Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Autavia

The retro trend that kicked off in the late 1990’s must have been a dream for the marketing and product development guys. Step 1) Rifle through your brands old product catalog. Step 2) Modernise the design- a little. Step 3) Pump out a heritage based ad campaign. Step 4) Lunch.

Put yourself in the shoes of the team at TAG: the Carrera and Monaco re-editions had been a huge success for the company- how long must it have taken for someone to realise that there had not yet been a re-edition of the other famous model from the 1970’s- the Autavia?

On the face of it, the decision to introduce a re-edition Autavia must have been what the marketing guys would call a “no-brainer”- so why did the model disappear within two years of release while the Carrera and Monaco are still going strong for TAG today?

The TAG Heuer Autavia re-edition (ref. CY2111) was launched in 2003. To launch the watch, TAG also released a limited number of special collector sets that had both a dash timer as well as the watch- playing on the heritage of the Autavia as a timer, not just a Heuer wristwatch. Seventy sets of these were produced in Siffert Blue and seventy in Orange- cost was almost US$8000 for the set.

TAG Heuer Autavia Orange BlackSo lets look at the watch itself first- below are the three versions of the TAG Heuer Autavia and the Heuer Autavia models that these re-editions were based on:

Design

As you can see from the photo above, TAG adopted a different strategy for  the Autavia re-editions, making them more modern interpretations of the key Autavia design features, rather than just copying the old design. The watch had a fixed rather than rotating bezel and initially came in the two most popular colours of the old Autavia- White with blue accents and black with Orange accents. The Rose Gold model was added later as a limited edition of 150.

TAG spent a lot of time on the bracelet for the Autavia, giving it a similar look to the original G&F “Grains of Rice” bracelet, but in a much sturdier design. The pushers moved away from the cylindrical shape of the old Heuer models to the design used on the modern Monaco re-edition- a mistake that TAG continues to make today in my opinion.

TAG also decided that it was time to drop the “Heuer” branding that it had used in the past re-edition series and instead these watches wore the TAG Heuer branding.

Overall, I think that the design is a great success- enough old design cues for the old Heuer collectors, but modern enough to look like a contemporary model.

Movement

The effort that TAG went to with the Autavia is evidenced in the effort taken to move the crown to the left hand-side of the watch (the first of the re-editions to have this feature) and to use the famous “calibre 11” brand for the movement. Of course, it wasn’t really a true Calibre 11 movement, but rather an ETA 2892 movement with Dubois Depraz chronograph module piggy-backed on the movement. This is the same approach used by TAG Heuer with the recent 40th Anniversary Monaco- only the second modern TAG Heuer with the crown on the “right” side.

So nothing wrong with the movement, expect that it isn’t a true calibre 11 movement- and you have to admire the effort to engineer the movement to allow for the crown placement in a manner that only enthusiasts would care about.

Overall

So to get back to the original question, what went wrong? TAG Heuer go and produce a modern interpretation of one of its most famous watches and the model is off the shelves within two years.

While its hard to pin-point a single reason, I think that the problem was that the TAG Heuer Autavia fell between the cracks of the old and the new- maybe not enough of a faithful reproduction of the original watch but not distinctive enough to appeal to new buyers. Reading back through the forum posts at OTD, the criticisms of the watch appear to be summed up by “Yeah, its nice, but I’d rather just buy the original”. The Vintage guys were put off by the non-rotating bezel and of course the TAG Heuer logo.

Maybe the new buyers who didn’t care about- or maybe even know about- the Heuer Autavia ended up comparing the Autavia to the Monaco as a potential purchase- and then going with the Monaco as it is more distinctive and seen as the “signature” watch of Heuer/ TAG Heuer.

I think its a real shame that TAG didn’t extend the Autavia range into other models- a GMT would have been great- but who knows if it would have made a difference to the sales of the Autavia line?  Maybe the TAG re-edition range was just saturated at the time with the Targa Florio and Monza, in addition to the Carrera and Monaco.

I hope that TAG use next years 150th anniversary to try again with the Autavia. I don’t think that there was a lot wrong with the re-edition, but maybe a few design tweaks and case materials (PVD?) would enable one of the most famous of all Heuer models to be back in the showrooms again.

