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Sixty years on, the Autavia keeps rolling

From 1962 onwards, the Autavia became one of the favorite watches of driving aces. Sixty years later, TAG Heuer continues the adventure with three anniversary models, two flyback chronographs and a GMT. Here is a look back at the exhilarating history of this icon designed by Jack Heuer.

Can you smell the gasoline fumes? And can you hear the powerful roar of the engines as they accelerate? In your mind’s eye, you find yourself on a 1960s racetrack! The drivers are called Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti or Jo Siffert. The watch is a chronograph with a rotating bezel. It is 1962 and Jack Heuer has just launched the Autavia, a model destined to become a contemporary watchmaking icon. Autavia is a strange name that is actually a contraction of the first syllables of AUTomobile and AVIAtion, the Heuer brand’s two favorite fields since the 1930s. It refers to the first onboard counter designed by Charles-Edouard Heuer in 1933 to equip car dashboards and aircraft control panels, interpreted in several versions until 1957 before going out of production. That was not the end however, but rather the start of a new chapter, since in 1962 Jack Heuer presented a wrist chronograph equipped with a rotating bezel and large luminescent numerals to better satisfy the needs of drivers and pilots. “Looking back, I can say that the Autavia chronograph was the first wristwatch I personally created for the company.” 


On Jo Siffert's wrist is an Autavia chronograph © TAG Heuer

Back on Track

In 1985, the history of the Autavia was once again put on hold. It was not until 2019 that TAG Heuer brought it back to the forefront with the launch of seven automatic references. This year, the Autavia line is enriched with three models celebrating the 60th anniversary of its birth.

The Side-Story

As Jack Heuer reminisces in his autobiography The Times of my Life: “In 1958, during my first year at Heuer, I participated in two Swiss car rallies. In the first rally I was driving and it had been a good experience for me 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 and the result was that our team came in third place instead of first. This error infuriated me.” Back at the Manufacture, he worked on a new dashboard model before interpreting it in 1962 as a wrist chronograph equipped with a rotating bezel and large luminescent numerals. The Autavia watch was born.


Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands © TAG Heuer

As a nod to its origins, two chronographs have been introduced, powered by the new manufacture Heuer Calibre 02 COSC Flyback movement. Looks-wise, one of the two models features a silver-toned panda dial inspired by a 1960s model produced in very limited quantities. The second one sports a black dial reminiscent of a model produced in 1962 for the pilots of the German armed forces. The third anniversary model is particularly suited to globetrotters, as it features the practical complication of a second time zone. Under the bonnet, TAG Heuer chose the Calibre 7 COSC GMT to beat time. Reliability and precision are therefore very much the name of the game – not to mention legibility, an essential component of the Autavia’s success according to Jack Heuer.


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Focus on Watchmaking Fairs 2022

GMT Magazine n° 76 © GMT Magazine


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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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