Even before Steve McQueen made TAG Heuer’s square Monaco famous in the 1971 racing film Le Mans, the brand’s Autavia had become a go-to watch for some of that period’s most illustrious drivers, including Jochen Rindt, Derek Bell and Jo Siffert, who acted as an ambassador encouraging fellow drivers to wear Heuers.
Launched in 1962, Autavia (a name coined from the words “auto” and “aviation”) traces its roots to the watch company’s dashboard timers built for automobile and aircraft instrument panels going back to 1933. For the brand’s first wristwatch, the then-new CEO Jack Heuer reinterpreted those early clocks as chronographs for the wrist with maximum legibility. A rotating bezel assisted with precision time measurement.
This year, TAG Heuer marks Autavia’s 60th anniversary milestone with a trio of 42 mm stainless steel models—two flyback chronographs and a GMT.
“You will see the 1962 case brought back to life,” says Guy Bove, TAG Heuer’s creative director. “For the turning bezel, we reused the one on the original because we thought it was a perfect design.” To bring it into the 21st century, designers added robust, scratchproof ceramic. Syringe-style pushers with knurling and oversize crowns take direct cues from the early dashboard timers.
The flyback chronographs, powered by the new in-house Calibre Heuer 02 COSC Flyback, mark a first for Autavia. The flyback mechanism allows you to stop, reset and restart the timing function with a single push of the reset button, which is useful for timing laps.
The silver panda dial version (shown, $6,300) takes its inspiration from ’60s-era Autavias, including a 1969 model worn by Siffert, which has since become a holy grail for vintage watch collectors.
The black model ($6,950) is a salute to Heuer’s early military dashboard timers, which had black metal casings and black dials with painted Arabic numerals.
The three-hand GMT ($4,200) is a first for the collection, though it harks to the 1970s-era Autavia GMT chronographs. The GMT is designed for ease of use—simply adjust the blue-and-black rotating bezel to accommodate the time difference and you can read the second time zone with the orange hand.