***

  • Hi guys,

    I’m a big fan of the Autavia reedition. The watch was re-done by Jack Heuer himself (he told me so in an interview back in 2003) but it was sort of a commercial flop, as you say. I’d say it was a misunderstood watch — by others, because I’ve got the two stainless steel reeditions (opalescent white/black/blue and black/white/orange) and I’m planning on buying another reedition just to customize it with a Diamond-Like Carbon case treatment and a few twists on the dial.
    Here are my reasons why the Autavia reedition wasn’t a success:

    1 — the metal bracelet: it was unactractive, oldish without being vintage; i’m used to ‘see’ a watch beyond the bracelet/strap so when I got both Autavias with steel bracelets I already had the leather straps for them (and I also wear then with NATO-like straps, perlon straps, whatever); TAG Heuer released the Autavias with leather straps a year later, but it was too late
    2 — people wouldn’t understand the crown on the left side of the case and would consider it awkward-looking
    3 — the watch looks much better on the wrist; if only people would try it!

    I find the Autavia most charismatic, even more than the Monaco (I’ve also got two). It’s a great, different watch. Go buy it while you can

    Miguel Seabra

  • humanomaly

    I hunted for the limited set of 70 but was unable to find it. I eventually bought the Autavia (white face) by itself. I find it is one of the most complimented and noticed watches that I have. So in terms of the watch being something that "went wrong"…I disagree. I enjoy wearing it and the attention it brings. I just recently saw one of the sets in one of my regular "shops"…but having just bought my Panerai 327, I had to resist.

  • DC

    I don't think the watch was wrong- but the market reaction showed that it wasn't a success.

    Personally, I would much rather this style of re-edition (a modern interpretation) rather than a straight copy of an old design…but the market disagrees!

  • Jason

    I agree 100 percent. I bought this watch in 2003 and loved it!!! It was heavy and had a "Big Ben" look to it as to its awesome size. Unfortunately mine got stolen from a recreation center in Ohio!!! Would love to have this watch once again!!! No other compares

  • Ck

    I just picked a mint secondhand re-edition today. Its a beautiful watch but I suspect you either love it or hate it.

    The styling is truly unique, a classic. The fact that the crown is on the opposite side is enough to limit it's appeal to the masses. Thankfully.

  • Rafaello

    I recently purchashed a re-edition Autavia black dial with orange, I love the feel and look, It dwarfs my Omega speedmaster. I do agree that the original bracelet seems off, so like most owners, I've changed to a black thick mild gator grain leather with white stitching and I can't stop staring at it. To answer "what went wrong"….Nothing, the watch is super and a pleasure to wear.

  • steve J

    I've just read this article and it’s interesting because I own an orange/black re-edition. However, the fascinating conclusion to all of this is that these watches are now hard to get hold of. Have a look on Ebay and you will see!

    In fact I went through the process of selling on the Bay and was literally in-undated with “buy it now” enquiries.

    I decided to withdraw it after a couple of days and hang on to it…a failure? Hardly, these watches are actually very collectible purely because they didn’t sell and people now realise how desirable they are.

    I paid just £800 for this with ALL of the boxes and paperwork and still in warranty a few years ago…a bargain!

  • DC

    Steve,

    I'm with you 100%. I bought my black/ orange Autavia about three years ago for $1200 and sold it after a year for the same price. There is no way you could get the watch for that price today.

    You see a good premium for the Blue/ White, but they're hard to find.

    Could the Autavia be a modern classic? Very possible. Perhaps in the same way that the original Monaco was a sales flop back in the early '70s, this will turn out to be one of those watches that gets appreciated more over time.

    David

  • James H

    In my view the Autavia was not as successful as other classic re-editions for a variety of reasons. The Autavia is a great looking watch, and definitely looks even better once on the wrist. Unfortunately the legend Jo Siffert has not transcended the ages in the same way as McQueen or the Monza and Carrera, which are motor-racing brands within themselves. Also, the watch is somewhat of a fusion between original and unexplained updates like the push-buttons, TAG Heuer logo, and fixed bezel. The link with motor-racing is not in doubt, but when you have such a strong classics family to compete within, the the new entry will always have a challenge on it’s hands. I used to have the black dial on a racing calf strap and it always received positive comments. However, in my opinion if you are looking for an updated ‘lifestyle’ motor-racing piece look no further than the Grand Carrera cal 17 RS. The Monza was not long after for different reasons, but it was time to consolidate the collection.

