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TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

It takes a certain kind of crazy to produce a three-hand version of one of the most iconic sport chronographs of all time, but TAG Heuer has never been shy about stirring the pot — even when it comes to its own history. Though Autavia in name only, its newest permutation still looks to do its namesake proud with an expertly proportioned case, a fresh, multi-layered dial design, a new toolless strap-change system, and a chronometer-certified movement with TAG Heuer’s new carbon composite hairspring technology. Even if it still feels a little visually safe, the new Autavia Isograph boldly skips the design cues established by its predecessor (y’know, that legendary multi-sport chronograph from the mid-’60s and ’70s) in favor of an all-new visual direction that hints at the future for TAG Heuer without totally forsaking its past.

Could you imagine a three-handed Speedmaster or Daytona? Just as I remember the odd feeling of sacrilege when sliding a Navitimer sans chronograph on the wrist, putting on the new three-hand TAG Heuer Isograph for the first time triggered the same reaction. But those sensations quickly passed, and what we’re left with is a safe, but markedly enjoyable and compelling, modern sports watch with a sneaky amount of forward-thinking technology under the hood. Ultimately, if you’re not sold on seeing more “’tavia’” than “auto” in this sporty mechanical icon, you’re probably best sticking with one of the Heritage models (like the recent Viceroy re-issue), which adhere to the original blueprint with impressive accuracy. Otherwise, I’d argue the Autavia name was never meant for literal interpretation, but rather to imply capability and versatility — which the new three-hand models bring in spades.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Since its creation in 1933 as a dashboard clock, the word “Autavia” has always been a portmanteau of the words “automobile” and “aviation,” aimed at its intended end-user, but with so much of TAG Heuer’s product catalog historically wrapped up in auto racing via the Carrera and the Monaco, it actually makes sense that the new Autavia skews more toward aviation than motorsport, due to its ultra-legible dial and bi-directional rotating timing bezel. It’s here that the Autavia starts to make more sense in its three-hand form — it’s simply TAG’s interpretation of the sporty and classic pilot watch, filling a void in the collection that’s existed for a very long time.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

As Ariel discussed in great detail in his news story on the Autavia Isograph, the watch is fitted with TAG Heuer’s Calibre 5 movement, which has been upgraded with its “Isograph” carbon composite hairspring, hinting at what’s likely to be the future standard of all of TAG Heuer three-hand automatic movements. We first saw this back in January during SIHH, when it seemed more like concept (albeit highly practical) technology, so it’s cool to see TAG Heuer already rolling it into more entry-level watches like the Autavia. Echoing some of Ariel’s prior sentiments, there are plenty of end-user benefits with the Isograph technology, as these hairsprings are neither metal nor silicon, meaning they’re simultaneously non-ferrous, and highly flexible, more durable than current silicon hairsprings. But perhaps more importantly – and likely why we’re already seeing them deployed in more economical watches – they can be produced in volume more cheaply than the aforementioned alternatives, and this is crucial.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Equipped with a date aperture at 6:00, the Calibre 5 movements are all COSC-certified, which is a nice touch, making the Autavia the brand’s most affordable chronometer and one of the most economical points of entry into this level of chronometric performance in Swiss watchmaking. Par for COSC certification, the Cal. 5 should deliver -4 or +6 seconds per day accuracy throughout its 38-hour power reserve. And thanks to the special hairspring, Autavia wearers should expect a watch that delivers better long-term accuracy, as it should be highly resistant to temperature deviation or magnetic influence. And though we can’t see the new movement behind the solid caseback (which is embellished with a cool propeller emblem), ultimately, it’s great to see TAG Heuer use the technology inside the Autavia to deliver a better, more value-driven product, without influencing the price-point.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Speaking of price, the cheapest way into the Autavia is going to be via the tonal stainless steel bezel, but the watch really sings with a ceramic bezel insert, available on the black-, blue-, and green-dialed variants. And at 42mm with a relatively compact lug-to-lug, the 100m water resistant case wears quite nicely on a wide variety of wrists (including the 6.5-inch wrist photographed). It exhibits contrasting brushed and polished lug facets, and is sculpted in such a way that feels distinctly “TAG Heuer,” which should be familiar to anyone who’s handled a modern Carrera or Autavia chronograph.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

