The wait is almost over for the arrival of the most highly anticipated TAG Heuer model in recent years- the return of the Autavia. First announced at Baselworld 2016, the Autavia has had a highly public development period, with a public vote informing the selection of the final design and then the unveiling of the first prototype late last year to collectors. We’ve even had several interviews with TAG Heuer CEO where he has explained in detail the thinking behind the watch and why the decision was made not to simply copy the historic model. In short, there has been no shortage of build-up to the relaunch of one of TAG Heuer’s most famous historic models.
But all the analysis and speculation can now be put to rest, because we now have the exclusive details on changes made for the final production model, which differs only in a few small details to the prototype shown last year.
The Autavia features a 42mm stainless steel case with a thickness of 15.6mm. Let’s stop at this point to consider these dimensions, because the larger size of the 2017 Autavia relative to its historic inspiration has been one of the most hotly debated aspects. By way of comparison, the Carrera 1887 with a 41mm case has a thickness of 15.78mm, while the 43mm Carrera Calibre 36 hits the tape at 14.93mm. What this tells us is that while the new Autavia certainly has a thicker case than the historic model (partly because of the switch from a manual-wind movement to a thicker automatic movement), it is in line with modern TAG Heuers. Would we prefer the new watch if it was say 40mm with a slimmer case? Yes. Would we pass on the Autavia because of its larger dimensions? No.
The dial itself is a flat black with printed Heuer logo, complemented by three white registers with circular “azurage” finishing. The curved & polished indexes are hand-applied (double index at “12”) and house the lume markers. The lume is what TAG Heuer calls “Orange Superluminova” and is the same as used on the 2016 Monza. The coloured lume gives an “aged” look to the dial, right on point with current trends.
TAG Heuer has kept the dial clean, with the date window integrated into the 6 o’clock sub-dial and the “Swiss” label tucked in under the lume mark at 6 o’clock. Sitting proudly above the date window is the text “Heuer-02”, the final name for the new in-house movement powering the Autavia.
The bi-directional rotating steel bezel has a black ceramic insert, the width of which has also been a topic of debate. This sense of size is not just because of the bezel’s width, but also down to the large silver numerals on the hours bezel. We feel the same way about the bezel as the larger case size: better if smaller, but it still works
The final element to give the watch a vintage feel is the domed sapphire crystal, which sits proud of the bezel as you can see below.
The new Autavia initially comes in a single flavour with a choice of either a steel bracelet or the camel/ tan strap shown here. The strap has an aged/ vintage look, with a “distressed” finish and white stitching. Securing the strap is a pin buckle, the first time that TAG Heuer has offered a pin buckle on a steel model for around 20 years.
There is no doubt that the vintage look strap is right on the mark fashion wise, so it’s more likely that we’re simply behind the curve in that we’d rather see a rally style black leather deployant strap- still, that’s an easy change to make.
The screw-in case back has a clear sapphire window showing the Heuer-02 movement. Interestingly, there is no mention of TAG Heuer on the watch and to add to that vintage feel, the water-proof rating is expressed only in feet (330).
The second option is the 7-row polished steel bracelet. And if we’re luke-warm on the strap, then we’re red hot on the bracelet. The design is an update on the wonderful Gay Frères “Grains of Rice” bracelet that was an option with the 1960s Autavias. The design has been perfectly recreated and is a wonderful fit with the watch.
What’s Changed from the Prototype?
So what’s changed from the prototype (above) to the final model? Well, not much:
- Correct date wheel (prototype had a dummy movement- the date was never intended to sit horizontally)
- Silver registers replaced by white registers with a more subtle azurage pattern
- Newly designed camel/ tan strap
- Production-standard finishing and polishing
All the key elements of the design presented last year have survived to the production model.
Movement- Calibre Heuer-02
We broke the news last year that the new Autavia would use TAG Heuer’s own Calibre 1969/ CH80, a movement whose history has been a saga since it was first unveiled in 2013. Developed under the code name “Calibre 1888”, first brought to market as the Calibre 1969, it was then re-named the Calibre CH80, but cancelled/ delayed before any more watches were produced. But there were 1000 movements produced before the line was stopped, and these formed the basis of the Heuer-02T tourbillon movement. While there was a plan to call the new movement the “Heuer-03”, it will in fact be branded as the “Heuer-02”. Expect to see production of the Heuer-02 ramp up in the coming years as it becomes the main TAG Heuer chronograph movement.
When we last saw the CH80, it was a 13 3/4 ligne calibre, with a thickness of 6,9mm and a frequency Of 4Hz (28,800 bph). The power reserve is 80 hours- up from 70 hours for the Calibre 1969- explaining how the CH80 got its name.
Some of these specs may have changed in the transition from CH80-Heuer-02, so we’ll have to wait for confirmation of the final details. In a way, the return of the Autavia has overshadowed the relaunch of the Heuer-02 movement, but make no mistake that in the long run, it’s the movement that will play a much larger part in TAG Heuer’s future than the Autavia itself.
Price and Availability- TAG Heuer Autavia CBE2110
While prices have yet to be finalised, we expect them to be in-line with the 2016 Heuer Monza, which seems like great value given the in-house movement of the Autavia. Expect deliveries to begin just after Baselworld.