The name Autavia first appeared during the 1930s, on dashboard instruments made by Heuer. The name was born from the contraction of “AUTomobile” and “AVIAtion”. It would later be associated with racing chronographs and iconic watches made during the 1960s and 1970s. For Baselworld 2019, TAG Heuer is launching a new Autavia. Departing from tradition, the new Autavia Isograph Chronometer is not a chronograph but boasts some convincing arguments on the mechanical side.
Most watch enthusiasts are familiar with the TAG Heuer Carrera, one of the brand’s most important historical models, however, it was the Autavia that was Jack Heuer’s bread and butter during the 1960s, 1970s and even in the early 1980s. It was also the very first wristwatch that Jack Heuer, at the age of 30, created for the company.
The original Autavia was a dashboard timer for rally cars and airplanes, as the name comes from “AUTomotive- AVIAtion”. In 1958, four years before the launch of the very first Autavia, Jack Heuer participated in two car rallies, and his experience in those rallies lead to discontinuing the old Autavia dashboard timer, introducing a new one – the Heuer Monte Carlo dashboard timer. In 1962 Heuer introduced the all-new Heuer Autavia as a wristwatch, designed with a rotating black bezel with a choice of markings for different timing functions.
In 2017, the brand reintroduced the name Autavia, with a modernized but still faithful watch, equipped with the modern in-house Calibre Heuer 02 and based on the design of the ref. 2446 “Rindt”. This watch was a chronograph, with clear automotive and aviation inspiration and classical execution. In 2019, the name Autavia resurfaces with some important evolutions…
The 2019 TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Chronometer
The design of the 2019 Autavia collection relies on some of the elements found on early Heuer Autavia wrist chronographs – in the present case, mostly the early ref. 2446 “Big Eye” with full-lume dial – blending it with a “modern adventurous spirit”. The model is presented as a three-hand watch only (quite a departure from the original concept) and incorporates some cutting-edge technology inside: the brand’s Isograph Carbon Composite hairspring.
The new TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Chronometer comes in a dynamic 42mm round case extended by bevelled lugs – the shape of the case, its rotating bezel, and the oversized crown are all part of vintage Autavia watches. This new model will be available in either stainless steel or bronze cases. The bidirectional rotating bezel has a coined edge and is inlaid with ceramic (there is also one reference with a steel bezel). The extra-large, easy-to-operate crown is fluted for better grip and emblazoned with the TAG Heuer shield.
The dial of this 2019 Autavia, highly legible thanks to large Arabic numerals, is presented in different colours (grey, brown-green, blue), all with a “smoked” gradient effect and a slightly grained finish. The date is displayed at 6 o’clock. The steel caseback is closed and features a propeller and tyre logo, an ode to the automotive and aviation origins of the model. The hands are large and filled with luminous material. Altogether, the watch is pleasant, yet the lineage with older Autavia watches is less clear than with the 2017 re-edition.
Modern mechanics inside
Inside the new TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Chronometer is the automatic calibre 5, a name that must ring a bell, as TAG has often used these mechanics. Calibre 5 usually refers to an automatic movement based on the Sellita SW 200. However, in this case, the Autavia sports a “new” Calibre 5.
Inside is a chronometer-certified version of the SW 200, which features the cutting-edge carbon composite hairspring manufactured internally by TAG Heuer. Among other benefits, it allows the oscillator to be virtually unaffected by gravity, shocks and magnetic fields. Its design ensures concentric oscillations for improved performance.
The 2019 Autavia Isograph Chronometer isn’t the first watch to be equipped with this new generation of hairsprings, as it’s already in use inside the Carrera Tourbillon Nanograph. Still, it is interesting to see that TAG Heuer now uses this technology not only into its in-house movements but also applies it on out-sourced Sellita movements. This is an interesting and significant move, showing that TAG Heuer is ramping up production at a fast pace, planning large quantities of this carbon hairspring (which is needed to produce it at a competitive price). More than that, it simply brings great added value for customers: improved performance and functionality.
Carbon Composite Hairspring
Developed and manufactured in-house by TAG Heuer, the new carbon composite hairsprings are the result of multi-disciplinary expertise. The high-profile team gathered by Guy Sémon in the frame of the LVMH Research Institute is as unique as it is impressive.
Based on a nanoscopic hexagonal structure, the material developed by TAG Heuer presents exceptional properties to manufacture hairsprings. The brand states that:
- The lightweight, low-density hairspring is virtually unaffected by gravity and shock. In TAG Heuer’s lab, watches were tested up to 5,000 g/1 m fall onto a hard surface – metal hairsprings bent, silicon hairsprings broke, while the carbon-composite hairspring remained completely intact.
- Perfect concentric oscillations are made possible thanks to the carbon-composite hairspring’s geometry and improve the precision of the watch.
- The carbon-composite hairspring is produced with the collet already attached; usually, this small part, which attaches the metallic hairspring to the balance wheel axis, requires complicated assembly and generates further inaccuracy.
- The carbon-composite hairspring is completely anti-magnetic, which eliminates the issue of inaccuracy being introduced after a watch comes into contact with a magnetic source.
- Optimal thermal behaviour and aero elasticity have been achieved by pairing the carbon composite hairspring with an aluminium alloy balance wheel.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Chronometer comes either on a calfskin leather strap with off-white stitching and a pin buckle or on a stainless steel bracelet with a folding clasp. The collection will be available at a reasonable price, starting at CHF 3,400 (steel bezel, leather strap) and going up to CHF 4,200 (bronze on a leather strap). More information can be found at www.tagheuer.com.