TAG Heuer Autavia Chronometer Flyback Hands-on Review

by Matt Clymo
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The Watch That Changed My Mind On TAG!

What we love:

  • Comfortable and easy to wear, light for its size and specs
  • Bang for buck in finish, movement and specs
  • Good looking design with vintage ques

What we don’t love:

  • Wears on the larger size for a 42mm mainly due to its height
  • Noisy movement and winding rotor (some may like this though)
  • Some wearers may find the dial harder to read at a glance with the lack of contrast in the numerals

Overall rating: 8/10

Value for money: 7.5/10

Wearability: 7.5 / 10

Design: 8.5/10

Build quality: 8.5/10

Tag Heuer has always been one of those brands that never grabbed my attention. I always saw it as a watch brand that was a little overpriced, and like a lot of brands, you’re paying for more marketing than the watch itself. Now, I have owned a Tag Heuer Carrera Heuer01 in the past, so I’m not adverse to TAG at all, but it has since moved on to make way for others in my collection. So when I had the opportunity to get my hands on the new 60th Anniversary limited edition Autavia Flyback Chronograph, I was looking forward to road testing the latest iteration of the distinguished Autavia line.

A Short History Lesson

Before we go any further, let’s take a step back and in case you’re not familiar with the Autavia model and its history, here’s a quick refresh. The Autavia wristwatch collection, the first product launched under the leadership of Jack Heuer 60 years ago, got its name from two pillars of TAG Heuer’s history: Automobile and Aviation, hence the name “Autavia”. Initially used for dashboard timers for cars and aircraft starting in 1933, the Autavia name would later make its way onto wristwatches as the segment became of increasing interest to the company. 

Fast forward 30 years to the late 1960s, it was Heuer who were most closely associated with a particular order from the German Bundeswehr. The reference 1550 SG – a model still very popular among collectors – was specifically created as a flyback chronograph for the Air Force to meet the special requirements of their pilots, who appreciated the ease of use and reliability. With the 60th anniversary of the 1962 Autavia model upon us, earlier this year TAG Heuer launched their 60th-anniversary edition to pay tribute to the classic Autavia, and this can be seen across many of the elements of the watch, and in this writer’s opinion, they’ve done a stellar job and it doesn’t disappoint.

A Weekend On The Wrist Was All It Took

Let me start by saying that wearing this watch was a pleasure. Whilst it wears slightly larger than its 42mm width, it’s not overbearing at all and fits quite well on my 18cm /7-inch wrist. It’s light for a watch of this size and specs, considering you’ve got an automatic flyback chronograph movement with an 80h power reserve, date function and crystal case back. Once I put it on my wrist, I think I was smitten with this model.

The Design

TAG Heuer has done a great job with the design and specs of this watch. As mentioned, 42mm in diameter and whilst wears slightly larger due to its case design and height – almost 16mm high. However, it’s in no way cumbersome or overbearing on the wrist, most probably due to its weight and 50mm lug to lug width.

The slimmer bidirectional bezel design assists with this, being only a few millimetres wide, and smaller in-set numerals and minute track just add to the slimming effect. The contrasting black hour and minute chronograph dials offset the silver dial beautifully, and this is further enhanced by the multi-dimensional aspect of the dials, with the hour and minute tracks sunken ever so slightly, with the numerals and hands on a raised circular dial to give a subtle, but differentiated look to conventional sub-dials.

The lower small seconds sub-dial in white helps to balance the overall look, and the date function at 6 O’clock is kept small, not to ruin the symmetry. Given this reference is a nod back to classic automotive and aviation-style watches, the silver rhodium coated numerals, filled with SuperLuminova take inspiration from a historic Autavia reference, the 73663, which included a dial variation that also featured large luminous Arabic numerals. Even with the lack of contrast, I found the dial easy enough to read during the day, although some people may not, however at night the hands and numerals come alive with generous amounts of SuperLuminova.

Another tribute to classic racing chronographs is the start/stop and reset pushers, with styling reminiscent of screw-down pump pushers, but without the hassle of having to screw and unscrew when in use. In operation, they are easy to use, and with the Calibre Heuer 02 using a column wheel (visible through the case back) and vertical clutch, there’s no lag or jump on starting, and the Flyback chronograph works just as it should, seamlessly and fluid. Rounding out the retro style is the larger than a standard screw-down crown, a tribute to classic pilot’s watches. With a double lot of knurling, it grips easy and looks even better topped off with the TAG Heuer logo embossed in steel on a ceramic insert.

Whilst initially I was not 100% sold on the black alligator strap, due to the fact it felt a little flimsy and less robust than the leather straps I was used to, I very quickly changed my tune once I fastened it to my wrist. It’s light, easy to put on, and soft, so there’s not much if any of that traditional “breaking in” period. In fact, it feels like I’ve been wearing the Autavia for a year and the strap moulds perfectly to my wrist. Adding to this, I was pleasantly surprised to find that TAG has introduced a quick change mechanism to the strap, allowing an easy strap change with the pull of the clasp on the underside of the strap. The watch still comes with standard spring bars, so you can change to an aftermarket or other TAG strap of choice that fits with the 21mm lug width.

The Calibre Heuer 02 Movement

Peering through the sapphire crystal caseback, you’ll find the COSC rated Calibre Heuer 02 movement. It is well finished, and with a skeleton styled black DLC coated rotor, you can appreciate more of the movement and its design. Whilst you won’t find high horology finishing on the movement, it is finished in Cotes de Geneve on the main plate and enough open real estate so you can see the column wheel, the balance wheel and chronograph minute dial cog among others.

One aspect that really impressed me was the 80hr power reserve that comes with this new movement, even more so knowing that the Heuer 02 runs off a single barrel and vibrates at 4hz adding to this, TAG has achieved this movement with as little as 168 parts! Incorporating both a column wheel and vertical clutch, you get the best of both worlds for the chronograph movement: a fluid start, less wear and tear and the ability to have the chronograph function running across the day with little to worry about.

The one point to note on the movement is that is quite loud. During the course of the day, you can hear (and feel) the rotor moving, and when it’s winding the movement. Some people may not like this, but personally, I do as I feel it gives it a more tactile quality and connects the wearer with the watch. Somehow creating a bond with the watch, knowing it’s doing what it’s meant to do.

Final Thoughts

Let’s revisit the headline – This is the watch that has changed my mind on TAG Heuer. After writing this, it’s been on my wrist for an entire weekend and hasn’t disappointed me. It’s a great wearing chronograph. Whilst wearing on the larger size for a 42mm watch, it’s extremely comfortable and light. The vintage styling, the quality and Calibre Heuer 02 movement make the 60th Anniversary TAG Heuer Autavia Flyback Chronograph a complete package, and at $9,100 AUD for the steel and silver model reviewed here, represents value for money when compared to other brands with similar specs and styling. It is a great all-around watch and one that this writer will be a little sad to give back.

Reference: CBE511B.FC8279

Specification:

  • Case: 42 mm, Lug-Lug 50mm and thickness 15.68mm
  • Case Material: Steel polished/Sand-blasted
  • Dial: Grey
  • Crystal: Sapphire crystal and sapphire crystal caseback, anti-reflective coating inside
  • Water resistance: 100 meters
  • Movement: Calibre Heuer 02 COSC Flyback
  • Power reserve: 80 Hours
  • Strap: Black Alligator leather strap, Pin Buckle – Alternate Steel

Australian Recommended Retail Price: $9,100.00 AUD

Availability: From TAG boutiques and Authorised Dealers, Made in limited quantities

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