HANDS-ON: Return of an icon – the TAG Heuer Autavia HANDS-ON: Return of an icon – the TAG Heuer Autavia

HANDS-ON: Return of an icon – the TAG Heuer Autavia

Felix Scholz

The new Autavia is finally here. Twelve months after TAG Heuer announced the Autavia Cup, an innovative, open design process that allowed fans to have their say on the look of the final product is here, and it’s quite the looker.

The Autavia, a portmanteau combination of automobile and aviation, was first released by Jack Heuer in 1962 and was the first chronograph wristwatch with a rotating bezel, a feature that added even more functionality to the already utilitarian watch. And, as is the case with all of Heuer’s chronographs, the identity of the Autavia is inseparable from the world of racing – it was a model worn by legendary racers such as Jo Siffert, Mario Andretti and Jochen Rindt. The combination of classic chiselled-jaw manliness and heady nostalgia for the golden age of racing means that the popularity (and value) of vintage Autavia’s has been skyrocketing in recent years.

Reference 2446 Autavia

Which brings us to the 2017 reissues. Based on the 1966 ‘Rindt’ model (reference 2446, mark 3), the latest Autavia is a smart blend of vintage style and modern sensibility. Visually the watch is a very close fit to the original, with the most noticeable change being (predictably enough) the dimensions. In the 60s the Autavia was a sizeable 39mm, and today it’s a more substantial, but not over-the-top 42mm across and 15.6mm.

Aside from this perfectly acceptable inflation the dial is pure vintage Heuer, an inverse panda with a matt black base and white snailed subdials with a black aluminium bezel insert showing 12 hour indications, meaning you can use the bi-directional bezel to track a second time zone. The dial text is restrained, with prominent ‘Autavia Heuer’ text, and relatively discreet ‘Heuer 02’ text above the inevitable date window at six.

The hands and indices seem to be a carbon copy of the original, faceted blocks for the hour markers, and simple batons for the hands, and as is apt for a watch intended to look 60 years old, TAG has opted for vintage-look lume.

Strap wise, it’s offered on a thick and buttery distressed camel strap, which gives the watch a very on trend vintage look. I particularly like that TAG Heuer used a pin buckle instead of the deployant you might expect. The bracelet is also a real winner. It’s a modern reinterpretation of a Gay Frères grains of rice bracelet. Visually it’s a hard to tell the difference between new and old, but in the hands the heft and solid build quality is inescapable and reassuring.

Powering the Autavia is the Heuer-02 movement, which is potentially the most interesting element of the watch. You see the Heuer-02 is in fact a rebranded and re-worked version of the CH-80, a movement first shown in 2013 that has been on and off the chopping block ever since. It looks like this well-sized, robust 4hz integrated chronograph with 80 hours of power reserve has found a permanent home, and we couldn’t be happier.

The new Autavia will be an important watch for TAG Heuer and mainstay pillar of their heritage collection. And make no mistake; this is only the start of the new Autavia journey. We’ve already seen a Jack Heuer limited edition being released later in the year, and given the breadth and scope of the historical collection I’m sure there’s many new versions in the works.

TAG Heuer Autavia (refs. CBE2110.FC8226, CBE2110.BA0687) Australian pricing

TAG Heuer Autavia on leather, $6600, on bracelet, $6800