When Evan told me he wanted to write about a collector’s meeting in Manila, dedicated to the 50th birthday of the Heuer Autavia, I just had to say yes. A vintage Heuer Autavia was my first ‘expensive’ watch and I’m still the proud owner of a piece of history. Monochrome is usually dedicated to pure Haute Horlogerie, however I also have a weak spot for certain vintage watches, especially vintage Heuer chronographs!
Earlier this month, we celebrated what was known to be the 50th birthday of the very first automatic chronograph ever made, depending on how you want to define “first” in this context. But festivity aside, we are in actuality celebrating the milestone event of a Heuer watch that never was embelished with the “Tag” prefix – the Autavia.
The Autavia, an icon in its own right had become the quintessential Heuer piece to own. Autavia, an amalgamation of the words “Automobile and Aviation” gave rise to other iconic pieces such as the Carrera and Monaco. Fortunately for the aforementioned, they are still included in Tag Heuer’s current lineup of timepieces. Unfortunately, the Autavia did not get the same treatment. But suffice to say, the notion of it being discontinued has been the reason for its grasping state in the world of vintage Heuer.
There will be no 50th anniversary this year, nor there will be a new re-issue, but regardless, it doesn’t stop a group of enthusiasts in my country to celebrate this key milestone. Henceforth, on Dec 6, 2012, Heuer Mania in Manila ensued. A gathering that took place in one of the country’s go to places for your horological passion. A place where vintage collecting is the king of conversations, a place where the sense of timepiece appreciation is heightened by its sheer magnitude of technicalities, a place where vices are unique, a place called “Unique Bisyo“.
The premise of limiting one’s Heuer piece to be free from the Tag namesake has never been more apparent. In such a way that it entails that Heuer of the past are above the Tag Heuer of today. But then again, as far as vintage timepieces are concerned, such snobbery towards newer models is the norm. Despite such sentiments, all Heuer, new and old were welcomed in the said event, and it may perhaps be the one of the largest Heuer gathering in the country to date.
It goes without saying that the Autavia was king in this event, from the supposedly uncommon Viceroy models, to the Diver 100 series, and all the way to the rare Jo Siffert model. Fans of said models could easily know the sheer magnitude in the presence of these Autavia pieces. Spanning a product life spans of 11 different models and astonishingly, all of which have unique movements of their own. From the very basic Valjoux movements, all the way to the calibre 15, the Autavia truly is a collectors dream.
The event also wasn’t limited to Autavias, we also see the likes of the original Carrera, and even the Le Mans Steve McQueen Monaco in excellent condition. Other notable pieces were present, such as the likes of the Silverstone, the Temporada, and the list goes on. It goes without saying that the Heuer craze here in Manila has yet to subside, in such a way that the fetish for chronographs will never fade and will remain so that in such a way that the word timeless from a horological standpoint has never been this convincing.
Soon Heuer expert Jeff Stein will share his knowledge about the history of the Heuer Autavia in a series of articles. Jeff runs Onthedash, the most complete source of information about vintage Heuer watches and of of our favorite places to search for information.
This article is written by Evan Yeung, contributing editor for Monochrome Watches.