There’s no shortage of evocative nameplates in TAG Heuer’s back catalog, especially when it comes to chronographs and other sports watches. While cornerstones like the Carrera and Monaco have continued from their ‘60s origins to the present day with their original character intact, the Autavia series has evolved more drastically over time. 2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the Autavia line, and in the six decades since its 1962 introduction the series has run the gamut from serious engineering-minded tool watches, to the watches of choice for international racing drivers, to military-issued pilot’s chronographs, to faithful recreations of those same classic racing watches, and into its current guise as a pilot-inflected series of “adventure watch” three-handers. To celebrate this enduring and adaptable series, TAG Heuer has unveiled not one but three new Autavia references, all of which pay tribute to different stages in the line’s evolution. The new collection, which includes two variants of the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph as well as the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands, honors the Autavia’s legacy as a technical innovator with a pair of new movements while adding nods to the series’ varied history through its eclectic modern design language.
The TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands and both versions of the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph all measure in at a sporty 42mm, with cases forged from stainless steel. The overall case forms are shared with the rest of the current Autavia line, combining a coin edge bidirectional bezel with strongly brushed vertical case sides, and athletic lugs featuring a tapering polished chamfer. Both chronograph models use screwdown mushroom pushers to add to the sense of retro-modernist masculinity in images, while also ensuring solid water resistance. All three 60th Anniversary models are topped with polished ceramic bezel inserts, with silver engraved scales that add a touch of brightwork to the design. For the 24-hour insert of the Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands, the brand opts for a classic and masculine black and navy blue colorway. Both Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph models use a cleaner all-black look for their inserts. Of course, the most striking visual difference between the three models is the black DLC finish of the second chronograph variant. This tactical black-on-black color palette gives the athletic design a far more aggressive look in images, and pays oblique tribute to the Autavia’s legacy as a pilot’s watch for militaries around the world including the German Bundeswehr and the Israel Defense Forces. TAG Heuer finishes the cases of the Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph models with sapphire display casebacks, showcasing the newly developed in-house flyback chronograph movements within. For the Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands, the brand instead uses a closed caseback, but tops this element with an ornate engraving of a wire wheel and an airplane propeller in tribute to both halves of the Autavia name (a combination of “automotive” and “aviation”). All three models in the series offer a respectably sporty 100 meters of water resistance.
Although there have been previous GMT complications in the Autavia line, the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands is the first-ever Autavia GMT model not to also include a chronograph. With that in mind, the dial of this new model is something of a groundbreaker for the brand. Rather than completely reinventing the wheel, however, TAG Heuer cleaves close to the layout of the modern three-hand Autavia. The broad Roman sword handset and rounded applied Arabic numerals give the design a flieger-adjacent look in images, without fully committing to the archetypal pilot’s watch design. The dial colorway is likewise familiar territory for the brand, with a rich navy blue sunburst main surface complemented by pops of vibrant orange. TAG Heuer wisely keeps the use of this potentially overwhelming hue restrained, and even the spear-tipped orange GMT hand is remarkably slim in images. Overall, the dial of the first-ever non-chronograph Autavia GMT is a versatile and cleanly restrained design that sleekly integrates both the automotive and aviation sides of the series’ character, and reinforces the current line’s reputation as all-rounder “adventure watches.”
By contrast, the dials of both TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph models are less groundbreaking but more visually striking. For the black DLC model, the brand doubles down on the blacked-out military aesthetic with a deep matte black dial surface augmented by a dramatic mint green lume fill. TAG Heuer gives this mostly monochrome design some visual depth through its 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock subdials, which combine a sloping chapter ring with a raised azurage central section for a unique terraced look in initial images. For the stainless steel chronograph model, the brand goes back to the Autavia’s motorsports roots with a racy silver and black panda dial layout that evokes the rare Reference 2446C SN Autavia from 1968. As with many of the brand’s modern sunburst dials, the silver finish is dynamic and deeply grained in images, with a stark contrast between highlights and lowlights. The use of bright white lume, polished dial hardware, and a pale gray low-contrast running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock gives this model a more gentlemanly, luxe feel than its stablemate in images, with a drastically different sense of visual weight distribution across the dial.
TAG Heuer powers both versions of the Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph with its new in-house Heuer 02 COSC Flyback automatic chronograph movement. As the name suggests, the Heuer 02 COSC Flyback adds COSC certified chronometer accuracy and flyback chronograph functionality to the brand’s flagship Heuer 02 movement. Performance is otherwise unchanged from the base Heuer 02, with a massive 80 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. The Calibre Heuer 02 COSC Flyback’s finishing is sleek and modern in images, featuring matching Côtes de Genève across both the bridges and the black DLC skeleton rotor. TAG Heuer also highlights the column wheel in blazing red, making this sought-after chronograph element an immediate focal point. For the Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands, the brand turns instead to the Sellita SW300-based Calibre 7 COSC GMT automatic GMT movement. Although purists may decry the use of a quickset 24-hour hand instead of the more desirable “true GMT” quickset local hour hand, this reliable powerplant adds COSC certified chronometer accuracy to one of TAG Heuer’s horological mainstays. The Calibre 7 COSC GMT’s power reserve performance is decent if unspectacular, with a 42 hour rating at a 28,800 bph beat rate. TAG Heuer completes both versions of the Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph with classic black alligator leather straps, but this dressier pairing clashes somewhat with the aggressive black DLC model in images. Meanwhile, the GMT model receives TAG Heuer’s angular, brushed stainless steel take on the three-link oyster style bracelet.
With a host of horological upgrades and a trio of designs that pay subtle homage to the Autavia’s past and present, the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands and both variants of the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph offer a suitably eclectic and capable tribute to six decades of the Autavia name. All three models will be available through authorized dealers in January 2021, with an MSRP of $4,200 for the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary GMT 3 Hands. The stainless steel and black DLC versions of the TAG Heuer Autavia 60th Anniversary Flyback Chronograph will be priced at $6,300 and $6,950, respectively. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.