Posts Tagged ‘Autavia’
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.
Heuer Autavia 2446C Tachy (Early), Valjoux 72, c1968-69
I bought this wonderful watch back in July, and I can’t believe it’s taken so long to get it on the blog. I may as well get it out of the way now.. I think this is my favourite watch – in fact, I think it’s one of the best looking vintage watches out there. I know that might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s only my humble opinion.. but I really do think it’s perfect for me.
I do have a soft spot for the Valjoux 72 Heuers, having 3 others, but this one is definitely my favourite. I think it’s the simple monotone design coupled with that perfect coffee coloured lume. It came my way through a ‘want to buy’ request on the OTD Heuer forum, and fellow Heuerista, Jamey came up trumps with this cracker. It did originally arrive with a rather battered min/hour bezel… but I happened to have a NOS Tachy bezel in the back of the drawer, and it transformed the look spectacularly. The watch has seen some life, not being a safe queen.. the case having slight battle scars, but it is nice and sharp and unpolished. I actually like it all the more for the ‘non-mintness’, as I don’t pamper it, it has become almost a daily wearer. In fact, I enjoy it so much, it has made me realise that I have far too many watches that I rarely wear.
So, it’s a circa 1968-9 compressor case model, and fairly large for a watch from that era, being 41mm without the crown. Although this is an earlier 2446C model, this is a later version of this particular mk/generation, having a plain caseback and fluted pushers. The model that came after it featured red highlights and different hands/hour batons.. see it here. The correct metal bracelet for it is a Gay Frères (GF) beads of rice, but they are hard to find and cost a small fortune. I had this old jubilee bracelet in my box of straps, which suits it nicely – but this watch is perfectly at home on a NATO, dress leather or vintage style rally.
Recently discovered photos show James Hunt wearing a Compression cased Autavia, most probably a 2446. It seems he was a bit of a Heuer fan, with other photos showing him wearing a panda dial Carrera 2447NS, many years after it was released (on both a GF and rally strap), and possibly wearing a gold Carrera 1158.
Heuer Autavia 2446C GMT Mk4, Valjoux 724, c1970/71
Like most Heuer collectors, I have a thing for any of the GMT’s, and while most are popular amongst the Heueristas, it’s the 2446 examples that seem to be highly appreciated by the wider watch world. Maybe it’s the classic styling and the Valjoux 72 based movement (v724), either way it’s a prized watch. I did have a 2446C GMT already, albeit with a very faded bezel, and I was in the process of contemplating having the bezel milled out and an aftermarket insert fitted (the bezels on these are one piece, you can’t just replace the insert – it’s printed directly on a solid bezel). Then, this beautiful example came along.
It was a little serendipitous, as the seller – a fellow collector in the US saw my ‘Mitsukoshi’ panda dial Speedmaster conversion, and we chatted via email as he wanted to do the very same mod. Which he eventually did, and was so pleased with the outcome, he listed this stunning GMT on the Heuer forum. I spotted it and fired an email, and it was mine.. thanks Jim, I owe you a beer!
So, what can I say about this lovely thing – well, it’s a 2446C Mk4, the last GMT in the 2446C case, and it’s a marvel, in amazing condition having spent many years in California, them onto Jim in Indiana, then onto me.
Together with it’s younger son, the 11063 GMT – last of the Autavia GMTs.
White chrono hand mystery…
Common knowledge would say this has a white central chrono hand from an earlier model – (which is something I’m pleased about, I think it looks much better with a white hand, usually seen on the 2446 screwback, I don’t know why Heuer changed to red!). The odd thing is, I did some digging around some of the old catalogues to see if indeed it should have a red hand, and I can’t be absolutely sure it should actually be red. I found some back and white line drawings in some of the catalogues, and it looks white – but this just might be artistic license in the line drawings. Also, in the history section of the TAG Heuer website, they have a photo of this same model with a white hand, also with a rather fetching lime green/yellow GMT hand. This is of interest, as the later GMTs hand this greeny/yellow hand, so maybe it is a transitional ‘last in production’ model. Note that TAG Heuer have stated ’69, but that is for the 2446 model range, not that specific watch.
Either way, I prefer the white hand, and if I ever spot a greeny/yellow GMT hand, I’ll bag that too!
