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TAG Heuer - Autavia: 60 Years On The Right Track!

TAG Heuer Autavia: 60 Years On The Right Track!

Introduced in 1962, the Autavia quickly became a firm favourite with racing drivers. Sixty years on, TAG Heuer stays on-track with the introduction to the collection of three new models: two flyback chronographs and a three-hand GMT. More about this iconic watch, imagined by Jack Heuer himself


Picture a racetrack in the 1960s. Petrol fumes hang in the air. Engines hum on the grid, roaring to life the second the flag drops as drivers — Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, Gilles Villeneuve, Clay Regazzoni — thrust their foot to the floor. The watch on their wrist is a chronograph with rotating bezel. The year is 1962 and Jack Heuer has just launched the Autavia, a future icon in contemporary watchmaking.

Autavia, a strange name. In fact a portmanteau combining the first syllables of AUTomobile and AVIAtion, two pillars of the Heuer brand’s expertise since the 1930s, a time when onboard instruments were few and far between. From the early years of the decade, the brand was researching solutions for aviation as well as for motor sports. In 1933 Charles-Edouard Heuer presented a dashboard timer which he named Autavia. Accurate to one-fifth of a second, it was equally adapted to cockpits and dashboards, and could therefore be used to record both flight times and lap times.

L’Autavia en piste depuis 60 ans

Autavia Dashboard 1933 © TAG Heuer

Autavia, a lesson in readability

There would be several executions until production ceased in 1957. But that wasn’t the end of the story, as Jack Heuer recalls in his autobiography, The Times of my Life: "In 1958, my first year at Ed. Heuer & Co. SA, I participated in two Swiss car rallies. In the first rally I was driving […] and in the second one […] I took over the role of co-pilot, partly because I was quite good at map-reading thanks to my time in the scouts. We were doing fine until, close to the finish, I misread the dial of the Heuer 12-hour Autavia dashboard stopwatch by a minute. The result was that our team called Heuer/Heuer came in third place instead of first. This error infuriated me and I realised that the dial of the Autavia stopwatch was unclear, confusing and very difficult to read correctly in a speeding rally car.” Back at the Heuer factory, Jack set to work on designing a new stopwatch which in 1962 became a wrist chronograph with rotating bezel and large luminescent numerals. The Autavia as we know it was born. “Looking back I can say that the Autavia wrist chronograph was the first real wristwatch product I personally created for the company.”

Bold, modern and remarkably easy to read, the Autavia chronograph earned its place on the top spot of the podium. It would retain its classic round shape until 1969 when Jack Heuer made radical changes to the case, now outfitted with the legendary Calibre 11 automatic chronograph movement.

L’Autavia en piste depuis 60 ans

Autavia Original 1964 © TAG Heuer

Back in the race

In 1985 production was put on hold for a second time but, again, this wasn’t the end of the Autavia. TAG Heuer (as it now was) hadn’t said its last word and in 2019 unveiled seven automatic models whose neo-vintage design was directly informed by the very first Autavia from 1962. This year, to celebrate 60 years since the launch of this icon, the collection welcomes three new watches including a pair of flyback chronographs, a shoutout to the Autavia’s origins. Both run off the in-house Calibre Heuer 02 COSC Flyback. References to the past abound in the extra-large chrono pushers, the wide crown and the bidirectional rotating bezel. One has a silver and black panda dial, a nod to a 1960s model of which only limited numbers were made.

L’Autavia en piste depuis 60 ans

Autavia © TAG Heuer

The other features a black dial in reference to a 1962 model that was issued to the German air force. While very different in appearance, both these chronographs are distinguished by the excellent readability of the various indications, including in low light. Completing this anniversary lineup is a three-hander whose GMT function will have particular appeal for travellers. For the mechanism, TAG Heuer has selected Calibre 7 COSC GMT.

L’Autavia en piste depuis 60 ans

Autavia 2022 © TAG Heuer

All three carry on the Autavia legend, matching contemporary expectations with vintage design cues. Precise and reliable, they also offer the versatility of a steel bracelet that can be swapped out for an alligator strap, thanks to which these sporting beauties are as much at home in the grandstands as they are on an evening around town.


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Over 150 years of watchmaking savoir-faire and technical innovation have made TAG Heuer a global reference in avant-garde sports watches. As it tracked the rise of sports demanding increasingly precise timekeeping, TAG Heuer continually developed its unique capabilities through a long-term vision of what watchmaking is today, and what it will look like tomorrow.

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