Heuer Brings Back a Classic: The Autavia Reissue

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While Basel is full of brand new surprises this year, one of 2017’s biggest stories really started last year. Back in 2016, TAG Heuer announced a contest to design a reissue of the classic Autavia line, allowing the public to vote on their favorites between a wide selection of classic Autavia models. After long deliberation, the winning choice was the 2446 Mk. III “Jochen Rindt”: a stunning three-register made famous by the only man ever to win the Formula 1 World Championship posthumously. The new 2017 Autavia not only pays tribute to this classic design, it also shows off some of TAG Heuer’s latest in-house manufacture expertise and exhibits a bold new sales strategy for the brand.

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Like so many modern reissues, the new Autavia has been upsized from the original. This can be the downfall of a heritage-inspired design, but the TAG wears the new size better than most. It’s only a modest increase from the original 39mm to 42mm, and the proportions remain somewhat balanced. The case finish remains pure vintage as well, eschewing more modern mixed surfaces for a flashy 100 percent polished look.

Case shape is similarly classic Autavia, although the long straight lugs of the 2446 “Rindt” might be less instantly recognizable than the later tonneau-cased Autavias. The bezel, however, is as always the Autavia’s signature dish. Big, coin-edged, bi-directional and with a bold diver-style hours scale, this black aluminum piece has always set the Autavia apart from other racing chronographs of the era. It shouldn’t work, by all means, but it does brilliantly as it has for the past 55 years. Finishing off the case are midsize mushroom-style pushers and a beautifully signed crown.

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The dial is a brilliant recreation as well. Simple applied indices, pointed rectangular hands, and three reverse-panda snailed subdials build up a classic chrono image, but it’s the details that really set the new Autavia apart. There’s “old radium” lume here, but so sparingly it comes across as an accent rather than a false attempt at patina. It’s far more tastefully done than most. The original Heuer shield emblem is also present here- no TAG emblem to stick out among the midcentury design elements. The only other dial text is a small statement at 6, right above the date window. These two words point to one of the Autavia’s new tricks: the Heuer 02.

The Heuer 02 is TAG Heuer’s newest flagship automatic chrono movement, offering a very competitive punch. First breaking cover in tourbillon form for the Carrera Heuer-02 T, the version presented here is slightly more modest but still boasts some solid features. It’s a column-wheel integrated chronograph movement beating at a smooth 28,800 bph, and although it’s hidden here the finish is quite nice as well. Some of the dress-up work on this new flagship includes broad Côtes de Genève across the movement plates, red anodizing on select components and an intricate, wheel-inspired signed PVD rotor with additional Côtes de Genève. As the first “mainstream” application of the new movement, the Autavia has a hefty responsibility to bear but it’s solidly equipped when compared against its rivals in the $5,000 price bracket.

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The other major responsibility the Autavia bears is its role in TAG Heuer’s overall brand strategy. This represents TAG’s first foray into the “fast fashion” concept- think Zara or H&M. From the moment the Autavia was unveiled at Basel, it went on sale worldwide, and as revolutionary as that concept’s been for the clothing world in the past few years it’s nearly unheard of for horology. It’s an idea that could only have come from TAG and their marketing wizard Jean-Claude Biver, and the logistics of it are very impressive in concept, especially for a complex manufactured product like the Autavia as opposed to a simple shirt.

However, it’s difficult to say if the concept will translate well. Trends move extremely fast in the fashion world, and for the most part watch trends are far more gradual. It’s a less reactive process in general, as designs slowly evolve and iterate over years rather than the clean slate approach clothing makers take every season. Watches themselves, of course, have a much longer lifespan than the average article of clothing as well. That said, the hype train still moves as quickly in the watch world, so this concept may have some merit.

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All in all, it’s an impressive reissue from TAG Heuer, combining old-school good looks with a new movement platform and a bold sales strategy. At an announced price of $5,150, it should make a strong impression on the market.


For more, check out TagHeuer.com

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Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection. He is also the Feature Editor and Videographer for Speed Revolutions.
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