TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
The TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph collection is comprised of both stainless steel and bronze watches, each housing cutting-edge carbon-composite hairspring technology. The chronometer-certified models also incorporate attractive features such as ceramic bezels and a quick release strap exchange system. This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph includes live images, specification details and pricing.
Every year, prior to Baselworld, numerous websites speculate on what novelties the big brands will unveil. While I never publish my own predictions, I do try to envisage which horological delights are likely to break cover.
This year, I thought that Rolex would launch the GMT-Master II with a ‘Coke’ bezel and jubilee bracelet, but I was wrong. The Genevan brand unveiled said GMT-Master II with a ‘Batman’ bezel with, as predicted, a jubilee bracelet. Rolex fans were no doubt cock-a-hoop about the arrival of this new watch. Personally, I struggled to stifle my incessant yawning.
In terms of TAG Heuer, I thought my prediction was a dead cert. It is 50 years since the avant-garde brand unveiled the Monaco endowed with the iconic Calibre 11. I was certain the Swiss firm would unveil a commemorative model of some description. Surprisingly, they did not. However, what TAG Heuer did reveal was a new stand-alone collection, the Autavia.
The Autavia is a name which will be familiar to admirers of vintage Heuer watches. However, prior to Autavia watches, the name was used for Heuer dashboard instruments fitted to racing cars and aircraft (1933 – 1957). Indeed, the name, Autavia, is an amalgam of the words automobile and aviation.
Over the years, Autavia has been used several times for Heuer and TAG Heuer branded chronographs. In Spring 2016, TAG Heuer launched the ‘Autavia Cup’, inviting the general public to choose their favourite Autavia model. The chosen watch provided the inspiration for a modern-day re-interpretation and was subsequently unveiled at Baselworld 2017. This model continues to feature within the brand’s collection of ‘Heritage watches’.
Despite the Autavia’s links with chronographs, TAG Heuer has chosen to launch each version of its new Autavia collection with just three hands and a date display. While my ability to predict the future is somewhat shaky, I am reasonably confident that Autavia chronographs are currently being penned in the brand’s La Chaux-de-Fonds HQ and will emerge with much fanfare at some point in the future.
Returning to the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph, the collection is comprised of five steel models and two versions in bronze. The Maison offers a selection of calfskin straps and stainless-steel bracelets. The bracelet is also supplied with a NATO strap. An ingenious push-button system allows a strap to be readily swapped for a bracelet and vice-versa. This system does not require tools and can be performed easily. TAG Heuer are proposing to sell an extensive range of straps and bracelets in order to allow wearers to personalise their Autavia.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph is offered with a stainless steel bezel or, alternatively, a scratch resistant ceramic bezel.
The prospective purchaser is indulged with an attractive choice of dial colours. The steel case version is available with a blue, black or grey dial, while the bronze version is offered with two dial options, brown or a becoming shade of green. The dial surface appears slightly granular, imbuing the horological vista with a fascinating texture.
The hue of the dial is comparatively light near the centre, increasing in darkness near the periphery. The hours are marked with bold Arabic numerals which are positioned in the darker area of the dial, providing greater contrast and augmenting legibility. The numerals are plump and said to be made of SuperLuminova blocks which provide a three-dimensional appearance to the indexes.
A key attribute of the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph is the readability of the display. The hour and minute hands are chunky but with pointed tips. A central sweep seconds hand features a luminescent section near its tip. The abundance of SuperLuminova on the hands and indexes delivers peerless nocturnal readability.
A chemin-de-fer proves a useful addition to the specification, helping the wearer read-off the minutes and running seconds. The date aperture at 6 o’clock is framed with a crisp, white border, enhancing the lucidity of the indication.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph is housed in a 42mm case, formed of stainless steel or bronze. The profile of each case is identical, but the bronze version is my preferred model owing to its warm hues. Quite simply, the bronze case feels special.
