Reading the history of Heuer as it is usually written today, it’s easy to get the impression that the Carrera was the series that really established the brand’s credentials as the leading maker of racing-inspired chronographs. And while the Carrera was certainly important, it was in fact another model that had the real sporting heritage and authenticity- the Heuer Autavia. Taking its name from a combination of its target markets (“AUTomotive- AVIAtion”), the Autavia wristwatch was unveiled in 1962 and was the first new model launched under the guidance of the company’s then-new CEO, Jack Heuer.
And while the Carrera was, in substance, cut from the Heuer range in the 1970s, the Autavia was the heartbeat of the collection through to 1985 when the curtain finally came down on the Heuer brand. It was the first watch to be fitted with Heuer’s Chronomatic Calibre 11/ 12 movement and the last. While the Carrera began its life as a wristwatch, the original Autavia was actually a timing instrument, specifically a a dashboard timer for rally cars, as Jack Heuer explained in his autobiography.
The story of the “Autavia”
“In 1958, my first year at Ed. Heuer & Co. SA, I participated in two Swiss car rallies. In the first rally I was driving and my co-pilot was Samuel Heuer. Samuel, or Sämu as we called him, was the stepson of the garage owner who serviced my father’s Citroën, and although he shared the Heuer name he was not related to us. His family came from a neighbouring village on the other side of the Aare, the river that runs from the Alps through Bern and enters the Rhine near Basel.
The first rally had been a good experience for me and in the second one I handed the driving over to Sämu and took over the role of co-pilot, partly because I was quite good at map-reading thanks to my time in the scouts. We were doing fine until, close to the finish, I misread the dial of the Heuer 12-hour “Autavia” dashboard stopwatch by a minute. The result was that our team called “Heuer/Heuer” came in third place instead of first. This error infuriated me and I realised that the dial of the “Autavia” stopwatch was unclear, confusing and very difficult to read correctly in a speeding rally car.
Back at the Heuer factory we therefore created a new stopwatch with a large central minute hand. We mounted it into a dashboard case and called it the “Autorallye”. The original “Autavia”, however, had had a 12-hour register, so to replace it we had to develop a new movement. We asked the company Dubois-Depraz to create a new version of the 7700 stopwatch movement which would allow a 12-hour stopwatch to show elapsed hours with large digits through a window in the six o’clock position on the dial. We named this product the “Monte Carlo” in honour of the famous rally and very quickly this model established itself as a must-have for the world’s top rally drivers.
As a result of this new product the old “Autavia” became redundant and we withdrew it from our product line. However, we still had the excellent name of “Autavia”, which combined the words “automobile” and “aviation”, available for a new product.
In the autumn of 1961 I decided with my production team to create a new “Autavia” as a wrist chronograph. Until then we had never added a turning bezel to one of our wrist chronographs. We therefore designed this new “Autavia” to have a turning black bezel with a choice of division markers. A bezel with 60 separate one-minute divisions, for example, would allow the wearer to set a marker for a defined interval of less than one hour; a 12-hour division would allow the time in another time zone to be displayed; and divisions of 1/100th of a minute would be useful for time study purposes.
Our modern range of wrist chronographs started in 1962 with these “Autavia” models and continued in 1963 with the “Carrera” range. Both products were very successful, and with every new production series we made small technical improvements, for example by changing the shape of the hour bars or the colour of the radium bars……Looking back I can say that the “Autavia” wrist chronograph was the first real wristwatch product I personally created for the company.”
The Innovation of the Rotating Bezel
As Jack Heuer noted, the rotating bezel was one of the key innovations of the Autavia, with a plethora of different markings offering various functionality. Let’s now take a look at the key bezel types offered across the Autavia range and how to use each one.
Perhaps the most iconic bezel given its direct link to motor racing. The tachymeter bezel is a logarithmic scale that measures units per time increment. For example, to measure average kilometres per hour in a traffic light drag race (ahem) you start the chronograph when you take off and then stop the chrono once you have travelled one kilometre. Reading the units on the tachy bezel will tell you your average speed in km/h over that trip.
