The new Autavia watches by TAG Heuer are beautiful timepieces, 42 mm diameter, with bi-directional rotating bezel, a pilot’s watch aesthetic, and chronometer-precision movements which, though not entirely in-house, incorporate a new balance assembly. They are given an original appearance by the graded dial. They have interchangeable straps, bracelets and canvas NATO straps (supplied as a complimentary extra with the versions with steel bracelet) that can be purchased separately and changed by the owner without any tools. Water resistance is 100 metres. These are characteristics that should be part of any modern watch by a large and established brand, but usually they are not. The Autavia reflects the incredible energy of Jean-Claude Biver who arrived at TAG Heuer in 2014 and over the course of four years, entirely renewed TAG Heuer’s products and marketing.
The new Autavia taps into the current wave of interest in pilot’s watches, but it is based on a heritage running back to dashboard instruments in both racing cars and aircraft, reflected by the name Autavia. In 1962 Jack Heuer used the name for a chronograph wristwatch that was totally motor-racing oriented in its design. The new Autavia returns to the aviation aesthetic. Just as at Breitling, where the new CEO Georges Kern felt that a simple pilot’s watch was missing from the range and launched the Aviator 8, evidently Jean-Claude Biver decided that TAG Heuer should have a classic pilot’s watch, launching Autavia as a new family.
Pilot’s watch elements
The seven models in the new collection all have 42 mm cases, in stainless steel or bronze, with a 60-minute bidirectional rotating bezel that enables approximate readings for elapsed times. The crown is large, a traditional pilot’s watch feature. Hour markers and hands are coated in SuperLumiNova. The font used for the numerals is very nice, modern but with a touch of heritage. The dial colours for the steel-case versions are black, grey and blue, in a graded, textured finish. Personally I would have preferred the watch without a date window, but at least the calendar is well integrated into the design, connecting with the logo at the top.
The Calibre 5 is based on the outsourced Sellita SW 200 movement, but it has a new hairspring, manufactured by TAG Heuer in its industrial unit in Le Locle. Making their own hairsprings puts TAG Heuer into a very small and select group of watch manufacturers. This component is in a material called carbon-composite, a lightweight, low density substance that gives the hairspring excellent resistance to shock. It also improves its isochronism with respect to gravity and heat. The hairspring is mounted into the balance assembly that has an aluminium alloy balance wheel. This new technology enables the movement to be chronometer-certified, and it has been named “Isograph,” a trade name that appears on the dial.
The movement runs at 4 Hertz, and it is self-winding, with a 38-hour power reserve. Jean-Claude Biver’s policy for the brand was to highlight watches with in-house movements by means of sapphire casebacks or deconstructed dials, and so the Autavia has a solid caseback, with a nice engraving that includes a propeller and a tyre.
The collection comprises a total of seven references, with three dial colours, two models with steel bracelet, and two versions with bronze case and green or brown dial. For these latter models, the caseback is in titanium. Water resistance remains the same at 100 metres.
Price of the new TAG Heuer Autavia
Prices start at 3,400 Swiss francs for the version in steel with leather strap, and run up to 4,200 Swiss francs for the bronze case with leather strap. Or $3,500-$4,300, or €3,250-€3,900. The prices are another example of Biver’s influence: lower prices for watches with enhanced content and quality. Further information at https://www.tagheuer.com