Of all the marketing campaigns brands use to attract attention to their watches, one of the more interesting came last year, as TAG Heuer let its fans vote on which Autavia model the company would revive next. This was TAG’s “Autavia Cup,” a competition between sixteen vintage Autavia references, drawing about 55,000 fans’ votes, and eventually deciding the winner to be the Reference 2446 model, sometimes known as the “Rindt.”
The original watch, a 1966 piece famously worn by the Formula 1 champion Jochen Rindt, was distinct from earlier Autavia models in its use of applied metal hour markers, straight steel hands, and smaller white subdials. However, that watch (pictured above) retained many features of the early models in the series, including its use of the hand-wound Valjoux 72 chronograph movement, a long-lugged steel case, and the much-loved vintage Heuer and Autavia logos. The modern re-edition of the piece thus works to channel many of the most significant elements of the mid-1960s watch, while making a few key adjustments to provide it with a distinct modernity.
The contemporary re-edition, the Autavia Heuer-02 (Ref. CBE2110.BA0687), features a 42-mm steel case with standard round pushers and a black, aluminum, 12-hour bidirectional rotating bezel. Within an outer white minute ring is the watch’s black dial, here hosting applied steel hour markers with faux patina accents, three white “azurage” style subdials — a 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock, running seconds at 6 o’clock, and 12-hour chronograph counter at 9 o’clock — as well as a small date indicator toward the bottom of the dial. There’s also vintage-style Heuer and Autavia logos toward the 12 o’clock position, and a small “Heuer 02” on the bottom register.
Inside the watch, and driving the faux-patina-accented steel hands, is the automatic caliber for which the watch is named: the Caliber Heuer 02. This movement, visible through a sapphire caseback (below), holds an impressive 75-hour power reserve, and features a black skeletonized rotor to charge the piece. This watch is the first to use the in-house Heuer 02 movement, whic is expected to become the brand’s primary chronograph movement in the coming years. The watch is currently listed by TAG Heuer at $5,300.
From the vintage to the modern editions of this timepiece, the bloodline runs clear through a number of details. In the general styling of the watch— from the case shape and choice of pushers and crown, to the three white registers on the black dial — the modern watch pays a clear homage to the essential components that differentiated a 1960s Heuer Autavia from a later model in the series. Yet in the finer details, like the applied luminescent material on the edge of the hour markers and subdials, the simple hour and minute hands with a white chronograph hand, and of course the vintage-style logos, the contemporary piece also makes a solid effort channeling the specific re-edition fans of the brand voted for.
Still, for the many elements of homage, there are also many differences between the vintage and modern piece. Most noticeably, the new case is significantly thicker to accommodate the new automatic movement as compared to the vintage hand-wound, while also being wider in diameter, at 42 mm rather than the historic 39 mm. On this note, the lugs of the modern watch also seem thicker and cut off more squarely, as compared to the long, thinner lugs of the vintage model, which flowed into the bracelet at a more acute angle. Other modern changes include the wider bezel, more popular in sports watches today, and the addition of a 6 o’clock date window and a visible movement through a sapphire caseback. As expected for any modern re-edition piece, the finishing is much more refined, and due to the difference in the modern movement, the subdials have been rearranged in places.
As Jean-Claude Biver — the current CEO of TAG Heuer — has said, the brand has no intention to create a complete replica of any past watch in its history, so instead it works to create modern watches based on the traditions of the brand, but each with its own distinct personality. This Autavia re-edition falls into this ethos, with many similarities between it and its 1960s predecessor, but with enough modern differences it will likely never be confused with the vintage model that inspired it.
Up until now, TAG Heuer has made it an essential part of its business strategy to continue producing vintage-inspired pieces (as seen through recent re-editions of the Carrera, Monza, and Monaco), and this new Autavia is no exception. So, for any who may be disappointed with this most recent re-edition, it may be only a matter of time before we see the next TAG Heuer vintage endeavor — perhaps next time decided in a future “Carrera Cup.”
For our last article in the “Vintage Eye” series in which we compare the modern Jughans Meister Pilot to its historical predecessor, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.