If the roads were clear and you wanted to time yourself over a second kilometer, you’d simply hand your Autavia to your passenger and at the one kilometer mark keep the chronograph running but note the elapsed time and then rotate the bezel until the silver triangle points to that time. Stop the chronograph after 2 kms and read the time off the scale that the chronograph hand is pointing to. It’s a brilliantly flexible scale, because it doesn’t matter if you want to measure in miles or kilometers- the tachymeter can handle both.
In Autavia reference numbers, a watch with a tachy scale is indicated by “T”- for example, 1163T.
60 Minute Bezel
The 60 minute bezel above offers a traditional countdown function as described in the yellow Heuer catalogue extract shown above, for example the amount of time that you have oxygen in a dive. An Autavia with a minutes scale has the “M” suffix, for example 2446M.
12 Hour Bezel
The same principle as above, but this time for hours- the 2446H. This can be used to indicate a second time zone, a kind of crude GMT function offered before Heuer launched dedicated GMT bezels in 1967.
Minutes/ Hours Bezel
And putting these last two scales together we have the hours and minute scale, known as the “MH” bezel, making the watch above a 1163MH.
The first of two diving scales offered by Heuer, these watches carry the “P” suffix meaning “Plongeur“, the French word for Diver. This scale goes from 0-60 and is used to keep track of how long you have been underwater. Note that the first 15 minutes are shown in minute increments to aid with calculating decompression timing and then in 5-minute increments through to 60 minutes.
To use this function, you simply line up the silver triangle with the minute hand when you enter the water and then read your elapsed dive time from the bezel scale.
The Heuer Autavia uses a dedicated bright yellow GMT hand as seen above. Unlike some GMT watches, this one can’t be moved by rotating the crown, and on the scale above indicated time on a 24 hour scale. For example, on the watch above it’s 7:43. The GMT hand indicates the same hour, as it progresses from the “19h00” mark towards “20h00” mark- just as the hour hand is progressing towards 8 o’clock. If you were in a new time zone, you’d simply rotate the bezel to line up local time to the GMT hand and the GMT hand will now show the hour in your new time zone.
The second diving bezel is also denoted by the “P” suffix. To operate, you rotate the bezel so the triangle lines up with the minute hand. turn the bezel so the 12 o’clock triangle lines up with the minute hand, like any regular divers bezel. This tells you how long you have before needing decompression at various depths. So, if we starting diving at 7:00 using the watch above at a depth of less than 45 meters, then ending the dive now (7.09 as shown above) would mean no need for decompression.
The Collector’s Bezel Dilemma
Towards the end of this article we’ll give you an overview of things to look out for when it comes to collecting the Autavia, but needless to say the condition of the bezel is critical to value- and these are often damaged and can’t be (easily) replaced.
Just as with our Ultimate Guide to the Heuer Carrera, the purpose of this guide is not to show every variation of the Autavia produced, but rather to highlight the three key generations of the Autavia series and provide tips for collectors. And while we have broken down the 23 years of the Autavia into three generations, this categorisation is ours and by no means official.
First Generation Autavia
The first of the Autavias from 1962 is perhaps the purest of the series- a classic 38mm steel case with simple black dial, painted lume hour markers and “12” and “6” numerals, oversized white sub-dials and dauphine hands. There’s not one superfluous detail on the dial- every feature is there for a reason.
The case itself is similar to that of the first generation Carrera, although perhaps a little more flowing and sensuous where the Carrera offers squarer lugs on its smaller 36mm case.
The caseback has “Autavia” stamped on the back and uses a screwback case, a distinction that collectors use to contrast to the compression case of the second generation models.
