The TAG Heuer Autavia is a legendary chronograph that dates back to the early 1960s. None other than watch pioneer Jack Heuer developed this sporty racing chronograph. The Swiss manufacturer released numerous versions of the Autavia before discontinuing production in the mid-1980s. In 2017, the Autavia returned with a vengeance, this time powered by the new, in-house Calibre Heuer 02.
About the Heuer Autavia
The appealing model name “Autavia” is derived from the first syllables of two pertinent words: AUTomobile und AVIAtion. The name, however, predates the watch itself. Heuer was using the name Autavia for its onboard racing and flight instruments as far back as the 1930s. Jack Heuer, head of the company in the 1950s and 1960s, was a passionate race car driver. In 1962, he moved the Autavia from the dashboard to the wrist.
Jack Heuer was also personally responsible for bringing the watch to racetracks around the world and introducing it to countless racing teams. He won many of the era’s drivers over with the industry’s newest star. Racecar drivers such as Jochen Rindt, Jo Siffert, and Mario Andretti were all fans of the Autavia. In the mid-1980s, the TAG Group acquired Heuer, and production of the model ceased soon thereafter. Thirty-two years later, in 2017, TAG Heuer presented a new Autavia with their new in-house Calibre Heuer 02.
Autavia Calibre Heuer 02
The watch released in 2017 was the ref. CBE2110.BA0687. In the lead-up to the release, TAG Heuer had more than 50,000 Autavia fans weigh in on the new watch’s look. The community chose the ref. 2446 “Jochen Rindt” from 1966 as their top model.
However, the new Autavia is not simply a replica of the older watch. First off, the case size is now significantly larger at 42 mm. Its thickness also grew, not least due to the automatic Calibre Heuer 02. It is noteworthy that the Heuer logo alone adorns the dial, which is consistent with the original version. After all, the vintage model saw the light of day long before Heuer became part of the TAG (Techniques d’Avant Garde) Group in 1985.
Like the original Autavia, the current model has a black dial with three white subdials and a bezel with hour markers. The polished stainless steel case is fitted with a sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 100 meters (10 bar, 328 ft). You can choose between a stainless steel “Beads of Rice” bracelet or a brown camel leather strap. If you are interested in purchasing this timepiece, we would advise opting for the stainless steel bracelet, as the difference in price is relatively insignificant.
TAG Heuer launched another watch at the same time as the CBE2110, the ref. CBE2111. This variant pays tribute to Jack Heuer, who celebrated his 85th birthday in 2018. The watch has a limited run of 1,932 pieces and is identical to the unlimited version in terms of technology. However, the limited edition features a silver dial with black subdials and a bezel with a 60-minute scale.
Prices, Performance, and Other Options
You can purchase a mint-condition Autavia Calibre 02 ref. CBE2110 on a stainless steel bracelet for around $4,300. This is well below the official list price of $5,450. The limited-edition Jack Heuer model is only available on a steel bracelet and costs approximately $4,800 new. This is also significantly less than the recommended retail price of $6,050. All of that is to say that the current Autavia is a watch meant for the wrist rather than set aside as a short or long-term investment.
TAG Heuer presented the ref. CBE2118 “Viceroy” in 2018 in honor of the vintage Autavia Viceroy 1163V. Similar to the 1972 model, the new watch features a two-subdial, reverse panda dial with traditional red accents. This watch is exclusive to the US market and comes on a black leather strap. New, the ref. CBE2118 costs around $4,700.
The year 2018 also saw the introduction of two more limited-edition three-subdial models. The ref. CBE2113 features a “tropical panda” dial and is limited to a run of just 150 pieces. Expect to pay upwards of $8,200 for this rare timepiece.
The second limited edition was the “Jo Siffert” ref. CBE2114. This watch has a white dial with black subdials and a bezel with a 60-minute counter. It was limited to a run of only 100 units and had an official list price of just under $6,000 at launch. Both of these Autavia models are considered rare collector’s items and certainly have the potential to retain or increase in value over time.
Important Vintage Autavias
The most highly coveted vintage Autavias among collectors today are models from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly those associated with famous racecar drivers. These timepieces occasionally sell for remarkably high prices. Most of them are driven by the manual Valjoux 72, Valjoux 92, or self-winding Calibre 11. Those watches with manual calibers have a three-subdial layout, while the automatic editions have two subdials. A particularly rare and expensive model is the ref. 2446 from the first generation of Autavias to feature a GMT function. This coveted timepiece is powered by the Valjoux 724.
