It was just a week ago that TAG Heuer unveiled the Connected Watch, the first smartwatch from a Swiss luxury watchmaker. That could very well end up being the future (or at least part of it) for TAG Heuer, but if we dig back into the pre-TAG, pre-battery past of the Heuer brand, beauties like this are waiting.
The Autavia is one of the best-known watches from racing watch maker Heuer, from well before it was acquired by industrial manufacturer TAG in 1985. It was one of the first automatic chronographs in the early 1970s, and via a strange promotional partnership with Viceroy cigarettes in 1972 it is sometimes credited with saving Heuer from bankruptcy. It's usually these later Autavias that people think of, with tachymeter (speed measuring) bezels and barrel-shaped cases.
This earlier 1967 Autavia is from the second major production series (called "second execution" by collectors) of the line, and it has a few distinguishing characteristics. First is the case. It's round, with the long twisted lugs found on a lot of watchcases from this era, since most were produced by the same few suppliers. It's just under 40mm across, which would have been very big for the era; today it wears a lot like a modern watch. Instead of the tachy bezel of later models, this has a dive-style bezel, graduated to 60 minutes. The dial is extremely open, with a lot of matte black space between the silver stick markers and white subdials: Below the Autavia and Heuer signatures, the only branding is a tiny "Swiss" at 6 o'clock.
The little details on this watch are all right, too. The edge of the bezel and the contours of the lugs haven't been overpolished, so you can still see the original shape and textures. The luminous dots on the dial and the luminous paint filling in the sharp hands have faded to a rich orange color, exactly what you want on this watch. Turning the Autavia over, you can still see the caseback engraving looks just like it did when the watch was new. This is a good sign the watch has been properly cared for, as this is some of the first stuff to go if a watch isn't handled right. Inside is a Valjoux 92 movement, which is manually wound and operated via the traditional pump pushers on either side of the crown.
Vintage Heuer prices have started climbing over the past few years. They haven't quite caught up to the likes of Rolex in general, but there has been a steady rise since a first-execution Autavia fetched $25,000 after premiums at an Antiquorum auction in September 2013. Just a few weeks ago another first-series Autavia sold on EBay for almost $45,000. It remains to be seen how much upside is left on a watch like this, but it's unlikely we've yet reached the peak of the market for these early, rare examples.
This vintage Heuer Autavia is available at Analog/Shift and is priced at $28,000.