By the time we get to 1966, the look of the first generation Autavia had changed- yes, the case and bezel remained the same, but many other details had changed:
- Applied metal hour-markers
- Standard steel hands
- Smaller white sub-dials
While the general rule of thumb with the first generation Autavia is “the earlier the better“, to our eyes this later execution with its more refined features is the pick of the bunch.
There were only three models in the initial Autavia range, each of which used a different Valjoux calibre. All were manual-wind chronograph movements (remember, this is 1962-1968) and it’s quite easy to tell which movement is inside one of these early models simply by counting the number of registers.
- Valjoux 72- 3 register manual-wind Chronograph (2446)
- Valjoux 92- 2 register manual-wind Chronograph (3646)
- Valjoux 724- GMT version of Valjoux 72 (2446)
Second Generation Autavia
In 1968 Heuer updated the Autavia with a revised case, known by collectors as the snap-back, or compression case. But in fact, the way the case back is secured is the least interesting difference, given that the case itself was a totally new design. The soft, flowing lugs of the original have been replaced with square edges, best illustrated by the comparison below.
The second-generation Autavia was only on sale for less than two years (1968-69), but despite this, it’s easier to find a second-generation model than it is a first, that is unless we are talking about perhaps the rarest of these early models, the 2446C Silver dial you see below.
If you’re a fan of this look, but don’t like the idea of owning a +40 year old watch, you can still buy a watch today with an almost identical design, the Sinn 103 Classic
The second generation Autavia expanded the number of movements offered, firstly replacing the Valjoux 92 with the newer Valjoux 7730. The 7730 was launched in 1966 as Valjoux’s version of the Venus 188. While the 7730 remained in production for only a few years, it serves as the base for today’s TAG Heuer Calibre 16, the ETA 7750/ Sellita SW500.
- Valjoux 72- as per First Gen. (2446)
- Valjoux 7730- 2 register (7763)
- Valjoux 7732- 2 register + date (7863)
- Valjoux 724- as per First Gen. (2446)
Third Generation Autavia
The third generation Autavia is perhaps the best known, and is made up of four sub-series:
And while the change from first to second generation may have been evolutionary, the third generation was a revolution, both inside and out. As with the Carrera, the new model had a completely new case- gone were the elegant lugs of the early models, replaced by blocky, integrated lugs.
The centrepiece of the new range was the Chronomatic movement, Heuer’s own automatic chronograph movement instantly recognisable with the crown on the left hand side of the case.
The 1163 Carrera (“11” denoting the Calibre, although Heuer did not change the reference number as it evolved the Calibre 11 to the Calibre 12, and “6” for the Autavia series (The Monaco was “3” and the Carrera “5”)) was launched in 1969 and has the 1163 reference number engraved between the lugs. The bulk of the 1163 range was on sale from 1969-1972, although some models, such as the 1163VNT ran through to the early 1980s. From the time the 11630 arrived in 1972, the 1163 case was mainly used for manual-wind versions.
Among the famous 1163 models was the 1163V, the Viceroy model, which could be bought for a measly $88 back in 1972, so long as you also bought a single carton of Viceroy cigarettes.
The 1163 is distinguished by:
- Bi-directional bezel- most models have a silver triangle at 12 and no lume dot
- Plastic domed crystal
- Cut-outs in the top of the case that allow the pushers to be seen “head on”
While the 1163 was only on sale for a few years, the design of the case served as the template for all Autavias that followed.
The 1563 Autavia was launched in 1972 and is the Calibre 15 version of the 1163- this is the rare “Exotic Dial” model. These cases can be stamped “1563”, but many original watches have the “1163” stamp on the case.
While the focus of this case design was the automatic movements, there was also a broad range of manual-wind movements in place, even though the Valjoux 72 had been discontinued in favour of newer and less expensive calibres.
These models were introduced in 1972 as the automatic 1163 models were phased out and continued in the range through the mid-1970s.
