Ultimate Guide to the TAG Heuer Autavia

While the Carrera was reintroduced in 1996 and then stayed in the TAG Heuer range through to the present day, the history of the Autavia re-edition has been more complicated. First brought back in 2003 through a new partnership with Jack Heuer, the Autavia Calibre 11 stumbled and never really caught fire with collectors.

But by 2016 the vintage world had turned towards the 1960s Autavias, inspiring TAG Heuer to made a second effort at a modern-day Autavia, this time powered by the Calibre Heuer-02/ CH80, TAG Heuer’s own in-house chronograph movement. The 2017 Autavia will initially be launched with two models, including a special Jack Heuer edition.

Photo by Brice Goulard- Monochrome Watches

The initial collector reaction suggests that the 2017 model will be received better than the 2003 edition, although smart collectors have long realised that the 2003 model is becoming a clever purchase.

As we now have two generations of Autavia re-editions, this article steps through both generations, including their history and an overview of the models offered.

Generation One- 2003 TAG Heuer Autavia Calibre 11

On the face of it, the decision to introduce a re-edition Autavia must have been what the marketing guys would call a “no-brainer”- so why did the model disappear within two years of release while the Carrera and Monaco are still going strong for TAG today?

The TAG Heuer Autavia re-edition (ref. CY2111) was launched in 2003. To launch the watch, TAG also released a limited number of special collector sets that had both a dash timer as well as the watch- playing on the heritage of the Autavia as a timer, not just a Heuer wristwatch. Seventy sets of these were produced in Siffert Blue and seventy in Orange- cost was almost US$8000 for the set.

TAG Heuer Autavia Orange BlackSo lets look at the watch itself first- below are the three versions of the TAG Heuer Autavia and the Heuer Autavia models that these re-editions were based on:

Design

As you can see from the photo above, TAG adopted a different strategy for  the Autavia re-editions, making them more modern interpretations of the key Autavia design features, rather than just copying the old design. The watch had a fixed rather than rotating bezel and initially came in the two most popular colours of the old Autavia- White with blue accents and black with Orange accents. The Rose Gold model was added later as a limited edition of 150.

TAG spent a lot of time on the bracelet for the Autavia, giving it a similar look to the original G&F “Grains of Rice” bracelet, but in a much sturdier design. The pushers moved away from the cylindrical shape of the old Heuer models to the design used on the modern Monaco re-edition- a mistake that TAG continues to make today in my opinion.

TAG also decided that it was time to drop the “Heuer” branding that it had used in the past re-edition series and instead these watches wore the TAG Heuer branding.

Overall, I think that the design is a great success- enough old design cues for the old Heuer collectors, but modern enough to look like a contemporary model.

Movement

The effort that TAG went to with the Autavia is evidenced in the effort taken to move the crown to the left hand-side of the watch (the first of the re-editions to have this feature) and to use the famous “calibre 11” brand for the movement. Of course, it wasn’t really a true Calibre 11 movement, but rather an ETA 2892 movement with Dubois Depraz chronograph module piggy-backed on the movement. This is the same approach used by TAG Heuer with the recent 40th Anniversary Monaco- only the second modern TAG Heuer with the crown on the “right” side.

So nothing wrong with the movement, expect that it isn’t a true Calibre 11 movement- and you have to admire the effort to engineer the movement to allow for the crown placement in a manner that only enthusiasts would care about.

First Generation In Summary

So why wasn’t the 2003 Autavia a smash hit like the Carrera and Monaco? TAG Heuer go and produce a modern interpretation of one of its most famous watches and the model is off the shelves within two years.

While its hard to pin-point a single reason, I think that the problem was that the TAG Heuer Autavia fell between the cracks of the old and the new- maybe not enough of a faithful reproduction of the original watch but not distinctive enough to appeal to new buyers. Reading back through commentary at the time, the criticisms of the watch appear to be summed up by “Yeah, its nice, but I’d rather just buy the original“. The Vintage guys were put off by the non-rotating bezel and of course the TAG Heuer logo.

Maybe the new buyers who didn’t care about- or maybe even know about- the Heuer Autavia ended up comparing the Autavia to the Monaco as a potential purchase- and then going with the Monaco as it is more distinctive and seen as the “signature” watch of Heuer/ TAG Heuer.

Generation Two- 2017 Heuer Autavia Calibre Heuer-02

2017 Heuer Autavia Ref CBE2110More than a dozen years after the original Autavia re-edition, TAG Heuer has decided to re-release the famous Autavia Chronograph, this time drawing inspiration from the “Rindt” Mk3 2446.

There are two models in the 2017 range:

  • Reference CBE2110- Autavia Calibre Heuer-02
  • Reference CBE2111- Autavia Jack Heuer 85th Anniversary Edition Heuer-02

Both models will be available with either a leather strap, or a newly designed “grains of rice” steel bracelet that you see below.

The black-dial model features a clear sapphire caseback showing off the Heuer-02, although don’t be surprised if there is a different treatment for the Jack Heuer 85th Edition.

Photo by @buosiale

Movement- Calibre Heuer-02

Both models are powered by the Heuer-02, a development of the Calibre 1969/ CH80.

The 2017 Autavia will be launched in March at the Baselworld show with an expected price of €4,600. We’ll update this post with all the details as they become available.

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