Above. Screengrab from TAG Heuer’s website
The GMT is also seen in one of the catalogues (with red chrono hand!) pictured with a GMT Super Autavia dash timer, and the Red Arrows, stating “Used by the RAF Red Arrows in the London to Sydney Air race. I’ve hunted around for info on this air race, with not much luck.
Heuer Autavia 11063 MH/Decomp ‘Alpha Orange Skunkworks’ Custom c1973 with ’83 case
I’m aware that many Heuer collectors may be shaking their heads or simply thinking ‘why?’.. why take a perfectly good and original 11630 orange/black and convert it.. some may label my creation a ‘franken’, and let’s be perfectly clear here – technically, yes – it is a franken. Allow me to explain..
The early 70’s 11630 orange/black was one of the first serious Heuer chronos I bought.. a long time ago. My budget was limited, and it was a bit rough around the edges.. still, I was very proud of my new watch. I had it for some considerable time, then eventually sent it off to Jimbo, my go-to watch man, to fit a new crystal.. and I remember him emailing me back, with some photos – saying that the dial and hands were in remarkable condition.. I was so surprised.. as the heavily scratched crystal didn’t really allow a good view of the dial. It turned out to be a great stroke of luck, the dial and handset was, well.. quite simply, the best I or James had seen. Deep orange accents with sublime original lume.. all factory fresh, the dial perfect in every way. Result!
Thing is.. I rarely wore the watch.. it didn’t feel right, it didn’t sit well on my wrist. This I can’t explain.. I’m a big fan of the 11630 case, and have several , I wear them all with no problem at all. But this one, just didn’t feel right.. weird. I’m fully aware that there are minor case differences across the 11630 range, there were two case suppliers, and I’m guessing that the shape may have differed over the years, but we are talking about miniscule difference.
So, as it wasn’t getting any wrist time, I decided to sell it… Then, in a mad moment I thought “why not try it in a 11063 case”, and the seed was planted. It appealed to me, because I love the big ol’ 11063 case, I think it’s may favourite. I guess it was a case of ‘sell the watch or try a different case’. At this time I was reminded of Abel’s stunning custom PVD Heuer – the ‘Abeltavia’, it was a brave move, but had a great reception amongst the Heuer fans.. as he wasn’t hiding it’s ‘franken-ness’.. it was an open an honest custom – and it looked great.
Time passed, and the project was put on the back burner, while I seeked out a 11063 case. Eventually one popped up, from a fellow US Heuerista, and I traded a bracelet for it. The case was a little worse for wear, but no major dings. I sent it off to the Belgium master, Abel, who did superb job refinishing the case., and I don’t say it lightly – it’s one of his best.. it’s so sharp it’s just wonderful to study.
So, with the case sorted it was good to go to Jimbo, who expertly put it all together with a new crystal and a black glass gasket – every detail ticked.
The results are amazing. I have a choice of two NOS bezels too – Decomp or Min/Hour. What I really like about this watch is the involvement of many people in the Heuer world that I have come to call friends.. I was drawn in to the chromos by Pauls great site – Heuerworld, and learned a great deal from Jeff’s OTD, the original watch was from a US collector, the 11063 case sourced from Lanny in a trade for a bracelet I got from AndyO. The movement is freshly serviced by Rich Askham – one of the best in the business (who incidentally said that the movement was a dream, like new!), the M/H bezel is from RichC, the Decomp bezel is from AndyO via David D (fromCal.11.com), the case by Abel, at a slight discount in trade some help I gave him recently, and finally the putting together of it all by Jimbo.. it’s a celebration of some good Heuer friends, and purely for that, it’s a great thing to me, and I love it.
Heuer Autavia 11630P Diver Decomp Tropical Dial, Cal. 12, c1974
It’s astonishing how time flies.. back in August 2012 a three way trade with two fellow Heuristas resulted in me saying goodbye to my 1163 Viceroy, and welcoming in this 11630P. That’s its official name, I added ‘decomp’ to highlight the decompression bezel, although it was only available with this bezel.