  • steve J

    Hi David,

    Exactly….:)

  • DC

    Hi James,

    Agree with these points- but I still think that in time, we'll come to appreciate the Autavia re-edition more. Your point about in-house competition is spot-on, as the link with F1 was being shared by the Carrera, Monza, Monaco and Autavia- not enough to distinguish one from the other.

    Cheers

    David

  • Neil Keatt

    great article. was going to buy another re-edition ( Monaco or Monza) but instead have just bought an orange 2004 in great condition for less than £1000 with all boxes/ booklets. my 16 year old son likes the square Monaco bling or the trad Carrera style but the fact the Autavia is a bit different suits me fine. can't stop looking at it! still wish it had just the "heuer" logo. don't tell the wife but I might start collecting.

    cheers Neil

  • Neil Keatt

    one more thing – do Tag Heuer do a leather strap ? or are there any good after market ones designed for this watch?

  • Mark

    Pretty good price Neil. The rose gold version was sold on a strap, so they obviously had some that fit but I don't recall the steel models being on anything other than a bracelet. Plenty of nice 3rd party straps should be able to fit though; measure the lugs and buy a decent perforated one and I think you'd have a good match. Original TH buckles come up pretty often on eBay and the like if you want to round the look off.

  • DC

    Yes, agree with Mark that its a good price. I bought and sold one back in 2009 for STG650, but I think that was the bottom of the market for Autavia values and they have come back strongly in the last 12-18 months.

    Neil, it's important to have a collection of watches at least large enough so that your significant other forgets how many you have- "Another watch?" "This? No, I've had it for ages…."

    David

  • Aldo Pucci

    Hi,

    I remember seeing it for the first time in NYC in 2004.. It was love at first sight!

    I told myself " As soon as I get back to my country (Italy) I would go and get it..

    Well then unfortunately I had some other problems to fill out and I had to put my dream watch in the "you don't really need it" list.

    After a while I just saw that it wasn't anywhere to find anymore!

    So I just forgot about it.. Until I saw a friend of mine 2 weeks ago with one (black dial) on his wrist.. And once again I fell!

    I had to have one! I searche the internet and the prices are once again pretty high.

    What did I do? I called a jewelery shop that had one online and asked them if they want to swap the autavia (black dial) with my pretty in bad shape IWC Aquatimer chrono.. They were ok with that.

    Well I think that TH should seriously think about putting this beauty on the shelves!! All my friends are like: "WOW! What is this??? It's awesome!! I want one! I want to go to a TH dealer".. Somehow I am pretty happy that this creature is now rare and they won't find them!! I just think that TH put this beautyin production probably at a wrong time! I love this Autavia more than the MONACO anytime. Just my opinion! And yes: This watch is even more beautiful on a wrist, just like Mr Miguel said!

    Thank you and sorry for my poor english, i'm italian.

    • DC

      Hi Aldo,

      Thanks for your post. Its funny how things have a habit of working out. You're right on the prices…as I mentioned in a few of the comments above yours, there does seem to be a renaissance in Autavia prices, as people begin to appreciate them more. This year is the 50th anniversary of the very first Autavia. I haven't heard about any plans for a "new" Autavia, but it would be a nice surprise.

      And no need to apologise for your English…it's excellent!

      David

  • Aldo Pucci

    Hi David,
    thanks for your reply. Really appreciate it.
    I must confirm the buzz around my Tag Heuer Autavia Black Dial!
    I had already 3 friends wanting to buy mine (no way!)as they seem not to find one in jewelery shops nor online nearby.
    I actually thought of putting up on facebook its deserved fan page
    :-), here's the link: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tag-Heuer-Autavi

    Have a great day to all you AUTAVIA fans!
    Cheers Aldo
    (Modena, Italy)

  • DC

    Cool idea Aldo- I'll link your page from my Facebook page.

    dc

  • Eli

    I like the reissue, though it doesn't look like it has the "depth" of the original… I guess it looks less robust, to me. That being said, it's still gorgeous…! The Autavia GMT is probably my favorite design of all time, though… I'd love if they did a reissue of that, because by the time I have ~6K to spend on a watch, they'll all be locked up in vaults!

  • Hi Eli,

    Have to say that these seem to be more popular today than they ever were when new. Take a look around at the sales forums- you'll see that these don't hang around like they used to.

