In Depth Review- Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85th Birthday Edition

We’ve known for a while now that TAG Heuer was planning a second version of its re-born Autavia, and while photos of that watch have circulated widely since Baselworld back in March, the covers are now officially off the Jack Heuer Autavia 85th Birthday Edition. Earlier this year we had the chance to test the JH85 Autavia and so can share with you the first detailed review of TAG Heuer’s present to Jack. While the watch is obviously similar to the standard black dial model, there are several detail changes that make this watch our favourite of the Autavia re-editions to date.

Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 CBE2111

But first an important note: the watch that you see in the majority of these photos is a prototype, and as we’ll explain shortly, there have been a couple of detail changes between this prototype and the final production watch which you’ll be able to buy in stores.

Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 CBE2111

Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 CBE2111

Side-by-Side with the CBE2110 Autavia

TAG Heuer Autavia Range

Let’s start by putting the new Autavia alongside the black-dial model (CBE2110) launched earlier this year. The basics stay the same: the case is unchanged, meaning a 42mm stainless steel case with polished surfaces. Out goes the black dial with white sub-dials, and in comes a metallic silver dial with black sub-dials, from “Reverse Panda” to “Panda“. Look more closely and you’ll notice that the cream “aged lume” of CBE2110 has been replaced by a standard white lume on the JH85, a change which is for the better in our eyes. But if the dial colour is the change that you’ll notice first, the change that we like the most is the updated bezel.

TAG Heuer Autavia Range

One criticism of the new Autavia has been the general sense of girth compared to the vintage model, which measures in at a very modest 38mm. While it’s true that the modern Autavia is upgraded to 42mm, our sense is that the watch merely feels contemporary, rather than too big. But what doesn’t help the perception of size is the large silver hours set out 1-12 on the bezel. On the JH85, not only are the numbers on the new aluminum “MH” (Minutes and Hours) bezel smaller, but so too is the width of the silver triangle at 12 o’clock. This small combination of changes transforms the bezel, and therefore the watch, making it look somehow smaller with its more refined details.

And so while we are fans of the original Autavia, each of the changes made to the JH85 is an improvement- in fact, we’d love to retro-fit the white lume and new bezel to the CBE2110. The beautiful dial is a whiter silver than say that used on the Carrera Calibre 18 Telemeter, which offered golden tones. There’s no question that the new Autavia is a looker.

TAG Heuer Autavia Range

From Every Angle

Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 CBE2111

To showcase the JH85 Autavia we’ve captured every angle of the new watch and in doing so highlighted our one criticism of the Autavia- the finishing of the surfaces. TAG Heuer has authentically copied the polished case finish of the original 1960s Autavia, but on the larger 2017-sized case, we feel it’s too much. A combination of brushed and polished surfaces would have been our preference, especially on the high-sheen bracelet clasp and caseback, both of which are likely to be susceptible to scratching.

TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

No question that this combination of finishes would have increased costs, but it would have been a price worth paying and provided greater contrast in the metal surfaces.

But while we’d prefer the watch with a more delicate combination of finishes, that doesn’t take away from what is still one of TAG Heuer’s best-looking designs of recent times, as these photos ably demonstrate.

TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

TAG Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

Heuer Autavia Special Edition Heuer-02

Heuer Autavia Special Edition Heuer-02

Dial close-up

Heuer Autavia Special Edition Heuer-02

The silver dial of the JH85 is similar to the Carrera Jack Heuer 80th Birthday Edition.In fact, apart from a red central chronograph hand, the red-tipped sub-dial hands and the red Heuer shield, the two designs are very similar: Panda dials with silver hands, applied stepped hour-markers and azurage patterning on the sub-dials.

Depending on the light, the dial varies between appearing white from some angles and a metallic silver from others.

Heuer Autavia Special Edition Heuer-02

Jack Heuer Edition Autavia

Final Production Dial

Jack Heuer Edition Autavia

As alluded to at the start of this review, the watch that you see in most of the photos here is a pre-production prototype, albeit identical to the first numbered watch (0001/ 1932) auctioned by Phillips in Geneva on 11 November.

The other 1931 watches (actually, there are 1933 watches in total, because Jack Heuer has been given watch 0000/ 1932) will have a slightly different dial, as shown above. The key changes are:

  • Shorter 1-minute markers on the minuterie scale on the edge of the dial
  • Replacing the 2.5 minute intervals on the 3 o’clock register with one minute intervals

Both changes are an improvement, and while we don’t know why the minute markers were shortened, we do have some insight into why the markings on the sub-dial changed..but that is a story for another day.

Jack Heuer Edition Autavia

Jack Heuer Edition Autavia

Bracelet

Heuer Autavia Bracelet

There’s only one option for the JH85 Autavia, and that’s the beautiful steel “Grains of Rice” style bracelet, the same bracelet that is an option on the black-dial Autavia. Having worn an Autavia on this bracelet for several months, it’s certainly one of our favourites, even if the high-sheen polish on the clasp does look vulnerable to scratching, as we highlighted earlier.

Heuer Autavia Bracelet

We’d love to see the watch with a black leather strap as well- perhaps something that TAG Heuer will offer on other Autavias.

Heuer Autavia Bracelet

Caseback and Movement

Jack Heuer Autavia 85 Caseback

The other main change from the standard production Autavia is that the Sapphire caseback of the black-dial model has been replaced by a solid polished steel caseback featuring the Heuer Family Shield and Jack Heuer’s signature- again similar to the Jack Heuer Carrera 80th.

Jack Heuer Autavia 85 Caseback

Jack Heuer Autavia 85 Caseback

Behind the caseback is the same Calibre Heuer-02 movement as found in other Autavias. Haven’t heard of the Heuer-02? It’s the new name for the Calibre 1969/ Calibre CH80 and forms the basis for the tourbillon movement in the Carrera Heuer-02t.

Jack Heuer at 85

To mark Jack Heuer’s birthday, a small dinner for family and friends was held in Geneva earlier this week. It’s fantastic for all Heuer and TAG Heuer fans to see Jack still actively involved in the company, despite retiring from his Honorary Chairman role a couple of years ago.

Price and Availability- Autavia Jack Heuer 85th Birthday Edition Ref. CBE2111

Review- Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

TAG Heuer is producing 1,932 Jack Heuer Autavias, the number chosen to correspond with Jack Heuer’s year of birth. Given that limited edition 0001 has already been auctioned, that leaves 1,931 watches for sale.

The JH85 is priced at USD 5,900 / EUR 5,250 / GBP 4,650 depending on market, a premium of about 10% over the standard model.

Review- Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

The newest Autavia is a fitting tribute to the Autavia range of watches and of course to the man who developed the watch back in 1962, as you can read more about here. Go back and read that date again: yes, Jack Heuer was only 30 years old when he launched the original Autavia.

We can see owners of the black-dial model adding the JH85 to their collection, as the two watches are different enough to offer collectors a different look and a special watch to join the collection of watches made to commemorate Jack Heuer.

Review- Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

In Summary

Review- Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

The 2012 Jack Heuer Carrera 80th Birthday edition was a smash hit and one whose design is still being adapted for limited edition Carreras. The Jack Heuer 85th Autavia lives up to that heritage by offering a dial combination only seen on a very small number of vintage Autavias.

The changes are few from the production Autavia, but each is an improvement and the impact of these small changes is more than the sum of its parts. The dial is the change that you’ll notice first, but it’s the smaller font on the new bezel that really gives the Jack Heuer edition a unique feel.

Collectors look forward to celebrating many more birthdays with Jack Heuer.

We like:

  • Metallic silver dial reminiscent of Jack’s 80th birthday present
  • The 42mm Autavia feels great on the wrist- don’t buy into the “too big” hype until you try it
  • That bezel..and excellent change

We’d change: 

  • Introduce a mix of brushed and polished surfaces to add a little more sophistication
  • Perhaps delete the “Heuer 02” text from the dial
  • Solid caseback or Sapphire? We suspect many would prefer Sapphire with Jack’s signature etched on the glass.

Review- Heuer Autavia Jack Heuer 85 Edition

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  • WilfreB

    If this watch and the pepsi Aquaracer GMT had ceramic bezels, I’ll buy them, I just can’t accept aluminum bezels in 2017 in a luxury timepiece from a top brand.