But where the watch really breaks away from its namesake is in the dial itself — which is finely textured in a matte, degradé finish that starts out light in the center and gets darker as it reaches the sloped rehaut. Inspired by the font used on an early Autavia reference, each of the Arabic numerals is actually a singular raised block of Superluminova, which creates a subtle three-dimensional effect when viewed at an angle. It’s particularly cool in low light, seeing the sides of the lume glow, and not just the top. Each of the five minute markers in the dial’s chapter ring are punctuated with an angular “notched” metal insert — elements that bring a little more depth and character to what would otherwise be a pretty static matte dial.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

In addition to the different dial colors and case executions (I’ll say it right now – bronze and the smoky green is the one to own here), TAG Heuer has also made it easy for the layperson to swap out straps and the three-link bracelet as desired with a neat tool-less attachment system. And to complement this system, the Autavia is being launched with a full spectrum of different leather and nylon NATO straps, enabling the wearer to customize to their heart’s desire. Thankfully, the cases are drilled to accept standard spring bars as well, so you can use your own straps if you so desire. Combine these elements with a double AR-coated sapphire crystal, and you have the trappings of a watch that’s not just easy on the wrist, it’s extremely easy to photograph. I’d argue that TAG Heuer understands the importance a watch’s photogenic character on Instagram (just ask anyone who’s ever shared a photo for #speedyTuesday) and seems to be tailoring the Autavia accordingly for mass appeal.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

At first glance, the new Autavia is a pretty safe watch. Boring even. To some, indeed an Autavia in name only. But to others, it represents the future of the brand and a missing segment in TAG’s offerings from the last decade or so — something that mixed the capability of the Aquaracer with the easy, everyday wearability of the Link, while ratcheting back the bold, overly modern styling of both. Especially in bronze, it’s certain to endear itself to those looking for a sporty and classic Swiss-made automatic that doesn’t break the bank. The price of the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph watch starts at $3,500 for the variant with the stainless steel bezel and leather strap and jumps up to $3,950 for the bracelet variants. Head over to tagheuer.com to learn more about the new Autavia collection.

TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph Watch Hands-On Hands-On

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  • Sheez Gagoo

    Really not that bad. Unfortunately, the calibre 5 looks like a pimped 2824, but that’s ok for the price. My biggest complaint about the 2824 and it’s clones is the the way they made sure, that the rotor winds in both directions. With an annoyingly complicated solution with two wheels. Altough it’s quite an interesting solution, this @#%& wheels %& up after a while and you almost always have to replace them when you open the watch. A magic leaver solution à la Seiko is not that sophisticated but much more reliable.

  • The price seems high to me for an ETA 2824 or Sellita 200 more likely. Even in a higher grade execution this is a lot of money for the watch. I do like the dials a lot.

    • Larry Holmack

      Mark…off the subject a bit…but have you seen the Ronda R150 automatic movement yet? Just wondering.. as the “I” brand is selling watches with this “new” Ronda Movement.

      • I recall seeing the Ronda R150 at BaselWorld a few years back when it was introduced (2015 or so?). Just another Swiss made clone of an ETA 2824, so really the same as a Sellita SW 200 I guess. Nothing wrong with it but so far as I could tell, no changes or innovations either. The extent of my talking with the Ronda folks was about pricing which they confirmed would be about the same as an ETA 284 (in quantity 1000). Good to have additional sources, so this just joins the SW 200 and the STP-11 as Swiss made clones in addition to the Soprod which is the same size but not true clone as it is not parts compatible from what I read. Aloha Larry.

        • Larry Holmack

          I have an automatic with an SW 200…and as long as I keep it in a watch winder…it keeps really excellent time…but…all of my automatics keep excellent time in a winder. Even my late 1940’s Elgin Self-Winding Shockmaster that my late father wore in the Korean War.

  • What fresh hell is this?

    It takes a certain kind of crazy to produce a three-hand version of one of the most iconic sport chronographs of all time

    I suspect they knew they were on to a winner before the design study was even complete!

