Heuer Auction Highlight: The 1st Execution Heuer Autavia Ref. 2446
The Heuer Parade is going to be an interesting auction to follow for a couple of reasons. First of all, this is the first auction dedicated to Heuer since the ‘Haslinger Collection,’ which took place seven years ago, when the Heuer collecting community was quite a bit smaller than the present day. Speaking of the present, this weekend’s sale will answer some important questions about the evolution of the Heuer market.
Second of all, some of the pieces included in this sale will be making their auction room debut, and we are excited to see the reception all forty-two watches will receive. Luckily, they will be surrounded by chronographs that are well-known to collectors, such as the ‘Dark Lord.’
Perhaps the most interesting reason to follow the sale though is Lot 3. The 1st execution Autavia has always been quite popular with Heuer collectors, but the entire watch collecting community started paying more attention to it when an anonymous buyer paid more than $200,000 for one in January.
Since then, early Autavias have been trading at Daytona prices. There are of course some important similarities between the two models. Both were made in the 1960s and are powered by the same Valjoux 72 movement. And while Rolex’s chronograph is the more iconic of the two, the Autavia is definitely the rarest. And that means the group of collectors potentially interested in one has grown quite a bit.
The Autavia is a watch that represented change at Heuer. Launched in 1962, it was the first watch designed under Jack Heuer’s stewardship of the brand, and it was the first chronograph to receive a name – the first hint that Heuer’s objective was to create a larger range around the first model.
The Autavia was also the first Heuer to feature contrasting registers, which the company felt made the dial more legible, and a rotating bezel. This last feature is perhaps the most significant, as Heuer could adapt the bezel in a number of ways to produce models with other functions, such as the GMTs and even, a small number of diving Autavias. All this to say the ref. 2446 isn’t just important on its own, it’s important because of the family of watches it spawned, which all contributed to Heuer’s success in the 1960s and 1970s.
Even after the recent flurry of Autavias offered publically, the reference remains a relative unknown on the international auction market. But one this is for sure, collectors will be tuning in before the auction starts to see what happens when Lot 3 is announced. The watch is perhaps the most well-known 1st execution Autavia.
For many years, pictures of this very watch have been used in books and in online forums to inform collectors about the origins of the Autavia line – it features prominently in Heuer Autavia Chronographs 1962-85, a book by Richard Crosthwaite & Paul Gavin. This is a watch without any secrets at this point. Every edge of its case and every detail on its dial have been put under the loupe thousands of times.
The bezel is in remarkable condition, with its radium fill at 12 o’clock still intact. The crown isn’t signed which is correct in early Autavias, while the small pushers are also original. The dial is a 1st execution dial, while the hands are 2nd execution hands – thin stainless steel edges frame the luminous material. Heuer introduced these hands very quickly when they realized the 1st execution hands were too fragile.
The present 1st execution Autavia is the most complete example we know of. It will be offered with its Original Certificate of Guarantee, a piece of paper that can take one watch from one level to the next.
The watch is Lot 3 in the Heuer Parade auction, taking place at La Reserve, in Geneva on November 11. It has an estimate of CHF 80,000 to CHF 120,000.