer Autavia “Villeneuve” Ref. 73663.

2. Bezel with 60-minute countdown scale. Such models can be recognized by the letter “M”

Heuer Autavia Ref.  2446M.  Photo: boldwatches.wordpress.com

Heuer Autavia Ref. 2446M. 

3. Bezel with 12-hour scale. The reference contains the letter “H”

Heuer Autavia "Jochen Rindt" Ref.  2446. Photo: www.watchpool24.com

Heuer Autavia “Jochen Rindt” Ref. 2446.

4. Bezel with a combined scale of hours and minutes (designation “NM” in the reference)

Heuer Autavia "Derek Bell" Ref.  1163MH.  Photo: www.classicheuer.de

Heuer Autavia “Derek Bell” Ref. 1163MH. 

5. Bezel with a second time zone function (designation “GMT” in the reference)

Heuer Autavia Ref.  2446 GMT.  Photo: www.watchpool24.com

Heuer Autavia Ref. 2446 GMT. 

6. Bezel with a diving scale (the letter “P” in the reference is a reference to the French word “plongeur”, which means “diver” in translation). The photo below shows models with different diving scale options.

Heuer Autavia Diver 100P.  Photo: www.calibre11.com

Heuer Autavia Diver 100P. 

Heuer Autavia 11630P.  Photo: www.calibre11.com

Heuer Autavia 11630P.

A contemporary chapter in the history of the collection

In 2016, TAG Heuer launched the Autavia Cup, an interactive campaign to select a design for a new model to mark the 55th anniversary of the collection. Out of 16 vintage models, more than 50,000 users have chosen the 1966 model. Such a watch was once worn by the only posthumous Formula 1 champion Jochen Rindt, in whose honor the ref. 2446 Mark 3 and was named The “Rindt” Autavia.

Heuer Autavia "Jochen Rindt" Ref.  2446. Photo: timeandtidewatches.com

Heuer Autavia “Jochen Rindt” Ref. 2446.

The finished novelty was presented in 2017 at the watch salon in Basel. Compared to the vintage prototype, the model’s steel case has grown from 39 mm to 42 mm. The rotating bezel is made of aluminum. Inside, a new automatic movement with a date function was installed, the power reserve of which was enough for 80 hours.

Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

In the same year, a special version of the model was released, dedicated to the 85th anniversary of Jack Hoyer. The watch received the same case as the Basel novelty. Instead of a black dial, the model was equipped with a silver dial with black counters. Instead of a strap, the watch has a stylish bracelet, the central links of which resembled grains of rice. The case back was engraved with the historic Heuer crest and Jack Hoyer’s autograph.

Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs
Heuer Autavia.  First of the big three Tag Heuer racing chronographs

In 2019, the Autavia collection radically changed both design and functionality. Now these are three-hands in steel or bronze cases, presented with brightly colored dials. The watch bezel is steel or ceramic. The case back is engraved, in which the designers symbolically united the wheel and the propeller.

TAG Heuer Autavia 2019 collection

TAG Heuer Autavia 2019 collection

For nearly 60 years, Autavia watches have gone from the favorite chronograph of the best Formula 1 racers to a line of bright three-hands, which is in no hurry to acquire chronographs. What’s next for the collection? It’s hard to say, but it would be strange if TAG Heuer didn’t release a modern version of some vintage hit from this line for the 60th anniversary.

What do you think, should we expect some new Autavia products in a year. And if so, which one?

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