  • SuperStrapper

    Autavia in name only, and I assume the only reason they “decided” this was an autavia was to lean on the name, not expand the collection, as this should just be a new line.
    Regardless, i like the watch and find it quite handsome and wearable. Bezel inset absolutely looks better over the steel, and this is a strap watch. It loses all kinds of mood and aesthetic on the bracelet The dial is very cool, although applied over printed numerals would have looked far nicer, and I’ll say right here and now i suspect that to be a future update.

  • BNABOD

    It is not awful but it is so passable you fly over it without noticing it . Honestly it feels and looks like a micro brand offering almost trying too hard mixing many elements that do not seem to fit together properly .

  • IanE

    Not bad at all. Just cut the date window and cut the price!

  • I can’t quite put my finger on what bugs me…but the whole design feels disjointed. Taken separately I like the hands, dial, bezel etc. but they don’t look that they should be on the same watch together.

  • I would take boring any day if it means innovation where it counts, not just for the sake of it, if it means legibility in a relatively manageable size and all of this for not all that much money asked upfront. Nothing wrong with boring then.

  • JosephWelke

    I like everything about this watch. It just works. As soon as they make a GMT version I’ll have one with green dial and bronze case. Done.

    • SuperStrapper

      You know if they did that and it was a true GMT they’d have my money to.

  • Independent_George

    Reasonably priced, at least in the grand scheme of Swiss Mainstream Watch Pricing, but if TAG could have priced this $500 less across the board, from $3,059 to $3,595, I think these watches would have turned heads, as well as scared the crap out of competitors like Bremont and Breitling, though I kinda get the feeling that’s a small part of the reason why they didn’t.

    Usually, new Swiss watch tech trickles down, so good for LVMH and TAG for recognizing market realities and introducing this tech thru an affordable line-up. Hopefully, this tech makes it into the chronos and Mark C. finally gets a new Calibre 02 design with a solid dial.

    Story for me about this collection is Guy Bove’s influence. Solid and very legible dials cuts against the grain of JCB’s tendency to want to skeletonize eveything. Looking forward to see how and if his design influence makes its way into TAG’s other collections.

  • cyklopz

    Remarkably unimpressive.

  • Pete L

    Dials are cool and relatively good value entry level piece although could have been just a little cheaper? Good to see the strap change system too. Not sure about it on the bracelet but good to have the option.

  • I don’t understand why these Fossils have TAG Heuer on the dials.

  • egznyc

    I’m of two minds. It’s an attractive, inoffensive watch, and I’d be happy to have one (not sure which, as I like the bronze but I also like the option of a stainless steel bracelet). But at this price, I’d probably go for a Tudor BB (sadly I’m – or should I say my better half is – not quite willing to spend at this level, despite the use of the term “affordable” to describe this offering).

    Why no lume shot to show the effect described in the review?

    • NaJo

      You wrote my words! I dont have a bb and a gmt is spot on in the price range.. this tag could go for 25% off the shelf though in a year time!

  • GavinW

    Why is new watch technology never accompanied by any data demonstrating it is actually better that what currently exists. You can assume it is better but no proof.

  • NaJo

    I loved the grain dial and design, movement cosc cert but will never buy an eta above $2500 which includes all breitlings, iwc etc no matter if highly regulated. After $11k rolex, $5k speedy, my next price range fr a beater is $35-3900 and all new watches directly compete with tudor gmt and bb inc manufacture movts.

  • Larry Holmack

    My Tag that was stolen from our townhouse after Hurricane Katrina was an Aquaracer…but I like the Autavia Chronograph better. But…the Autavia is supposed to be a chronograph.

    Like you said… that’s like having a 3 hand Rolex Daytona…. it’s not what you expect. Whatever….

  • *yawn*

  • Hands90

    I’m really a fan of this watch.
    It’s really nice. Makes me look at a TAG!

  • Drazen B

    Imagine what we would do without intellectuals like yourself, to show us the light and offer a guiding hand is situations like those.

  • NaJo

    Yeah true that but theres high historical value attached to the speedy; an association with nasa is my catch being a tech guy and the same design as original moonwAtch… tag ? price is way over the top, though easy to het 25% straight off new stock which is still not good enough to compete with manufacturers tudor