December 14, 2016

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE EARLY AUTAVIAS: 1962 TO 1969 BY JEFF STEIN

On March 10, 2015, TAG Heuer launched the Autavia Cup, a unique event to allow brand enthusiasts to select the historic Autavia model that will be re-issued in 2017. Interest in the Autavia Cup was been exceptionally strong, with thousands of enthusiasts casting their votes in the [three] rounds of the competition.

To provide today’s enthusiasts with comprehensive information about the Autavia chronographs that were included in the Autavia Cup competition, TAG Heuer commissioned vintage Heuer experts Rich Crosthwaite and Jeff Stein to provide an in-depth description of the Autavias produced by Heuer from 1962 to 1969.  Rich and Jeff published a detailed posting that covers approximately 25 models and executions produced by Heuer over this period.  To provide today’s enthusiasts with a brief introduction to these models, we provide this overview. 

Before turning to the watches themselves, we will put the Autavia into its historic perspective. The Autavia marked three “firsts” for Heuer.  First, the Autavia was Heuer’s first chronograph to have a model name, as the previous chronographs were identified only by their reference numbers. Second, the Autavia was Heuer’s first chronograph to incorporate a rotating bezel, with this bezel providing a useful tool for the racer or pilot and also dramatically increasing the size of the Autavia, compared with Heuer’s earlier chronographs. Finally, the Autavia was the first wristwatch that Jack Heuer, at age 30, created for the company, as he designed the Autavia to meet the specific needs of the racers. These factors, combined with the beautiful style and solid construction of the Autavia, resulted in this new chronograph becoming the watch of choice for the racers, navigators and pilots, throughout the 1960s, continuing with over 80 models produced through the mid-1980s. 

Rindt Andretti

 

The First Autaviasmobile_title_border

The very first execution of the Autavia chronograph is distinguished by its oversized white registers on a black dial, and the perfect match between the luminous markings on the dial and the luminous coating of the hands. This first Autavia was available in either a two-register model (30 or 45 minute capacity) or a three-register model (that provided 12-hour capacity). As with all Autavias of the 1960s, the bezel rotated to allow the computation of elapsed time or tracking time in a second time zone, and the stainless steel case was guaranteed waterproof to 330 feet.

Rindt Andretti

The Second Execution Casemobile_title_border

By the mid-1960s, Heuer had modified the Autavia to reflect the changing style of that decade. The bezels had become thinner and the hands were now brightly polished metal, again matching the bright finish of the markers on the dial. To comply with safety regulations, the luminous material was changed from radium to tritium, explaining the small “T” marking on these dials. The two versions shown above are especially important in Heuer’s history, with the three-register model being worn by Formula One World Champion, Jochen Rindt, and the two-register model being worn by Indianapolis 500 and Formula One champion, Mario Andretti.

Compressor

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For our experts description of the early Autavias, see “An In-Depth Look at the First Autavias (1962 through 1969)”, by Messrs. Crosthwaite, Gavin and Stein HERE

Rich and Paul have authored the book, Heuer Autavia Chronographs 1962-85, which provides a complete history of the Autavia, with hundreds of beautiful watch photos, as well as scans of historic documents. You can order the book HERE