When people in the world of fine watches talk about chronographs, one name often comes up: TAG Heuer. Since the company was founded by Edouard Heuer in 1860, TAG Heuer has pushed the boundaries of short interval timing measurement again and again – its expertise in this field has been a leitmotif throughout its history, backed up by several patents. Today, TAG Heuer is the only Swiss TAG Heuer Autavia Chronometer Flyback watch brand that has mastered the measurement of tenths, hundredths, and thousandths of a second.
TAG Heuer’s chronographs from the 1960s – the golden age of motorsport – are among the most sought-after remakes and re-editions of our time. One example is the Carrera, first presented in 1963 and named after the toughest road race of the day: the Carrera Panamericana Mexico.
The Carrera’s purist, functional dial, designed with intuitive readability in mind by Jack Heuer, founder Edouard Heuer’s grandson and today’s honorary chairman, qualified the model as a textbook watch for races, which became the choice for many professionals. Throughout the following two decades, the drivers of the Scuderia Ferrari – including Carlos Reutemann, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, and Jody Scheckter – all wore Carreras during their hazardous races.
The Monaco is the second classic chronograph and one of the rare timepieces – perhaps even the first – to gain fame on the silver screen. Worn in 1971 by Steve McQueen in Le Mans, a blockbuster film depicting the famous 24-hour endurance race, it became an instant success. Until today it has remained associated with the legendary actor nicknamed the “king of cool.”
But this is not the only reason for the Monaco’s stardom: when it was simultaneously unveiled in Geneva and New York in 1969, it was one of the very first chronographs powered by a self-winding movement. Until that moment, watchmakers had not built such a complex caliber to include a rotor for automatic winding. Back in the 1960s, the construction and production of such a movement was kind of a holy grail, and some big players, among them TAG Heuer, Breitling, Zenith and Seiko, raced against each other to be the first to introduce an automatic chronograph.
The first ones launched in the year of the moon landing were celebrated as milestone innovations. Yet, there was even another quite cool feature about the Monaco that also marked a premiere, namely its square case, which was the first water-resistant one of its kind.
Today, the Carrera and Monaco are probably the best-known TAG Heuer collections. However, there is also the Autavia, which was in fact the first racetrack chronograph by Heuer. Its name, a portmanteau of the words “automobile” and “aviation,” was first used in reference to aircraft and automotive dashboard instruments dating back to 1933.
In 1962 Jack Heuer applied the specifications for the cockpit displays – intuitive readability at every second and from every angle – to the format of a wristwatch. An enthusiastic supporter and official timekeeper of the 12 Hours of Sebring race, the chronograph pioneer knew exactly what he wanted for the Autavia: a wide, easy-to-read dial and a shock-resistant case, robust enough to endure the rough conditions of the speedway to provide precise timekeeping throughout the race.
To mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Autavia wristwatch, TAG Heuer is rolling out an automatic flyback chronograph in two executions, a textbook example how to transform historic looks into contemporary classics.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Chronometer Flyback features a 42 mm stainless steel case with flat lugs and a slim, bidirectionally rotating black ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale. The silver-colored dial together with the black counters creates a panda look like the one that distinguished some of the first Autavia models in the 1960s when a special edition of the watch was also produced for the German Bundeswehr pilots. Those timepieces were outfitted with a flyback complication allowing the measurement of consecutive times without having to first reset, making it a favorite for pilots and drivers.
While the dial and the bezel with their clean Arabic numerals feature an elegant yet fashionable style, the extra-large pushers and the likewise oversized crown confer bold accents.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Chronometer Flyback is powered by in-house manufacture Caliber Heuer 02, which boasts a power reserve of 80 hours and is officially certified as a C.O.S.C. chronometer. The automatic movement is equipped with a column wheel and vertical clutch.