When you hear the word “Autavia,” you probably think of either an iconic “panda” dial with three counters or a “beads-of-rice” bracelet. You hardly imagine a watch with a blue, green, or brown dial, date display, and no chronograph push-pieces in sight.
However, that’s exactly the Autavia TAG Heuer announced at Baselworld 2019 along with the tag line, “The return of a legend.” To better understand where TAG Heuer is coming from, it’s helpful to know the history of the Autavia collection. The Autavia first premiered in 1962 and was closely linked to the automotive and aviation industries. It was a watch for an active lifestyle. We visited TAG Heuer at this year’s Baselworld to see if the new “Isograph” timepiece stays true to the essence of the original Autavia.
TAG Heuer’s stand featured numerous versions of the new Autavia. There was a stainless steel watch with a blue dial and bezel, a bronze version with a dark green dial and bezel, another stainless steel model with gray accents, and a bronze timepiece with a gray-brown dial. Gradients dials are a growing trend among brands this year, and we saw this in full force with TAG Heuer’s latest timepieces. Every new Autavia features a 42-mm case and a polished rotating bezel made of domed stainless steel or ceramic. This lends the bronze edition a “softer” note, which is quite appealing.
However, none of the new releases are chronographs. Every new Autavia on display was a classic three-hand watch. According to TAG Heuer, a new Autavia chronograph is still in the pipeline.
TAG Heuer’s immediate focus seems to be more on the latter half of the model’s name; “avia” stands for “aviation,” a reference to the brand’s historical links to flight. The “Aut” portion of the name stands for “automobile.” This focus is evidenced, in part, by the large, luminous indices that are easy to read in poor lighting conditions and a typical feature of pilot’s watches. If you take a closer look at the crown, you’ll notice that it’s split in two. This unusual design pays homage to the very first Autavia that was built into the dashboards of race cars and airplanes. To be sure, it’s more than just a design choice—this type of crown is particularly easy to operate.
The engraving on the case back will put any remaining doubts about this collection’s relationship to aviation to rest. The image of an airplane wheel and propeller (which also adorned the TAG Heuer booth) solidifies the link to the collection’s heritage.
Adventurers who like to match their watch to their attire or environment will be happy to know that there are endless band options available. You can choose from a wide range of calf leather straps or a steel bracelet (the version with a steel bracelet comes with a Nato strap as well). Seeing as many of us prefer quick switches in this fast-paced world, TAG Heuer has developed a system that makes it easy to change bands without any tools. All you have to do is slide your finger along the back side of the band to release it. Then, simply “click in” another band, and you’re good to go.
What exactly does the term “Isograph” signify, you wonder? TAG Heuer has equipped the automatic caliber 5, based on the ETA 2824, with a proprietary carbon composite hairspring. This material is incredibly shock resistant and impervious to magnetic fields, two qualities that benefit the adventurous among us.
Overall, the new Autavia had what it took to impress us “in the flesh,” so to speak. We were a bit baffled by the press images released prior to the exhibition, as the watch appeared to lack character. This was likely due to the fact that we still had the iconic vintage chronograph in our minds. Once the watch was put to the wrist, however, TAG Heuer’s intentions became clear: They’re introducing a modern watch, one that’s neither too sporty nor a vintage remake. Its case size (and thickness) is modest for TAG Heuer. It’s also available in a wide range of color combinations and features modern touches that will appeal to a wide audience. We’re curious to see how many additional Autavia models will follow in this watch’s footsteps.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph costs $3,500 with a leather strap and stainless steel bezel. The version with a ceramic bezel costs an extra $100. Set aside $3,950 for an Autavia with a steel bracelet and ceramic bezel. You’ll need $4,300 to purchase a bronze version.