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Now, six decades later, TAG Heuer has chosen to remind us of all this with the Autavia 60th Anniversary editions. These are three new pieces, all in 42mm of stainless steel: a pair of flyback chronographs on quick-change leather straps powered by TAG Heuer’s 80-hour, chronometer-certified Heuer 02 calibre, and a GMT (second time zone) model on an unfussy bracelet I rate as one of the best-looking in the business. The chronographs are the first marked Autavia to carry the stop-and-restart flyback function, originally created to keep track of lap times in a pre-computerised age.
One of the flybacks is coated in black DLC (a hard coating called diamond-like carbon – £5,800), making the silver panda-dialled version (£5,250) the more versatile. The pick for me is the blue-dialled GMT model (£3,500) with its bi-directional, black and blue ceramic bezel for indicating day and night. That bezel isn’t an original solution – Rolex, Seiko, Oris and TAG Heuer itself have all been here before – but it enters today’s feverish stainless steel sports watch market with unassuming élan.
But would you go for one? As ever with a watch, there’s consideration of its place. Despite the prestige of being Jack’s first watch, Autavia doesn’t enjoy the chart-topping status of designs such as Carrera and Monaco (which debuted in 1969). If you know Heuer history, you’ll remember the company was bought out in 1985 by Techniques d’Avant Garde – hence TAG – and that by that time, most of Jack Heuer’s design catalogue had been canned, inexplicable though that now seems. Autavia was binned along with Carrera, Monaco and more besides, and it wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that they began to reappear. Carrera and Monaco were reborn in 1996 and 1997 respectively, but Autavia had to wait its turn till 2003.
And perhaps because of that additional six-year hiatus, it’s never quite reignited consumer imagination as its more famous stablemates have. More significant, arguably, is that it also doesn’t have one immediately recognisable form – some Autavias have heavier bezels, others barrel-shaped cases with integrated lugs.
But in the same breath, this makes Autavia more intriguing than Carrera or Monaco, which together have formed an almost impermeable layer that defines, and limits, our understanding of what TAG Heuer is. Autavia is a pillar of the 20th century Heuer story on which the brand stands today, and more than worthy of its place on the grid. That it’s also a crossover “everywhere” watch that fits the “if there were only one” bill, is a happy by-product of its 60-year legacy.