Vintage watches are hot right now, with the Heuer Autavia in particular enjoying a noticeable surge in popularity (and price) over the last few years. So much so, that Tag Heuer decided to hold a competition, the aptly named “Autavia Cup”, to allow fans of the brand to vote for which historic Autavia model from the 1960’s they wanted to see re-issued. After two rounds of voting, in which 50,000 people participated, TAG Heuer announced that in 2017 it would produce a re-edition of the Autavia Ref. 2446 Mark 3, designed in 1966.
The Tag Heuer Autavia
Given the difficult market conditions currently being faced by the luxury watch industry it’s not really surprising that a slew of ‘vintage re-issue’ models have come to market over the last 12 to 18 months. Brands are looking to capitalise on this trend of time-tested designs and simplified watchmaking, whilst at the same time taking the opportunity to reinforce their heritage. This has proven to be an absolute boon for watch collectors and enthusiasts alike, who have long been pining for a return to simpler times but cannot or do not want to pay vintage prices or deal with vintage watch issues (such as unexpected and expensive servicing).
The new Tag Heuer Autavia is an excellent example of this. Based on the Autavia Ref. 2446 Mark 3, nicknamed the ‘Rindt’ after Formula 1 champion Jochen Rindt who was often seen wearing one, the design is simple yet still very stylish, with some obvious modern updates of course. The most noticeable one, aesthetically speaking, is the case. Where the original ‘Rindt’ was presented in a 39mm case, the new Autavia is offered in a slightly larger 42mm steel case. This will bother vintage watch purists to no end I’m sure but it makes the watch much better suited to modern tastes, without straying too far from the original. Likewise, the 12-hour graduated black aluminum bidirectional notched bezel is a little thicker than the original and obviously looks quite modern.
Where Tag Heuer got things really right though, in my opinion at least, is the dial. Recognizing the value of classic design, it has largely been left unchanged from the original. In fact, despite being fifty-years apart, the two are pretty much identical. The black dial features white snailed counters in the classic 3-6-9 formation (not unlike the Panda-dial watches from Zenith we looked at yesterday), applied baton-shaped indexes in steel with beige-colored luminescent material (intended to give the dial an aged ‘patina-like’ look), the date at 6 o’clock and the “HEUER” logo at 12 o’clock.
Turn the Heuer Autavia over however, and you will discover that there is nothing vintage about the movement inside. Whilst the original model was powered by the legendary Valjoux 72, the 2017 Autavia comes equipped with a thoroughly modern movement; the newly renamed “Heuer-02.” This automatic movement features an in-house column wheel and vertical clutch design for the chronograph and offers an impressive 80-hour maximum power reserve. Visible through the sapphire caseback, it is a perfect example of old dog, new tricks.
The Tag Heuer Autavia 2017 re-edition is offered on your choice of a brown distressed calfskin leather strap priced at US$5,150, or there is a beads-of-rice bracelet option for that truly authentic look priced at US$5,300. Personally I can’t decide which one I like better, although I think the leather strap is winning me over. Like the watch itself it’s not 100% true to the original but adds that little something extra.
Not everyone will love the new Tag Heuer Autavia but I definitely think it is one of the best vintage reissue watches of 2017.