WatchTime - - CLOSE-UP - Thrilled with the new prod­uct: Hon­orary pres­i­dent Jack Heuer wear­ing the new Autavia

The Autavia was not al­ways a wrist­watch. When it first ap­peared on the scene in 1933, Heuer was not yet en­vi­sion­ing it as a stop­watch for the wrist. It de­buted strictly as a cock­pit in­stru­ment for au­to­mo­biles and air­craft. Charlese­duoard and Hu­bert-bernard Heuer, who were lead­ing the fam­ily-run com­pany at the time, com­bined the words “au­to­mo­bile” and “avi­a­tion” to form the ab­bre­vi­ated term, “Autavia.”

In the early 1960s, it was Jack Heuer who be­gan cre­at­ing highly ex­pres­sive wrist­watch chrono­graphs, start­ing with the steel time­keeper known as the Ref. 2446 with 30minute and 12-hour coun­ters, and later joined by the Ref. 3646 with just a min­utes counter. In both ver­sions, Heuer in­stalled one of the best hand-wound move­ments of the day – the fine Valjoux 72 with col­umn wheel and hor­i­zon­tal clutch.

Both ini­tial time­pieces un­der­went sev­eral de­sign mod­i­fi­ca­tions over the years. But these younger Autavia sib­lings built the foun­da­tion for a leg­end in the world of chrono­graphs, which are held higher in es­teem by col­lec­tors around the globe than other TAG Heuer clas­sics like the Car­rera or the Monaco. In­ter­na­tional race car driv­ers of­ten fa­vor the Autavia and state one rea­son for the at­trac­tion: mo­tor sports stars like Jochen Rindt, who wore the third it­er­a­tion of the Ref. 2446 from 1966, and which serves as the model for the new­est Autavia. It's why that watch bore the name of the mul­ti­ple Grand Prix winner who died on Sept. 5, 1970, in a fa­tal crash dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion for the Ital­ian Grand Prix in Monza.

Mario An­dretti pre­ferred the Ref. 3646, also in its third ver­sion. And in 1964, Gilles Vil­leneuve claimed a Ref. 73663 with the Valjoux hand-wound move­ment 7736.

The year 1968 saw the in­tro­duc­tion of the Ref. 2446 GMT, whose hand-wound move­ment Valjoux 724 boasted an ad­di­tional 24-hour hand. And the Cal­iber 11, in­tro­duced in 1969 as one of the world's first au­to­matic chrono­graph move­ments, also pow­ered the Autavia – ini­tially the Ref. 1163 that was worn by Jo Sif­fert, Clay Regaz­zoni, Derek Bell and Gra­ham Hill.

In the af­ter­math of the quartz rev­o­lu­tion, the en­thu­si­asm of For­mula 1 driv­ers for these watches re­mained un­changed. But the sales of me­chan­i­cal chrono­graphs con­tin­ued to slow through­out the 1970s. The con­tin­u­ous de­cline in or­ders from tra­di­tional sales sources led Jack Heuer to em­ploy some un­usual sales meth­ods. For ex­am­ple, for a pe­riod of sev­eral months, Reynolds Tobacco in­cluded a coupon in ev­ery car­ton of Viceroy cig­a­rettes that guar­an­teed a price of only $88 for a spe­cially de­signed Autavia chrono­graph. The suc­cess of this ad­ver­tise­ment event was phe­nom­e­nal – Heuer had sold 16,000 watches by its con­clu­sion.

In 2003, TAG Heuer gave the Autavia its first re­nais­sance. Jack Heuer was ac­tively in­volved in the cre­ation of this trib­ute model with the Cal­iber 11, a mix of an ETA au­to­matic and a Dubois Dépraz mo­d­ule. Like its pre­de­ces­sor, the Ref. 1163 from 1969 placed the crown, which was sel­dom used due to the self-wind­ing mech­a­nism, on the left side of the case. And in 2017, we as­sume, from all in­di­ca­tions, that the

man­u­fac­ture will honor Jack Heuer on his 85th birth­day with a lim­ited spe­cial edition model from the Autavia col­lec­tion. Of course, as a chrono­graph spe­cial­ist him­self, Heuer will most cer­tainly take part in the de­sign of the model ded­i­cated to him. —

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