This particular c1974 example has obviously seen quite a bit of sun, and the dial has turned a stunning tobacco brown ‘tropic’ colour, and there is some fading to the orange accents on the minute subdial. It’s quite wonderful. I tried to capture it in the photos, to little success I’m afraid, although the ‘dial shot’ does give a hint, it clearly noticeable in daylight. Under artificial lights, it does have a deep grey appearance too. Also noticeable are the amazing ‘blued’ subdial hands. I haven’t checked all my Autavias, but I’n pretty sure those with white subdials have these blued hands, although they generally look black. Maybe the sun-bleaching has made them more noticeable in this case. I don’t normally go for modern rubber straps on Autavias, but this ‘Breitling Pro Racer’ style seems to suit this special Autavia down to the ground. This is a truly special watch, and belongs to an elite group of Autavias that has directly applied hour lume plots, like you see on most of the GMTs, it gives it a real tool-esk appearance. So, if you want the GMT look without the added hands and red/blue bezel, this is a winner.
This example also had the pleasure to feature in the Autavia book (grab a copy – it’s highly recommended and makes a great coffee table book – with amazing photography).
So, why ‘P’?
Simple really.. like many of Heuers models, they used French descriptions, ie. N = Noir (Black). P simply means Plongeur, or Diver – probably where ‘plunge’ originated! Oddly, the P coding was never used prior to this model, even for the Heuer divers, but it serves as a way to distinguish it from other 11630’s in catalogue listings and other official paperwork. As this shares the same case with other 11630 models, there is nothing special ‘specification wise’ that makes it more suited to diving than any other 11630.. or any of the cushion case Autavias.. but I feel that I still need to file it under the ‘Heuer Divers’ category. Is it rare.. well, that’s subjective. I won’t hazard a guess at how many are out there, but it certainly isn’t common, and many tend to have seen a hard life.. all I’ll say is.. if you see a good one, buy it.
How does the decomp bezel work?
Well.. I’m writing this from memory, so hope this is correct… as I understand it, it shows how long you have before you have to decompress..
You turn the bezel so the 12 o’clock triangle lines up with the minute hand, like any regular divers bezel. As you can see, you only have approx. 5 minutes at 60 meters depth.. but 9 minutes at 50m, 15 minutes at 40m, etc etc.. the last marking is right around the bezel, so at 18m you have 56 minutes to dive. Please let me know if that’s wrong!
Mystery 1163 version..
It is first seen in the 1972 catalogue.. clearly listed as 11630P Diver, but if you look closely, you’ll note that it if housed in an earlier 1163 case, with acrylic crystal, also it has no bezel lume pip. It was presumed that this might be an ‘art dept’ error, as these have been seen before – a pre-computer version of a ‘photoshop fail’. But in the last few years, 1163’s have surfaced which have this 11630P style dial. Some have decomp bezels, some don’t. Best guess is that it was a very short-lived run, and they switched quickly to the 11630 case. Here is an example that a fellow Heuerista acquired, being discussed over on the Heuer forum – as you can see, it too has a tropical brown dial.
The next time it is seen (in available catalogues), is in the 1974 catalogue.. and this is the only time it is pictured with a bezel lume pip. That’s why I’m suggesting this one is from c1974, as opposed to later, although it’s possible the insert was replaced at service – these details are unknown.
You can also see it in the 1978 catalogue, and it makes a cameo appearance on the wrist of a diver in the 1984/5 catalogue. I know it’s hardly visible, but I have a copy of the catalogue, and it is more clear in the flesh, see last photo below.
Also, it’s worth noting that one of the coolest dudes on Earth wore a 11630P.. Sir Mick Jagger. In fact, you might call him a ‘Heuer Guy’, as he also owned/owns a 70’s Carrera… more info here on OTD.. Jagger’s Heuers.
There is a great write-up over on Cal 11..
Historic prices from OTD.. ’72 = $275, ’74 = DM620, ’78 = $439, ‘85 = 1,050DM.
1972 Catalogue.. But is the 1163 cased variant..
1974 Catalogue… First time seen in 11630 form in available catalogues.. and the only time seen with a lume pip on the bezel.
Not technically ‘shown’ in the catalogue, but the photograph of the diver in the water is wearing one..
