Back in 1962, TAG Heuer — back then, just Heuer — introduced the Autavia, a now-iconic chronograph wristwatch for racing drivers that was discontinued in 1986. At this year’s Baselworld, the brand launched a modern version of the Autavia, combining vintage-inspired retro design elements with a modern, proprietary movement.
The first Heuer timepiece called Autavia was actually a dashboard counter for racing cars and aircraft — the name is a combination of “Automobile” and “Aviation” — and released in 1933. Jack Heuer, the fourth-generation 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, which 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, Clay Regazzoni, and the F1 legend most associated with the revival piece, Jochen Rindt.
In 2016, TAG Heuer conducted an interactive online campaign called the “Autavia Cup,” in which more than 50,000 of the TAG Heuer 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; a black dial with three white, snailed subdial counters; straight hour and minute hands; and polished steel baton indices filled with a special beige Super-LumiNova whose color is meant to mimic the aged patina of a vintage watch. 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.
Most definitively modern — and a clear upgrade from the vintage Autavia models — is the movement, TAG Heuer’s automatic Caliber Heuer 02, which is visible through a very of-the-moment sapphire caseback window. 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.
The TAG Heuer Autavia rejoins the TAG Heuer collection in two versions, one with a seven-row stainless steel “beads of rice” bracelet that echoes the style of its 1960s predecessors; and another on a distressed brown calfskin leather strap whose ecru stitching plays off the colors of the beige Super-LumiNova to complete the “neo-retro” look. Prices are $5,150 on the leather strap, and $5,350 on the steel bracelet.
Scroll down to see more pictures of the new TAG Heuer Autavia, including live pictures from Baselworld 2017: