Forget what you know about TAG Heuer’s Autavia series, because the new Calibre 5 Isograph range represents a fresh start. Back in 1962 Heuer took a chance and used the Autavia name on its new chronograph, even though the moniker had been used exclusively on dashboard timers since 1933. And now the Autavia name not only finds its way to a 3-hand watch for the first time, but more importantly, the positioning of the Autavia line has changed.
Yes, the Autavia has always been more “Aut” than “avia” (that is, “automotive” vs. “aviation”), but that balance has flipped with the new series- check the styling cures: oversized Arabic numerals, large crown and pilot-style hands. And to make it clear that this is no re-edition, out goes the heritage “Heuer” shield and instead we have the modern TAG Heuer logo.
The new Autavia Calibre 5 range offers two case materials- bronze and the more mainstream steel which is the family that we are reviewing today. We got our hands on both the leather strap and bracelet options to bring you everything you need to know about the relaunch of one of TAG Heuer’s most iconic series.
Let’s start with the basics- the new Autavia uses the same case design as the current Chronograph series, meaning a 42mm in the classic 1960s style horned case. But that is about the only thing that stays the same, with almost every other element of the design changing.
While the case shares the 42mm size with the Chronograph, it is noticeably slimmer- something that has been a bugbear for those who wish the Heuer 02 model was the same thickness as this Calibre 5.
The other big improvement is the finish of the case, which now has a brushed finish with polished highlights. We love the return to TAG Heuer’s traditional case finishing, with the Autavia Chronograph featuring an entirely polished case. You can see from the shots above what a difference this makes, and the same time de-blinging the case as well as helping lift the perceived quality of the watch overall.
While it’s true that pilot-style watches are usually on the large side, we would have preferred to have a 40mm case for the 3-hand watch, leaving the larger 42mm case for the Chronograph series, which for the moment at least, continues unchanged.
Dial and Bezel
The dial is one of the highlights of the new design and one that is even better in person than in the photos. The dial has both a textured surface and a Dégradé finish on the black and blue dials, meaning that the dial colour is lighter in the centre and fades to a darker finish towards the outer-edge of the dial. It’s an approach that works well on each of the dials, but especially the black, which is almost a green/ gold in the centre and never really becomes a traditional deep black even at the outer-edge of the dial.
The layout on the dial is beautifully simple- small applied metal hour indexes sit at the edge of the dial, but the large Arabic numerals are the main feature that take the eye.
In keeping with TAG Heuer’s new “less is more” approach to text on the dial, there is no Calibre 5 text, nor reference to water resistance. The font is black on the grey-dial model, and white on the other models, other than the “Autavia” script which is orange on both the black and blue dials.
Moving outwards from the dial and you’ll find the bi-directional minute bezel, which is ceramic on the blue and black dial watches and brushed steel on the grey dial model. It’s a slimmer bezel than the one found on the Chronograph, another change that lovers of the Chronograph will be hoping finds it away across the entire Autavia range.
Caseback and Movement
The closed steel caseback is dominated by the new Autavia logo- a combination of a car’s wheel and a larger propeller. But it’s behind the caseback is where things get interesting.
The Calibre 5 movement is based on the ETA 2824-2/ Sellita SW-200 with the addition of TAG Heuer’s own in-house carbon hairspring, a newly developed component that we followed closely earlier this year (see the article here). The idea of combining an advanced hairspring with a base movement from one of the “standard” suppliers is a clever one to create a tier of movements that sit in between third-party movements and the true in-house movements such as the Heuer 02. The superior performance of the carbon hairspring combined with upgraded components to earn this movement its Chronometre certification.
Strap and Bracelet Options
The Autavia watch swaps out the grains of rice bracelet of the Chronograph for a newly designed steel link bracelet, reference code EB0173. Like the watch itself, the bracelet has a combination of brushed and polished links and a fold-over clasp.
If you choose an Autavia on the bracelet, you also get a NATO-style strap included.
Brown Calfskin Strap- Reference FC8266
If you prefer a leather strap, there are a couple of options, starting with the brown calfskin strap with white stitching that is standard on the black and blue dial watches. While we like the colour of the strap, it’s not our favourite design- an overly thick strap combined with a pin-buckle rather than a deployant clasp doesn’t add to the premium feel, although we’d concede that it does fit with the aviation positioning of the watch.
Tan Calfskin Strap- Reference FC8267
Good news if you are a fan of brown straps, because there are two shades of brown on offer, the second being this lighter tan option fitted to the steel bezel watch.
In addition to the leather strap and bracelet options, there is also a range of NATO-style official straps that can be fitted.
Quick Release Strap Changing
One of the features that we liked about the new Autavia is the “quick release” button to change straps easily and without any tools. You can see in the photo above the black release button on the inside of the strap. Simply push the button and the strap can be removed from the springbar which stays in place.
The bracelet also has a quick release button, making it easy to mix and match strap and bracelet options on the Autavia.
Autavia Black Dial/ Black Bezel WBE5110.EB0173
The new Autavia range opens up with the black dial watch, which is teamed with a black ceramic bezel (and shown here on the new Autavia bracelet). As we noted, it’s a black dial in name only, with a lovely range of tones that (eventually) become black-ish, but only after it’s moved through a range of beautiful gold and smoke tones.
The watch feels great on the wrist- this is our favourite combination of the black dial with the bracelet. You can see from these shots how the colour of the dial changes so much depending on the angle.
Autavia Black Dial/ Black Bezel WBE5110.FC8266
Next up we have the same watch, but now mounted on the dark brown calfskin strap. Again, the colour combinations are well chosen, even if the strap isn’t our favourite.
On the Wrist
Here is the black-dial Autavia on the wrist.
Autavia Grey Dial/ Steel Bezel WBE5111.FC8267
The grey dial model is not actually that different from the black dial, depending on the light. It has the same gold/ smoke tones, but is obviously a lighter shade that doesn’t have the same dégradé finish as the other watches, or at least it’s a much more subtle change of tone that you see on the other dials.
It was a good choice to match this lighter dial with a steel bezel, as it gives this watch a distinctive look relative to the others in the range. It can look a little washed out, with the lack of any contrasting dark bezel, but we know that some think this is the best-looking of the Autavia Calibre 5s, so it does come down to personal choice.
The steel bezel model is only sold on either this strap or a NATO, although the bracelet can be bought separately and of course fits perfectly.
On the Wrist
Autavia Blue Dial/ Blue Bezel WBE5112.EB0173
The blue-dial mode is the one that has gotten most of the headlines so far, thanks to its deep blue dial (a textured finish rather than the usual- and excellent- starburst blue TAG Heuer dial) and matching blue ceramic bezel. You can see how the orange “Autavia” text pops nicely off the blue background.
On the Wrist
Autavia Blue Dial/ Blue Bezel WBE5112.FC8266
The blue dial also works well with the darker of the two brown straps, although we’d like to see either a standard blue or black leather option as well.
On the Wrist
If you took the Autavia logo off the dial of the watch, then we suspect that there would be near-universal approval of TAG Heuer entering the pilot watch space with a new range of 3-hand watches that use an advanced in-house carbon hairspring. The watches look good (yes, we’d like them smaller and on a more traditional and thinner leather strap), feel great on the wrist and are well priced (the range starts at US$3,500).
The problem that traditional Heuer and TAG Heuer fans will have is the application of the Autavia name to a watch that does not follow directly in the footsteps of the historical Heuer Autavia range. But as we pointed out in the introduction to this review, if one follows that logic, then the Autavia should still be a mechanical timer nailed to dashboards. Is the move from dashboard timer to the wrist any more of a sin than the watch being repositioned towards the aviation part of its name?
While we don’t have a problem with the new watch being an Autavia, it is true that TAG Heuer has not gone “all in” on the watch being a pilot’s series (e.g. use of an “onion” crown) as it tries to keep one foot in the automotive world. We suspect over time that will change, and we will have Carrera representing the world of cars and Autavia the world of aviation.
Name aside, the Autavia Isograph is a great addition to the TAG Heuer range and one that we’d choose ahead of the Carrera 3-hand watch range because of those beautiful, simple textured dials, ceramic bezel and clever carbon innards.
The Autavia Isograph represents a new chapter in the story of the Autavia and one that we expect will sell strongly now that it has made its way into shops. There are two additional bronze case watches, and we’ll be bringing you a detailed review of that duo in the coming weeks.
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Calibre 5 Chronometre Specifications
|Model Name||TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Calibre 5 Chronometre|
|Year of Launch||2019|
|Production Type||Permanent Collection|
|Watch Reference Number||WBE5110/ WBE5111/ WBE5112|
|Strap Reference Code||EB0173 (bracelet)|
FC8266/ FC8267 (leather strap)
|Case Material||Stainless Steel/ Fine-brushed and polished|
|Movement||Calibre 5 with Carbon Hairspring|