Tag Heuer Rewrites History By Relaunching The Autavia As A New Collection
History always repeats itself. Watchmaking brands have taken the phrase to heart over the past few years, releasing countless new models that pay homage to their historical pieces. And while some may say that such a move lacks creativity, the fact is, the resulting pieces can be very impressive—if done right. And Tag Heuer has certainly ticked all the right boxes with its newly-revived Autavia collection.
The original Autavia (whose name is a portmanteau of the words “automobile” and “aviation”) began life as a dashboard instrument in racing cars and propeller aircrafts between 1933 and 1957. When production ceased, then‑CEO Jack Heuer decided that it deserved a second life and turned it into a chronograph wristwatch in 1962. The watch proved enormously successful and was popular among watch enthusiasts until its production once again ceased in 1985. In the years since then, vintage Autavia watches have had a robust following among collectors, which also means that the new collection has been greatly anticipated.
In reviving the Autavia, Tag Heuer was careful to retain the rugged-but-versatile sensibility that characterised the original pieces. The seven new references are all three-hand models, with a date window at 6 o’clock. Each has a 42mm-wide round case with bevelled lugs, which hark back to the first generation of Autavias from the 1960s. The choice to eschew the popular cushion-shaped case of later models is an interesting one—perhaps the rounded tonneau shape is just a little too vintage for a contemporary collection.
Of the seven references, five are in stainless steel, and two in bronze—a rather trendy material, whose warm hue lends itself well to the vintage aesthetic. The dial itself, available in blue, black or grey on the steel models, and green or brown on the bronze models, is treated with a smoky gradient finish that runs darker towards the edges. The dial effect is one that has been popular of late, perhaps because of its similarity to the natural patina of a real vintage watch.
As handsome as it is, the new Autavia is impressive even under the hood. All seven models house the Calibre 5, which has been souped up to Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) chronometer standards. More interesting is that all models in the collection are fitted with the cutting-edge carbon-composite Isograph hairspring that Tag Heuer first introduced in the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph earlier this year.
A hairspring is one of the most difficult parts to produce in a watch, and is of utmost importance in regulating its escapement. Even though many watchmakers claim that their parts are produced in-house, the truth is that there is only a small handful that produce their own hairsprings. For Tag Heuer to produce its own, let alone one this advanced, is very impressive indeed. The new Isograph hairspring was developed by a team of mathematicians, physicists and chemists, and is touted to be completely immune to the effects of gravity, shock and magnetism. Pairing the hairspring with an aluminium alloy balance spring also optimises the entire regulating organ’s thermal behaviour and aeroelasticity.
The Isograph hairspring reportedly has all of the rate-improving advantages of the much-touted silicon hairsprings that have recently become popular. The disadvantage of silicon hairsprings is that they are fragile and prone to breakage. The carbon‑composite Isograph, however, does not have this problem. All these mean that the Autavia watches are extremely accurate, reliable and stable.
The new Autavia collection looks to be a successful reinvention of its historical model, and is on its way to becoming Tag Heuer’s new icon that will likely be as popular as its predecessor.
(Related: Tag Heuer To Hold "Heuer Globetrotter" Exhibition In 10 Cities Worldwide)