TAG Heuer’s History In Motor Racing And The (Re)birth Of The Autavia

Collector’s Guides • 27 Apr 2017

TAG Heuer’s History In Motor Racing And The (Re)birth Of The Autavia

by Victor Toth


Despite many ambitious claims, there are only a handful of luxury watchmakers with a legitimate history in motor racing – TAG Heuer, or Heuer as it was before a corporate takeover, is without a shadow of a doubt one of the privileged few that do.

Jack Heuer

Jack Heuer created the famed Carrera chronograph in 1963 – a name and date Heuer fans know by heart. However, despite the Carrera’s link to the famous Carrera Panamericana race, considered by many the most dangerous in the world, the recently revived Autavia is the one when it comes to sealing Heuer’s status as a watch manufacturer with bona fide auto racing credentials.

La Carrera Panamericana

The Autavia name, a contraction of “automotive” and “aviation”, was originally coined for a dashboard clock that Heuer produced as early as 1933. Built for automobile or aircraft instrument panels, it was a 12-hour chronograph with two sub-dials for the elapsed hours and minutes, and a large central seconds. Despite having been in production for decades, the Autavia clock was not the most legible of timekeepers, something that Jack Heuer learnt during an auto rally in 1958, when his team placed third instead of first because he had misread the Autavia’s dial by one minute.

Heuer Autavia Dashboard clock

His firm went on to pull the Autavia from its line-up, replacing it with the much more legible Monte Carlo – but since the Autavia had “an excellent name” as Heuer put it, he decided to bring it back. In late 1961, the new Autavia was conceived as a “wrist chronograph”, designed from the get-go as a legible driver’s watch fitted with a rotating bezel offered in a variety of markers. A bezel with 60 separate one-minute markers, for example, allowed the wearer to set a marker for a defined interval of less than one hour; a 12-hour scale would allow another time zone to be displayed; while divisions of 1/100th of a minute were useful for time measurement.

Soon the Autavia had once again made a name for itself, this time as a truly iconic, “panda” dial chronograph with either two or three sub-dials, a beautifully wearable case design and great legibility.

In early 2016, TAG Heuer launched a novel campaign to reboot the Autavia by having the public vote for their favourite Autavia design out of 16 historic models. The one that emerged the most popular was remade into the very same watch that made its official debut at Baselworld 2017.

The TAG Heuer Autavia returned with a 42mm wide stainless steel case, a 12-hour bezel, stick indices on a black dial and three white sub-dials. Available on a brown leather strap or a terrific steel bracelet, the TAG Heuer Autavia, is one exceedingly beautiful and timelessly elegant watch.

TAG Heuer Autavia 2017

Fitted with the Heuer 02, an in-house automatic chronograph calibre and water resistant to 100m, the Autavia may have a classic design, but is a result of 21st century engineering through and through – built to be a reliable and lasting companion.

TAG Heuer Calibre Heuer 02

The re-release of the Autavia helps the brand reconnect with its past in motor racing, while its contemporary collections like the Heuer-01 and Formula 1 lines keep it relevant for today. True to its history, TAG Heuer remains a most avid supporter of modern motor racing – most notably as a timing partner of the Red Bull Formula 1 team as well as an official timekeeper for numerous notable rallies worldwide.

TAG Heuer Red Bull F1

 

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