Autavia 73363- Valjoux 7733
Autavia 73463- Valjoux 7734
Autavia 73663- Valjoux 7736
Autavia 741.603- Valjoux 7741
This last manual wind model is perhaps the most interesting, because the Valjoux 7741 is in essence a hand-wound version of the Calibre 11/ 12. While the Chronomatic consortium financed the movement, the Buren base/ Dubois-Depraz module movement was assembled by Valjoux.
The 11630 was introduced in 1972/3 and all models used the Chronomatic family of movements. You can see that the case is a larger version of the 1163 with the following key points:
- Flat, larger bezel (still bi-directional)
- Pushers no longer visible from the front of the case
- Flat Mineral glass
- Lume dot at 12 o’clock in the silver triangle
- 11630 engraved between the lugs
The only variant of the 11630 is the Calibre 15 version, the 15630. Note the orange outline on the hour markers that is a hallmark of the 15630.
The 11063 is the final evolution of the Autavia case, and perhaps the ultimate third-generation case- it’s certainly the largest. The 11063 was launched in 1984 and only on sale for a couple of years. The key characteristics of the 11063 are:
- Uni-directional bezel with larger teeth
- 21mm lugs
- Calibre 12/ 14 only
The 11063 causes confusion for collectors, because some models are stamped as “11630” when they are clearly not- these are so-called hybrid cases. These small differences mean that the bracelets made for some 11063V cases will not fit nicely with a “11630” hybrid- for example, take a look below…this is the correct bracelet and end pieces for this case!
The very last Heuer Autavia series was the 11X.603 launched in 1985, a family of four models using the 11063 case, but with various coated finishes. The full range was:
- 111.603- Olive PVD
- 112.603- Pewter PVD
- 113.603- Black PVD
- 114.603- Gold-Plated
These models look great when they’re new, but the coatings are incredibly fragile, especially on the jubilee bracelets which were also coated. It’s very common to see these on NATO straps given the damage to the original bracelets.
Each model in this family has applied metal hour indexes and black or white contrasting 5-minute intervals on the 30-minute chronograph register at 3 o’clock. The case back is also unique to this model and very similar to that used on the first generation of TAG Heuer models.
How to tell the differences between 1163, 11630 and 11063V?
It can be a challenge to work out the differences in practice between these third generation models- we’ll take you through the main differences in the cases.
Autavia 1163 vs. 11630
Before we start on the case comparisons, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice that the watch we’re using as example of the 1163 case (actually a 1563) has the wrong dial- the dial comes from a 15630 (see the Orange outlines on the hour markers?). But we’ll ignore this problem, because it’s the cases that we’re looking at. This composite photo shows the top half of the 1163 and the bottom half of a 11630:
- Green circle shows the exposed pusher of the 1163 vs. the integrated pusher of the 11630
- Red circle shows the thicker lug of the 11630 case
- Blue circle shows the evolution of the hour markers
Let’s now look at the same two watches on a vertical split
Note the lume dot at the 12 o’clock bezel position for the 11630
Autavia 11630 vs. 11063
OK, next we have a comparison of two GMT models- the “11063” (a hybrid 11630 itself) on the bottom and the 11630 on the top:
- Red circle shows the wider lugs of the 11063
- Yellow circle shows no silver ring on the inside of the bezel
- Green circle shows the smaller bezel with deeper grooves/ teeth
- Blue circle shows the different hour-markers used- lume strips versus metal markers
Moving to a left-to-right split of the same two watches are you clearly see the larger case size of the 11063 and the smaller bezel
The “Real” 11063V Case
If you contrast the “hybrid” 11630 case with a 11063V case, you do see a couple of differences. Note how snugly the end-pieces fit the case compared to the earlier photo? Perhaps the biggest difference is the slight dimple in the case where the pushers are. It’s not quite a “cut-out” like the 1163, but it’s missing on the 11063 GMT case. The angles of the case lugs are also more pronounced on this “true” 11063. There are many examples of small differences between the cases used on what should be identical model Autavias, because Heuer used multiple case manufacturers, most notably Piquarez and Schmitz.