    Agree that a re-issue GMT Autavia would be very cool. TAG Heuer have already re-used the Monza case…so why not the Autavia?

    dc

  • Steven

    Hi,

    Just bought an autavia black dial for £1450 in pristine condition complete with boxes, manual and warranty card.I think it is comparable also to the tudor heritage chrono as well as both of them shares similar pedigree. The fact that it has stopped production makes the autavia a much sought after rare timepiece sort of a real limited edition. Overall it is a very unique and to me eye catching watch as compared to most recent watches despite its age …almost 10 years old…

    Regards

    SF

  • Great buy SF. I bought mine about 6 years ago and sold it for the same price- GBP650. This is not to say that you overpaid, more that the market price for these has moved as the watch becomes more appreciated.

    While the consensus today is that these are great watches, they went through a period when they were ignored. Shows how tastes change!

    Enjoy

    dc

  • Steven

    Dc

    Agree with you totally. The autavia stands out nowadays amongst the monacos and carreras.

    Question, does the calibre 11 winds manually?

    SF

  • Steven, you can manually wind it..but you don't need to. Its an automatic movement, so will wind itself while worn.

    David

  • George Spencer

    I bought my re-edition in 2005 when my original Autavia became too hard to service. I'm still wearing the re-edition as my everyday watch. It still gets comments from watch fans.

  • steven

    Hi,

    Great George. looks like the autavia is good enough to you to get the reissue.

    BTW anyone know roughly how many units of autavias came off the factory?

  • John

    There are a couple up on eBay at the moment but they look expensive!!

    JG

  • Yes, they've really gone up in value. As I said a few posts above, I bought and sold a Black re-edition for around US$1200…feeling pretty silly about that now!

    dc

  • Duarte Oliveira

    I want a Autavia reedition!

  • Neil Keatt

    I’ve got a black and orange one with the steel bracelet. Everyone remarks about how good looking it is. An unappreciated classic!

  • Wirawan

    I’ve bought the black-orange re edition couple months ago, and It already cost me for $2400 bucks!! … It is beautiful.. N it become more georgous when I stick the Tag Black croco leather with deployment tag buckle!…

    • calibre11

      Enjoy!

  • Seb

    Hi
    Is it possible to get a white faced autavia with a white numeral on black date disc?
    As all I’ve ever seen is black numeral on white date disc for that particular face colour autavia

    Thanks

    • calibre11

      Haven’t seen it Seb- possible that someone changed the date wheel over (it’s Black on the Orange model)

      dc

      • Seb

        Thanks for the reply, great help

  • Seb

    Hi again DC

    Wanted to know If you knew where to purchase an original tag heuer leather/fabric strap for the Autavia reissue?
    Or if you could point me in the right direction I would really appreciate it
    Thanks again
    Seb

    • calibre11

      Hi Seb. Yes, there was a strap offered (leather strap- think I’ve only seen the one for the black dial model, which had orange stitching), but I can’t locate a reference number. Sorry

    • calibre11

      Hi Seb- reference numbers for the straps below

  • Joseph Stepancic

    Well, late in 2014 i began getting an itch for a new tag here, as my other other TH was a mcqueen monaco. i started doing my research and looked at carreras. When i found the Autavia I couldn’t believe I had never known about it. I started to read about Jo Siffert’s affiliation to the watch and his friendship to mcqueen. I loved the idea that he was driving the other 917 in LeMans and thought it would pair nicely with my Monaco. So in January, I found one for sale and picked it up for $2000. I had to replace the bezel due to a nick for $200. And last week the chrono wouldn’t start up again after using it, so it’s time for a servicing. I can’t say it has had servicing in its decade of life so I guess its time to pay to play. BUT, I love this watch. There is no question it’s been my most worn over the course of the year. It is so iconic, and comfortable to wear. I adore it and never want to let it go. Over the year it got me to pick up some new cool straps , many you can see me wearing in instagram at @jpstepancic. I recommend this watch to all, especially before prices really start to go up. This WILL be a high sought after piece in the VERY VERY near future

    • calibre11

      Hi Joseph. As you may have seen in our interview with TAG Heuer’s CEO, the Autavia is coming back in 2017…but NOT this version. They’re bringing back the 1960s design. Think that this is a positive for the version that you have as it will still be unique.

      Enjoy!