Welcome to a new beginning for the Autavia, with the launch today of the 2019 Autavia Isograph. Not only is the Calibre 5 Autavia the first non-chronograph watch to wear the Autavia name, but it’s also the first Autavia to push beyond the traditional motorsport space that the series has occupied since its launch in 1962.
Isograph? That’s the new name for TAG Heuer’s in-house carbon hairspring, which forms part of the upgraded, Chronometer specification Calibre 5 movement powering the newest Autavia. We first saw the Isograph hairspring in the Carrera Nanograph (featuring TAG Heuer’s in-house Heuer 02T movement), but with the new Autavia Isograph we see the carbon hairspring being used to upgrade a third-party calibre, opening a new era for TAG Heuer’s movement strategy and bridging the gap between “off the shelf” acquired movements and in-house movements.
But the biggest talking points of the new watch will be:
a. the fact that a non-Chronograph Autavia exists at all; and
b. the design
This is the Autavia for pilots who fly in the air rather than those flying around the track in a Formula 1 car. It’s not quite a “full-blown” Pilots watch, but you can see the direction that the Autavia watch is headed- an outdoor adventure range leaning towards the styling cues of traditional aviation-themed watches.
When you look back over Heuer’s iconic range of watches from the 1960s and 70s, the model that took centre stage was the Autavia. Launched in 1962, the Autavia was the more popular big brother of the Carrera and far more mainstream that the bold, outlandish Monaco. It was the Autavia that was the original motorsport chronograph (just ask Jo Siffert, Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti or Gilles Villeneuve) and sat firmly at the centre of the Heuer range.
As Heuer became TAG Heuer, the Autavia disappeared, before returning- briefly- in 2003 and then again in 2016/7 with the current Autavia Heuer 02 Chronograph.
But that’s just the Autavia’s history as a wristwatch. In fact, the name traces its origins back much farther to 1933 when it was first launched as a dashboard instrument used in racing cars and aircraft. Indeed it was only after production of the timers stopped in 1957 that the name became free for Jack Heuer to use on his first major product launch as CEO of Heuer.
You can catch up with everything you need know about the history of the Autavia series in our two-part ultimate guide:
The Autavia Isograph’s design pushes into a new space, taking literally the AUTomobile-AVIAtion origins of its name. While the Chronograph remains rooted in the automotive world, the Calibre 5 Autavia is more in the aviation world, evidenced by the design of the hands, numerals and over-sized crown.
At Baselworld last year we saw some leaked images of a Calibre 5 and Calibre 7 prototype Autavia, which essentially looked like the Chronograph model with the sub-dials removed. But the final 2019 model reinvents the Autavia nameplate altogether with a distinctive, new design.
Starting with the basics, the watch retains the same 42mm size case as the Chronograph, but with a slimmer profile. The highly polished case of the Chronograph is replaced by a combination of brushed and polished surfaces, which is a big step forward stylistically.
There are, of course, several steel models available, but for the first time TAG Heuer is also offering a bronze case as an option. The steel watches have a steel case back, while the two bronze watches offer a titanium case back (a bronze case back would likely react to the moisture in your skin and create a green copper chloride residue on the watch and on your wrist). Both case backs feature the new Autavia logo, which combines a propeller and a tyre, again making the point about the watch straddling both the automotive and aviation worlds.
The face of the watch features a raised inner flange with a railway track minute scale, stepping down to the dial. And the dial itself is also something new: a textured dial with a “smoked” or dégradé finish, meaning that the colour is lighter at the centre of the dial, becoming darker towards the outer edges- think of the 1970s Heuer Silverstone fume and you have a good idea of the effect. Atop the dial sits a domed sapphire crystal with with double anti-reflective treatment.
For the first time in almost two decades (on an automatic watch) there is no Calibre name noted on the dial, with Isograph instead taking prime position below the orange/ yellow Autavia script. And yes, the watch appropriately carries the TAG Heuer logo on the dial rather than the Heuer logo of the heritage-themed Chronographs.
The hands are an all-new design and very much from the Pilot watch playbook, as are the applied rhodium-plated numerals which are teamed with small applied hour markers that bridge between the dial and the inner flange.
Each model has a bi-directional 60-minute bezel, with either a brushed steel or a coloured ceramic insert. The bezel seem thinner than the one used on the Chronographs and combined with the slimmer case, helps to give the impression of a smaller, less bulky watch, despite the case diameters being the same.
Overall, the watch is a major departure from what we have seen in the past, and frankly a far more interesting design than a “Chronograph with the sub-dials removed” look we saw last year. The move to reposition the Autavia opens up a lot more room for future models, with the chronograph perhaps staying true to the heritage design, while the 3-hand watch version becoming more a true Pilots watch, with perhaps the potential for something like a re-imagination of the Heuer Bundeswehr.
