Many watch connoisseurs receive personalized watches for their birthdays. But how many receive a personalized version of an iconic timepiece that they actually created? TAG Heuer celebrates the 85th birthday of Jack Heuer, its honorary chairman and scion of the company’s founding family, this year, with the release of a limited-edition Autavia model with a “Panda”-style dial. As Jack prepares to blow out candles, we present to you this week’s Watch to Watch, the TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer Limited Edition.
First, some history on the Autavia: the first Heuer timepiece with that moniker was actually a dashboard counter for racing cars and aircraft (the name is a combination of “Automobile” and “Aviation”) released in 1933. Jack Heuer, at the time the head of the Heuer watch company that would later become known as TAG Heuer, revived the name for the wristwatch chronograph he created in 1962, during the Golden Age of motor racing. The Autavia wristwatch was notable for its rotating bezel, large snailed counters, and ultra-legible black-and-white color scheme. The watch, like other racing-inspired Heuer watches of that era, such as the Carrera and Monaco, became a favorite of many well-known racing drivers of the 1960s and ‘70s, including Jo Siffert, Mario Andretti, and Clay Regazzoni. and the F1 legend most associated with the revival piece, Jochen Rindt. The Autavia was dropped from the brand’s catalogue in 1986 but remained a favorite among collectors of vintage Heuer watches.
It was another F1 legend, Jochen Rindt, who would become most associated with the modern, revived version of the Autavia, which was released at Baselworld 2017. In 2016, TAG Heuer conducted an interactive online campaign called the “Autavia Cup,” in which more than 50,000 of the brand’s diehard fans voted for which one of 16 vintage Autavia models would be the template for the planned reissue of the Autavia this year. The winner was a 1966 model nicknamed the “Rindt,” which Jochen Rindt famously wore during his racing career.
Borrowing faithfully from many aspects of the vintage Rindt model, the modern-day TAG Heuer Autavia has a 42-mm stainless steel case (enlarged from the 39-mm diameter of the original) with a bidirectional, notched bezel made of black aluminum; beveled lugs; vintage-style “mushroom” chronograph pushers and a ridged crown; straight hour and minute hands; and polished steel baton indices filled with Super-LumiNova. The logo on the dial is not “TAG Heuer” but the original “Heuer,” clearly evocative of the watch’s ’60s forebear. A contemporary touch not found on the historical model is the date, which is located in a window at 6 o’clock. The most notable difference between this limited edition and the other recently released Autavia models is the dial’s so-called “Panda” color scheme: white, silver-sunray main dial with three black subdial counters, contrasting with the black-dial/white-subdials look of the mainstream Autavia. Another subtle difference: the use of white Super-LumiNova on the indices and hands rather than the beige, aged-patina-look Super-LumiNova on other Autavia models.
Most definitively modern — and a clear upgrade from the vintage Autavia models — is the movement, TAG Heuer’s automatic Caliber Heuer 02. An evolved version of TAG Heuer’s CH-80 caliber (and the base for the company’s Heuer 02-T tourbillon movement), it oscillates at a speedy 4-Hz frequency and packs a power reserve of 80 hours. Comprised of 233 total components, including an openworked, blackened rotor, Caliber 02 includes among its notable elements a column wheel and a vertical clutch for the integrated chronograph function. On the non-limited Autavia models, this movement is on display through a sapphire back, but here the watch’s owner gets something arguably more special: a solid steel caseback engraved with Jack Heuer’s signature and family crest, identifying this timepiece as one of the only 1,932 that will be made; the limited edition number is a reference to the year Jack was born.
The TAG Heuer Autavia completes its “neo-retro” look with a seven-row stainless steel “beads of rice” bracelet that echoes the style of its 1960s predecessor. The watch is priced at $5,900, and the first watch in the series — number 1 of 1,932 — will be part of the “Heuer Parade” during Phillips’s upcoming November 11 exceptional timepiece auction in Geneva.