From the 1960s to the 1970s
The 1960s was a decade of rapid change in style, technology and popular culture. Consistent with this broader theme of change, in the first eight years of the Autavia chronograph, Heuer used a rapid succession of dials, cases, bezels, hands and other components, in offering two- and three-register models as well as GMT and date complications. Through it all, the Autavia emerged as the favoured chronograph of racers and motorsport enthusiasts.
The year 1969 would bring even more dramatic changes in the Autavia, as it would be powered by the newly-developed Caliber 11 automatic movement and housed in an entirely new C-shaped case. One thing that would not change, however, was the position of the Autavia as the chronograph of motorsport, as the Autavia would become even more popular among racers and their teams.
Wing and Wheel Logo of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
In the 1960s and 1970s, Heuer produced chronographs with a variety of logos, on a special order basis. We see many motorsport-related logos – for example, relating to the Shelby Cobra, Sunray DX and Cougar Trans Am teams – as well as logos related to street cars (such as Volvo, Audi Sport and MG) and aircraft (Beechcraft, for example). Considering the hierarchy of motorsport venues, and relatively scarcity of these watches, perhaps the most prized of all these logo-marked dials would be this Autavia with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway “Wing and Wheel” logo.
It is unclear who ordered these watches or how many were produced. The watch shown here was given as a gift from Tony Hulman, then the owner of the Speedway, to one of his business colleagues. The collectors community has seen fewer than five of these Wing and Wheel Autavias, making it among the rarest of the vintage Heuer chronographs.
Big Bucks for the Big Subs
December 2016 and January 2017 saw a significant break-out in prices for vintage Autavias, with two of the ref. 2446 “Big Subs” models setting records for vintage Heuer chronographs (other than the Heuers worn by Steve McQueen).
In December 2016, Christie’s sold a “Big Subs” Autavia with metal-edged hands for $125,000 at an auction in New York. While there had been reports of private sales of Autavias approaching the $100,000 mark, this public sale blew through that mark, with room to spare.
This record would not be on the books for long, however, as in January 2017 a Big Subs Autavia with all lume hands was sold for approximately $200,000 through a German dealer. The watch was listed on the Rarebirds.de site, and with social media support from Instagram, Hodinkee and the ChronoTrader forum, within six hours the watch had thousands of views and was sold to a private collector in the US.