The ref. 2446 is available with two different case constructions: the screw-back case and the compressor case (ref. 2446C). The case back on the latter version presses into the case, hence the name. Almost all the refs. 2446 and 3646 feature a reverse panda dial, i.e., black dial with white subdials. Since the subdials are significantly larger on watches produced up until 1964, they are known as “Big Subs.” Beginning with ref. 1163, the Autavia was outfitted with a much larger cushion-shaped case and powered by the Calibre 11. Moreover, new colors found their way into the collection.
Autavia Ref. 2446 With Three Subdials
The Autavia ref. 2446 originally debuted in 1962 and would undergo minimal alterations until the late 1960s. All variants get their power from the high-quality, column-wheel Valjoux 72 chronograph caliber. This movement boasts 12-hour and 30-minute counters, as well as a second counter. Almost all versions also have a bidirectional bezel with an hour scale for tracking the time in a second time zone. One of the most famous models is the so-called “Jochen Rindt” edition, which is named after the eponymous German Formula 1 world champion.
Autavia Ref. 2446 With a GMT Function
The ref. 2446 GMT premiered in 1968. Inside its case, you’ll find the Valjoux 724, a movement based on the Valjoux 72. The watch has a Pepsi-style GMT bezel with a 24-hour scale and an additional red hour hand, which together enable the wearer to tell the time in a second time zone. The dial features the classic reverse panda design. This reference is extremely rare and very popular among collectors, making it an expensive prospective purchase. The 2446C models, on the other hand, are more common. These timepieces come with the so-called “compressor” case and are available in four different editions commonly referred to as Marks 1-4. The differences between each version are mostly related to minor changes in the dial and hands.
Autavia Ref. 3646 With a Two Subdials
The Autavia ref. 3646 has two subdials as opposed to three. Like the ref. 2446, this version was introduced in 1962. The evolution of this watch followed a similar trajectory to the three-subdial version, other than the case size. The first ref. 3646 already measured 38.3 mm in diameter. All timepieces with this reference number have a screw-back case. The ref. 3646 “Andretti” from 1968 is a particularly popular model. It was the watch of choice for American racing legend Mario Andretti, who made a name for himself in both Formula 1 and IndyCar circuits.
The Ref. 1163: The First Automatic Autavia
The year 1969 saw Heuer make major design changes to the Autavia. Nearly everything about the ref. 1163 differs from previous models, from its larger, 42.5-mm cushion-shaped case to its dial. The dial features colorful, eye-catching accents on its indices, hands, and subdials.
Another big change occurred inside the watch. Rather than the Valjoux 92, this two-subdial chronograph is powered by the automatic Heuer Calibre 11, also known as the Chronomatic. This movement was a sensation at the time. Several manufacturers were racing to create the world’s first automatic chronograph caliber in the late 1960s, and the Heuer 11 was one of them.
The most famous ref. 1163 model is the 1163T “Siffert” edition from 1969. It has a white dial with black subdials.
Vintage Autavia: Prices and Performance
Generally speaking, vintage Autavias hold their value quite well. This also applies to less notable models from the mid-1970s onward. They feature, by and large, appealing designs, high-quality components, and proven durable technology.
Sought-after models, such as the refs. 2446, 3646, and 1163, enjoyed a healthy boost in prices between 2016 and 2018, but the market has cooled substantially since. Nevertheless, a first-generation ref. 2446 with large subdials often sells for more than $55,000. Second-generation and newer models are generally more affordable. Well-kept examples were demanding upwards of $23,000 in January 2018, but by mid-2020, prices had fallen to the $15,000-17,500. It’s a similar story with the ref. 3546.
The ref. 2446 with a GMT function is a different story entirely. If you can find one, expect to pay well over $80,000. A 2446 GMT sold for close to that amount at a Phillips auction in 2017. You will pay less for a 2446C (Mark 1-4). These watches usually sell for around $11,000, meaning prices have dropped by about $2,500 since 2018 but are still nearly double 2015 prices.
If you prefer the size, design, and functionality of the ref. 1163, you can look forward to four-figure prices rather than five-figure. Depending on the watch’s condition and accessories, expect to pay around $3,700 for a used Autavia. Not surprisingly, a 1163T “Siffert” edition is a bit more pricey. Plan on spending closer to $14,000 for one of these watches.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Vintage Autavia
If you’ve found an Autavia you’re interested in, be sure to ask the seller a few specific questions. First, can you trace its origins? When was the watch last serviced? Have any parts been exchanged? If so, which ones? Make sure you get solid answers to these questions. As with most purchases, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Since a lot of vintage Autavias are quite old, it can be difficult to trace their exact history, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.