Heuer Autavia 15630 MH ‘Hellenic’, Cal. 15, c1972-5
All watch collectors will know that you don’t really get to choose which watches become firm favourites. Sure, there are the ‘grail models’ that we chase, but every now and then we might take a punt on a watch, simply because it’s in decent condition and it’s fairly good value.. but surprisingly become rather attached to it. This Cal. 15 is such a watch. It was knocking about eBay for ages.. hanging around in my ‘watched items’ list, but I really wasn’t bothered by it.. it just sat there, being re-listed several times as seemingly, no one wanted it. I can’t remember exactly why I finally bid on it.. probably beer was involved. My bid won and it winged its way from sunny Greece to my door.
I was pleasantly surprised by its fine original condition. The most striking feature is its wonderful Hellenic sun bleached hands and dial. The original orange hands and dial accents have faded to a beautiful textured yellow.. the hands are especially nice, as they have faded more towards their bases – which may seem weird, but if you think about it, the tips spend more time in the shade of the watch case than the base – but that’s just a (terrible) theory. Either way, it has a lovely sun-bleached look.. I guess the watch-nut term would be ‘tropic’, but that really is more of a ‘black to brown’ dial term.. so I like ‘Hellenic’, given its time basking in the Greek sun, it seems rather appropriate.
The next problem was finding a strap for it.. it just didn’t look right on anything I had.. until I stuck it on an old DB10 strap.. and wow, what a combo. I know straps are personal taste, but if ever a strap & watch match was made in heaven, this is it! Thinking about it – maybe I should try it on a GF too.
This model is noted in catalogues 72, 74, 75.. Here it is in the 1972 Brochure over on On The Dash
Heuer Autavia 2446C Tachy, V72, c1971-2 (2446C 2nd dial/hands)
Some of the most sought after Heuers are the early screwback Autavias, and they are indeed very special. This iteration is what replaced the screwback cased models.. it is a compression snapback case, hence the ‘C’ in the model code. These are bigger and chunkier than it’s processors.
Some prefer the more elegant case of the screwback, but I’m certainly a fan of this bold angular C case. They are awkward to capture in a photograph, but in the flesh, they are lovely.. and big for a vintage watch of the early 70’s. Lugs went up by 1mm to 20mm, the bezel dominates the top down view and is a touch under 41mm across, with the bigger fatter crown it comes in at 44.8mm.
This is the last iteration of the C case, and features fluted pushers, ‘tramline’ applied hour batons, inlaid with a thin black stripe – as are the hands. The outer track also has red highlights on every hour and features the red straight sided arrow chrono sweep hand that found it’s way onto the majority of all Heuers that came after. It also has fatter sub-dial hands, and of course, powered by the legendary Valjoux 72 movement. You can clearly see the black/red/fluted pushers DNA in this watch providing the ‘link’ between the early models and the later cushion case Viceroy colour scheme that we are all familiar with.
The exact ‘Mk’ of this model is a little confusing, as it was originally graded from the very first Autavias, which makes this (at time of writing) a 2446C – Mk5 dial, Mk5 hands.. but there are tiny iterations of other models that have been discovered, which pushes up the ‘Mk’ number. The latest thinking has made things more simple.. instead of working out which elements are which compared to the entire range, we just look at it from the point of view of the 2446 C case range.. and there were x2 dials, this being the 2nd. It is also far simpler to say that this is the last C case Autavia made. It also has a plain polished caseback, with the small concentric circles on the edge to mark where you open the case.
It’s bold design gives it a tool-like appearance, and as such is one of the few vintage Heuers that looks great on a NATO type strap. I know many don’t like them, but if you’re a fan, it does look great.. I tried some different colours, and they suit it well too. I was lucky enough to source a NOS bezel for this model, and it really sets it off. In fact, the Argentinian Airforce opted for this model for issued equipment. Here is an excerpt from an issued model that sold at Bonhams a while back..
“The Argentinean Airforce was supplied with batches of Heuer watches during the late 1960’s and 1970’s. The case differs in size and construction from the earlier Autavia and a new so-called compressor case with snap on back was introduced, sealing the case from differences of internal and external pressure. The crown is larger and Heuer signed and it has larger chronograph pushers with a fluted design. As these were tool watches, very few have survived in pristine condition.”
(Please note, the date given to this watch is incorrect)