An In-Depth Look at the Early Autavias (1962 through 1969)

By Rich Crosthwaite and Jeff Stein

Images by Paul Gavin/heuerworld.com

On March 10, 2016, TAG Heuer announced that it would re-issue the Autavia in 2017, with enthusiasts selecting the model to be re-issued from among 16 choices dated 1962 through 1969.  There is great interest in these “Early Autavias”, and at the request of TAG Heuer we present this detailed look at these models. 

Fifty four years after Heuer introduced the Autavia chronograph, we can put this watch into its proper perspective.  The Autavia was Heuer’s first chronograph to have a model name, as the previous chronographs were identified only by their reference numbers.  The Autavia was Heuer’s first chronograph to incorporate a rotating bezel, a useful tool for measuring elapsed time, for determining speed over a measured distance, or for tracking time in a second time zone.  Perhaps we explain these first two attributes by the third unique aspect of the Autavia – it was the first wristwatch that Jack Heuer, the great grandson of company founder Edouard Heuer, personally created for the company, at age 30.

These 10 Autavias cover the range from the very first models, introduced in 1962, to the first automatic Autavia, introduced in 1969

These 10 Autavias cover the range from the very first models, introduced in 1962, to the first automatic Autavia, introduced in 1969

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Step-by-Step Disassembly of a Chronomatic Movement

In a November 5, 2015 posting on the OnTheDash vintage Heuer discussion forum, one of the members of our community (Gianluca) provided a beautifully illustrated, step-by-step description showing the disassembly of a Caliber 15 chronograph movement (known as the “Chronomatic” movement).  The Chronomatic was the first automatic chronograph movement, and this family of movements was used by Heuer, Breitling, Hamilton and several other brands from 1969 into the 1980s.

While few of us collectors would even consider undertaking such a project, all of us can learn some important lessons from this posting.  Learning about the parts and construction of the Chronomatic movement will help us understand how these machines work, and will also facilitate communications with our watchmakers and other collectors.

ChronomaticDisHeader11

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Introducing the Best (Looking) TAG Heuer Carrera Ever

As a vintage watch enthusiast, I will admit that our community can be tough on the companies that produce modern watches, especially when it comes to how today’s brands re-issue some of their legendary watches.  If the brand is too literal in re-issuing one of its classic watches, we say that the company lacked creativity or imagination.  If the new watch strays too far from the original one, we accuse the brand of misusing a legendary name.  As much as members of the vintage community sincerely want to embrace the modern watches offered by our cherished brands, it can be difficult.  Why are registers so close together?  Why can’t we have a 12-hour recorder?  Why is the watch so thick?  Why is the watch so expensive?  Sometimes I wonder whether it is even possible for the old-timers to be genuinely enthusiastic about a modern watch.

TAG Heuer Carrera CH80 -- Four

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Everything Old is New Again -- Inspirations for the New Carrera Calibre 36 Flyback

In a posting just prior to Baselworld 2013, we pondered the question of what the new Carrera Caliber 36 chronographs would look like.  We had some excellent clues, from the “Teaser” image posted by TAG Heuer in the run-up to Basel, and were able to make some good guesses about the appearance and features of these new chronographs.

TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 36 Flyback Racing -- Detail

Now that TAG Heuer has introduced the the Carrera Calibre 36 at Basel, and released photographs and specifications, we can provide an introduction to these chronographs.  We will begin with a description of the watches, and then explore some Heuer history, to understand the origins of these watches and place them in the context of Heuer’s heritage.

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Arriving in 36 Hours: TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 36 Chronograph

The BaselWorld fair, the biggest annual event in the watch world, opens on Thursday, April 25.  BaselWorld 2013 promises to be especially important for TAG Heuer, as the brand continues its year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Carrera and introduces new watches that will push the frontiers of “haute horologerie”.

This year’s fair will also mark the last Basel fair for TAG Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin, as he will soon depart to become CEO of Bulgari.  Since his arrival at TAG Heuer 13 years ago, Babin has focused on Heuer’s unique heritage in motorsports and its accomplishments in precision timing.  We can expect to see more of both these themes in the watches TAG Heuer will introduce at Basel.

TAG Heuer Calibre 36 Carrera

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Heuer's 28800 VPH Chronograph Movements . . . Here's What I Know

With the listing for sale this morning of four Heuer chronographs powered by the 28,800 movements, it seems timely for me to assemble what I know about these movements into a posting. I have done some research into these movements, involving experts from the era when they were produced (say, circa 1970), current personnel at TAG Heuer and another collector who owns a watch powered by a 28800 movement. I had planned to conduct a lot more research, and then publish a comprehensive webpage on these movements . . . for better or worse, let me publish the information that I have assembled (as of July 8, 2011 . . . I suppose that completion of this project will be like finishing so many other projects in the queue . . . maybe it will happen / maybe it won’t.

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New Wine in Old Skins . . . New Movements in Old Watches

In recent months, we have made considerable progress in understanding the development of the Caliber 11, 11-I and 12 movements, with the result that we are able to study the parts in a paritcular movement to determine the “correctness” of the movement. At the same time, we have begun compiling a database of Heuer serial numbers, which has allowed us to establish approximate dates for many of the Heuer chronographs.

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