The Autavia Family
The Autavia case has been used on a variety of other Heuer and TAG Heuer models- so meet the family.
TAG Heuer revived the Autavia in 2003 with this re-edition- the first Autavia to wear the TAG Heuer logo. You can read all about the TAG Heuer Autavia here.
TAG Heuer Formula 1
Perhaps we’re now getting into extended rather than direct family members, but note that the current TAG Heuer Formula 1 series uses the same case as the 2003 Autavia re-edition, meaning that the essence of the third-generation Autavia lives on, albeit under another name.
Collecting the Autavia
The Autavia is one of the most collectible series, combing a genuine motor racing heritage, iconic movements (Valjoux 72 and Calibre 11/ 12) and a huge variety of dial and bezel combinations. The best place to start is our guide to buying vintage Heuer.
Over the last 5 years there has been a very strong move towards the 1960s first-generation Autavias. These are now the most sought-after Heuer models, eclipsing even the Monaco and Carrera. Generally, the earlier the better- big values for first execution large sub-dial models with the dauphine hands. Values are strong for all first generation models, with the 2446H/ M later executions commanding high prices. Expect to pay a premium for Valjoux 72 vs. 92- all other things being equal.
When it comes to the third generation models, if we had to pick three top models, two of those would be the two diver models (11630P- below and 11063P Diver 100). Bezel quality is critical here, and it’s worth reading up on the Autavia Diver 100 before jumping in.
And of course, the third model has to be the ubiquitous white and blue 1163T Siffert, as worn by Jo Siffert. Finding one with a Chronomatic logo will add a significant premium, but these are very scarce. The Viceroy 1163V is a popular and well-priced entry into the world of the Autavia.
The final category of collectible Autavias is the GMT range- and it does really matter which generation, as all are highly sought. The key is the bezel- you’ll find plenty of GMTs on the market with poor quality bezels- ignore those as you’ll find it almost impossible to source a quality original replacement.
So, in summary, the key models to look for are:
- First or second generation- earlier the better, premium for 3-register Valjoux 72
- Third generation- 1163T Siffert, 11063P and 11630P
- GMT- all variants, premium for excellent bezel condition
Finally, if you have the option, we recommend buying your Autavia on a bracelet, as these can be expensive to source separately. The key bracelet types are:
- First generation: Gay Freres double grain bracelet- End pieces- HL (19mm)
- Second generation: Gay Freres double grain bracelet- End pieces- HLB (20mm)
- Third generation 1163: Gay Freres single grain bracelet- HLF (20mm)
- Third generation 11630: Gay Freres single grain bracelet- HLD (20mm)
- Third generation 11063 and 11X.603: Jubilee bracelet (21mm)
The increase in value of key Autavia models speaks to a secret known to Heuer collectors for some years- these are wonderful watches with genuine pedigree and multiple options to choose from. Don’t fear that the Autavia is priced out of your budget, as there are still good examples of third generation watches in the affordable category.
It was sad that back in 2012 TAG Heuer did nothing to recognise the 50th anniversary of the Autavia, even if it wouldn’t have made any sense to celebrate a model that can no longer be bought new. The history of the Autavia is at least as storied as that of the Carrera, and collectors remain hopeful that one day we’ll see the famous Autavia name back in the TAG Heuer catalogue.
Join the Discussion
- Many of the photos in this post are from Abel Court of HeuerTime. Click on the logo above to visit Abel’s website, where you’ll see some great vintage Heuers for sale
- Thanks to Peter Moeller of http://www.watchsite.dk for his information and research on GF Bracelet types
- Arno Hasslinger wrote a brilliant book on vintage Heuers, of course including the Autavia: http://www.heuerchronographs.com
- See the wonderful http://www.vintageheuerautavia.com for more information on the Autavia models and some excellent photos
- Thanks also to TAG Heuer for access to archived photos and catalogues