In keeping with TAG Heuer’s modular strategy, there are a number of strap and bracelet options for the new Autavia:
- FC8266: Dark Brown leather strap (pin buckle)
- FC8267: Light Brown leather strap (pin buckle)
- FC8268: Khaki leather strap (pin buckle)
- TBD: Blue leather strap (pin buckle)
- EB0173: Steel bracelet
If you choose a stainless steel bracelet, then you also recieve a NATO strap at no additional cost (blue trimming with the blue dial; yellow/ orange trimming for other models). And because all straps can be purchased separately, you can mix and match the style. Interestingly, TAG Heuer says that no strap-changing tools are needed and you use “simple push buttons on the underside of the case”, something we’re keen to see in action.
Introducing the Isograph Hairspring
A few days ago we published an inside look at TAG Heuer’s new carbon hairspring, a component that now has a new name- Isograph. The name comes from the Greek word iso, meaning “equal”, and refers to the stable and consistent movement of the component.
TAG Heuer uses the Calibre 5 designation for both the ETA 2824-2 and the clone Sellita SW200, but given that the press releases refers to the movement having 25 jewels, it must be the ETA movement inside the new Autavia, because the Sellita SW200 has one additional jewel.
The Autavia Isograph Range
The Autavia Calibre 5 family is being rolled out in two phases- the steel models being launched today and the two bronze models later, around August- September.
Steel with Grey Dial/ Steel Bezel- Reference WBE5111
Kicking off the new range is this Grey dial model with a steel bezel and what TAG Heuer calls “Ivory” lume on the hands and numerals. It’s quite a different look for the Autavia, which has traditionally come with a coloured bezel. This is the only Autavia Isograph with black text on the dial, rather than white.
Steel with Black Dial/ Black Bezel- Reference WBE5110
Next we have the Black dial/ black ceramic bezel watch, although we have to say that the dial is a “black/ green” rather than a traditional flat black. While you’d normally expect a black dial watch to be sold with a black strap, that colour combination is not an option, as there is no black strap.
The hands and lume are white on both this version and the blue dial model below.
Steel with Blue Dial/ Blue Bezel- Reference WBE5112
The blue dial works from a lovely blue at the centre to almost black at the outer edges and looks fantastic to our eyes, nicely teamed with a blue ceramic bezel. There is an optional blue strap that can be added, but the watch is sold with the brown strap you see above or the stainless steel bracelet/ NATO combination.
Bronze with Green Dial/ Black Bezel- Reference WBE5190
The bronze watches are spectacular- combining a smoked green dial, khaki strap and aged ivory lume with a black bezel. We haven’t ever seen a historic Heuer model with this colour combination, and the closest that TAG Heuer has come to something similar would be the Gold 6000 with an emerald green dial/ green strap of the 1990s.
It’s a very “2019” colour combination, and to our eyes is the pick of the new range, if you can get your mind around a bronze case. Remember that bronze cases tend to age differently to polished steel or gold, gaining a unique patina over time. Your watch will definitely look different in 10 years than it does new- whether that’s right for you is the question.
Buyers should also consider that- depending on the exact formula that TAG Heuer has used for its bronze cases (Bronze is an alloy of copper plus other metals such as tin, aluminium or zinc), the case will be more prone to scratches and knocks than steel. Bronze is a softer metal, more in line with Gold or Silver than the much harder steel cases usually used by TAG Heuer.
Bronze with Brown Dial/ Brown Bezel- Reference WBE5191
The second bronze model is also lovely- a Bronze case with brown smoked dial and brown bezel and again with the aged ivory lume.
You might ask why this leather strap has a different strap code compared to the same brown strap fitted to the steel watches (FC8276 vs. FC8266)? Simply because the pin buckle is made from bronze rather than steel.
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph- Price and Availability
The 2019 TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph in steel goes on presale from 20 March (yes, that is today) at tagheuer.com for deliveries in June/ July. You can expect the bronze duo to follow later in the year. In terms of pricing, we have information on prices for the Swiss and Australian markets as follows:
- Steel/ Steel bezel/ leather strap: CHF3,400/ A$4,550
- Steel/ Ceramic bezel/ leather strap: CHF3,500/ A$4,700
- Steel/ Ceramic bezel/ steel bracelet: CHF3,850/ A$5,200
- Bronze/ Ceramic bezel/ leather strap: CHF4,200/ A$5,650
To put this pricing in context, the steel/ ceramic bezel Autavia Isograph is CHF1,600 less than the Autavia Heuer 02 on a leather strap (CHF3,500 vs. CHF 5,100), while the Carrera Calibre 5 range starts at CHF2,450.
In terms of availability, the other big news is that the Autavia is no longer part of the somewhat transient “Heritage” collection, but a key plank of TAG Heuer’s core permanent collection, joining the Carrera, Monaco, Formula 1, Aquaracer and Link. Yes, it’s not the Autavia as we know it, but in expanding the boundaries of what an Autavia can be, TAG Heuer has breathed new life into one of its most famous names.