Field Guide to the Heuer Autavia, Reference 1163 (Black Dial)

Yesterday, on the TZ-UK Watch Talk discussion forum, I posted a photo showing four versions of the Heuer Autavia, Reference 1163, each with a black dial.  A reader of that forum (under the name “even neve”) posted a message, stating, “Very nice – but don’t see the point in having four watches looking all the same. Maybe you could mod some of them ?”  Well, that would be an interesting idea . . . “modding” (modifying) a vintage Autavia.  Two of the watches have the same polished steel hands, so perhaps I would replace one set with some bright orange or red hands?  Three of them have the same black Minutes / Hours (MH) bezel, so perhaps I could find a more colorful bezel for one of them, perhaps something in the “Pepsi” colors?  Four stainless steel cases?  Maybe one of them would look nice in black PVD. 

Of course, most collectors of the vintage Heuers would consider the idea of “modding” any of these four Autavias to be heresy.  Still, the posting made me realize that people who are not specialists in particular type of vintage watch may not see, and appreciate, the distinctions between the different models and executions.

I thought that it might be interesting to slice apart the photo of the four black Autavias and describe the most important differences between the watches.  Some might call this an “Idiot’s Guide” to these watches.  Rather than being judgmental about those who may not be familiar with the vintage Heuers, we will remain more neutral by calling this a “Field Guide.”

Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive description of these watches or a discussion of their various technical features.  There are additional executions and variations of these models that may be important to some collectors.  Instead, this Field Guide will provide a simple overview of these four versions of the Reference 1163 black Autavia.  This Field Guide is intended to help the reader who finds a black Autavia at a flea market or garage sale, and is trying to determine whether it is the common “Viceroy” model that we find every day for $1,500 or the super rare “Chronomatic” that may be worth $20,000. 

For additional information about each of these four models, plus 75 additional Autavia models, readers may wish to review our Autavia Reference Table.

Four Reference 1163 Black Autavias

General — Cases for the Reference 1163 Autavia measure 42.3 millimeters across the front and 47.5 millimeters, from lug to lug, with a thickness 15.6 millimeters (back of the case-back to top of the crystal).  They are 2o millimeters between the lugs, and have the reference number “1163” marked between the lugs. 

First Version — Autavia, Reference 1163 MH (Chronomatic)

Autavia Reference 1163 MH (Chronomatic)The first version of the Reference 1163 MH Autavia is distinguised by the “Chronomatic” name above the “Heuer” shield, with the word “Autavia” appearing on the lower half of the dial.  The “Chronomatic” and red hash marks are larger, and more promonent, than on later models.  The applied steel markers have ridges; the hands are polished steel with luminous inserts.  The cut of the case and the length of the pushers gives the appearance that the pushers extend far from the case, giving this watch the look of “big ears”.

The “Chronomatic” version of the Reference 1163 MH Autavia was produced for a very limited period (in 1969), and these are among the rarest of the vintage Heuers.  In a decade of collecting, I can recall seeing three of them, and I am proud to say that at one time I had two of them.  Estimated value for a nice one . . . probably in the $20,000 range (though there are so few samples that any estimate is only a rough guess).  If you find one of these in a flea market, the best advice is to see how quickly you can pull out your wallet and buy it!!

You can see more photos of the Autavia Reference 1163 MH “Chronomatic” Autavia in the OnTheDash Gallery.

 

Second Version — Autavia, Reference 1163 MH (Ridged Markers)

Autavia Reference 1163 MH (Ridged Markers) On the second version of the Reference 1163 MH Autavia, the “Chronomatic” name is no longer being used, and the dial follows the more common configuration — model name (“Autavia”) above the Heuer shield and “Automatic Chronograph” on the bottom half of the dial.  The applied steel markers (with ridges) and the polished steel hands with luminous inserts continue from the previous “Chronomatic”.

This version of the Autavia was introduced in late 1969, after Heuer had ceded the “Chronomatic” name to Bretiling.  These Autavias are relatively rare, with collectors paying a premium for the “ridged” markers.  Estimated value for a nice one . . . probably at least $4,000.

You can see more photos of this version of the Autavia Reference 1163 MH in the OnTheDash Gallery.

 

Third Version — Autavia, Reference 1163 MH (Polished Markers)

Autavia Reference 1163 MH (Polished Markers)The primary change from the second version of the Reference 1163 MH Autavia to the third version is that the “ridged” markers are now replaced by polished steel markers, with luminous inserts.  Following Heuer’s customary approach, (a) the white inserts in the markers contrast with the black dial, and (b) the polished hands are updated to match the markers, so they have black inserts to “match” the inserts in the markers. 

This version of the Autavia was likely introduced around 1970/71, with production continuing into 1972.  These Autavias are scarce in today’s collectors’ market, though not as scarce as the two previous versions.  Estimated value for a nice one . . . in the range between $3,000 and $4,000.

You can see more photos of this version of the Autavia Reference 1163 MH in the OnTheDash Gallery.

 

Fourth Version — Autavia, Reference 1163 V (Viceroy)

Autavia Reference 1163 V (Viceroy)The fourth model of the black-dialed Autavia Reference 1163 includes three major design changes.  A Tachymeter (T) bezel has replaced the Minutes / Hours (MH) bezel of the earlier models; hands are brushed steel, with red inserts and red triangular tips; and the chronograph hour recorder has all 12 numbers, rather than only the 3, 6, 9, and 12.

This version of the Autavia was offered in a Viceroy cigarettes promotion at a deeply discounted price, commencing in May 1972, with the promotion continuing through the end of 1972.  Even after the Viceroy promotion ended, Heuer continued to produce this model, with dealers offering either the T or MH bezel.  This chronograph is known as the “Viceroy” Autavia, whether it was purchased through the cigarette promotion or through a dealer. The Viceroy Autavia probably had the highest production of any Heuer chronograph in history, and these watches are among the most abundant in today’s market.  Estimated value . . . $1,000 (for a beater) to $2,500 (for a really nice one).

You can see more photos of this version of the “Viceroy” Autavia in the OnTheDash Gallery.