Heuer Autavia 1563 Tachy (Albino)
Heuer Autavia 1563 T, Cal. 15, c1972 ‘Albino’
I bought this watch a long while back.. about 17-18 months ago. It was a bit of a punt, as it had a few issues. It had an incorrect crystal, handset from a Heuer Calculator and odd looking lume. Apart from that, the case was untouched being nice and sharp, plus the bracelet looked good.
This example has the ‘fat boy’ case, like that on the 1163 ‘Orange Boy’ and Siffert, the case is stamped 1563.. some were stamped 1163. Both black and silver dial versions are seen here in the 1972 Caliber 15 brochure on OTD.
The cosmetic issues bothered me, the dial/hands/lume/mint insert looked disjointed. A bit like having a lovely old Sub with faded insert, beautiful brown aged lume on the dial, but with brand new white hands.. it’s not a BIG deal, but it just looks wrong... same with this watch. The handset was like new, bright orange, although from a Calculator (with a paddle central sweep chrono hand), the lume on the dial was greeny.. maybe a relume, with a mint insert. Non of these elements sat well with the lovely sunbleached dial. The orange accents on the sub-dial had faded gracefully to a yellowy hue , the minute track fading to almost white.
Together with my watch guy, we tried a correct orange handset, it looked better, it was technically ‘factory correct’, but I still wasn’t ‘feeling it’ with the mixture of new & faded. (On a side note – whilst in this ‘factory correct’ state, this watch was photographed for the Autavia book!)
Eventually a white Autavia handset was tried.. and it did look much better, and had an almost ‘Super KonTiki’ vibe about it. The lume was next to get treatment. I had considered having it scraped out of the tramline hour batons, but this could be a messy/risky job, so decided to try to tint the existing lume. I aimed for a traditional honey/coffee/tobacco colour, to complement the faded sub-dial. Armed with a 0000 sized brush, and a steady hand.. several applications of tint resulted in a surprisingly fantastic finish to the lume.. beautifully textured and mottled in just the right ‘honey tobacco brown’.
In the meantime, I had been fortunate enough to win a NOS Autavia crystal on ebay. Finally the watch was sent off to have the hands relumed. Jimbo did a fantastic job, the texture was bang on the money.. but to make it have the perfect match to the dial, I tinted the hand lume just a touch with the same method as I did the dial.
The bezel insert was looking ‘too new’, being factory gloss black, so to bring it in line with the rest of the watch, I bleached it. It was a leap of faith, as I wasn’t sure what would happen. The silver of the lettering was dulled right down.. almost to matt white, but still with a hint of silver, more importantly, the gloss black had turned a really nice matt finish.
I’m now blown away by it.. the sum of the tweaked parts all come together to create something much more ‘whole’ and together. I know some may turn their nose up at it for having been artificially tinted lume, dulled down insert and an incorrect white handset, but I feel that the watch works much better in this state. For me, it’s a case of – it works better than if it was trying to be ‘factory’ correct. Plus, I’ve seen a few 1563’s over the years with heavily faded handsets and dials. Oddly, I have seen these with white hands before – sometimes called ‘Albino’, due to the loss of the colour accents. Just to finish it off perfectly, I made a distressed strap to match the lume.. and it really is a nice package now.. although, I have to admit, it looks wonderful on the signed Heuer ‘Japan’ market Beads of Rice bracelet.
This whole process has made me realise that it is the very subtle aged accents that make a vintage watch so wonderful.. and without these ‘aged’ hints on all components, it looks wrong.