Back in February I posted a few photos of a tired Autavia that I had bought with the aim of having it restored. The 11063 GMT Autavia is one of the last of the Heuer Autavia series, and my favourite of the Autavia GMTs, with its all-black dial and over-sized case. They are however difficult to find, which is why I was prepared to buy one in need of some work.
The work was done by Abel Court, a well-known Heuer collector who has the magic touch when it comes to restoring these old watches. Abel’s work has previously featured on Calibre 11 and what I love about Abel’s work is the balance between restoring the parts that need to be fixed, but also being ready to leave as much of the watch as possible in original condition.We’ve all seen a lot of “restored” Heuers and the majority are absolute rubbish- done by people who probably weren’t even sure what the original looked like and almost always featuring a few alien parts from the parts bin. The good news is that there are some Heuer lovers who do great work at reviving these watches and have a great passion for their work…its worth seeking them out rather than going to your local default watchmaker.
So, a huge thanks to Abel for his efforts and skill. My thanks also to Alex Peters and the “mystery man”, who were a great help in tracking down a couple of key parts needed for the watch- much appreciated. So, on to the photos…
I bought the watch from an eBay auction in December and was pleasantly surprised when the watch arrived- sure, the bezel was rusted and the glass crystal badly scratched, but the case was pretty solid and didn’t have any really deep marks
The photo dial itself was OK, but all the lume had come off the hour markers and some of the metal finish was starting to come off the silver hour-markers themselves. The hands were OK- a little out of shape and discolored, but at least they were original.
I love this photo- I think it’s the first time that I have ever seen the modular Calibre 14 movement separated into its two components- the Buren base movement and the Dubois-Depraz chronograph movement. Of course, Abel gave the movement a full service- who knows when it was last serviced? OK, onto the serious work- here is the case being sanded back and the scratches and small dents removed. How does Abel do this? A trade secret! And here is what it looks like when the sides are polished- amazing. The Autavia case should have this “star-burst” finish, but many restored watches don’t, because it’s so much easier to simply polish the finish away. These are the original hands after a coat of paint and some new “aged” lume. We decided to leave the dial itself unchanged in case it was damaged further- so no re-lume of the dial
I have to say that I knew Abel would do a great job, but I was still amazed when I saw the finished watch, complete with a NOS Bezel.
The hardest part to find? A tie between the bracelet and the bezel. The annoying thing about the bracelet (as is the case with many 11063V Autavia’s) is the way that the end pieces fail to fit flush to the case. Many Heuer models from this era use this jubilee bracelet, which looks great, but doesn’t have the heavy, quality feel that you’d expect.
So how good a job did Abel do?
I took the watch with me to Shanghai last week , and part of the way through the TAG Heuer dinner, I passed the watch across the noisy table to Jack Heuer, whose eyes lit up when he saw it. Jack took a good look at the watch- really examined it from every angle and gave me the thumbs up, shouting “it’s brand new- straight from the shop!”.
I wanted to tell him the story of Abel’s work and how it had taken months to find all the parts- but it was impossible to hear each other properly, so I simply smiled and thanked him for his kind words. Sorry for the deception, Jack.
For more photos of the restoration project, take a look at the gallery here.