Save for one steel case version of the Autavia, all models sport a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel. The bezel is bidirectional and usefully marked with a 60-minute scale. The blue and green bezels look particularly stunning and evince a notably sumptuous character. Turning the bezel confers a pleasurable tactile encounter. A sense of quality pervades throughout.
The crown is large with a prominent grip. This grip is dissected with a recessed circlet, reminiscent of the crown fitted to some of the brand’s Formula One models. Despite the large format of the crown it does not impinge on the wrist. Its oversized dimensions were inspired by historical pilot’s watches and timers, where the crown would often be manipulated with glove clad hands. The size of the crown does not mar the handsome appearance of the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph.
The horizontal surface of the lugs and adjacent vertical flanks are satin brushed. However, TAG Heuer has looked to the past and incorporated bevelled lugs, a feature found on some Autavia models of the 1960s. The bevelled edge of the lugs is highly polished, providing a tasteful soupçon of brilliance adjacent the aforementioned satin brushed surfaces. The lugs do not taper sharply downwards but assume a gently curving profile. This has a tendency to make the watch head appear longer than its stated 42mm case diameter would imply. Personally, I think it imbues the design of the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph with an elegant appearance, however, it might prove overwhelming for some smaller wrists.
Contrary to the widespread horological trend of exhibition casebacks, the Autavia Isograph is equipped with a solid caseback adorned with the Autavia propellor and tyre insignia. The caseback is also embellished with TAG Heuer branding, the water resistance of the watch and the word, ‘Chronometer’.
The TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph is equipped with the brand’s Calibre 5 automatic movement. However, in this instance there is a twist. The Calibre 5 features the brand’s new in-house Isograph hairspring.
The carbon-composite hairspring was developed by Guy Sémon and his team at the TAG Heuer Institute. This patented technology provides useful benefits over Elinvar and silicium hairsprings. It made its first appearance in the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph back in January. However, that watch would only ever be made in small numbers. In contrast, the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph, incorporating the carbon-composite hairspring, will be sold in far greater volumes. This perfectly demonstrates that this ground-breaking know-how is not merely a theoretical study but a practical alternative to existing technologies.
Further discussion regarding the benefits of carbon-composite hairsprings can be found within my review of the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph and my subsequent interview with Guy Sémon.
The lightweight hairspring is ‘virtually unaffected’ by gravity, shocks and magnetism. The hairspring breathes concentrically, aiding precision. ‘Optimal thermal behaviour and aeroelasticity have been achieved by pairing the carbon-composite hairspring with an aluminium alloy balance wheel’. The Autavia Isograph is a certified chronometer.
The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 25 jewels. The spring barrel is capable of delivering 38 hours of autonomous operation.
Firstly, there is no escaping the fact that the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph is a gorgeous watch, irrespective of which particular reference is chosen. The graduated dials, ceramic bezels, use of SuperLuminova blocks and the bevelled lugs all conspire to seduce.
The problem with style is that it often comes at the expense of practicality. However, no such difficulties afflict the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph. The dial is eminently legible and the watch sits upon the wrist in blissful union.
Where TAG Heuer has significantly differentiated itself from its competitors is with the adoption of its in-house carbon-composite hairspring technology. This new hairspring is not susceptible to shocks or magnetic fields and its low-density renders it virtually unaffected by gravity.
For years, watchmakers have sought to improve isochronism with the use of variable inertia balances and Breguet overcoils. In the case of the carbon-composite hairspring, when the balance wheel oscillates to and fro, the hairspring breathes concentrically, free of any bias. The implication of ‘perfect concentric oscillations’ is enhanced precision. The chronometer certification validates the notable precision of this watch.
I now return to the theme at beginning of this feature, namely, predicting the future.
Firstly, I suspect the carbon-composite hairspring technology will appear in many more TAG Heuer watches.
Secondly, based on the brand’s prowess at making chronographs and the Autavia’s past associations with chronographs, I think it is highly likely that further Autavia models will arrive, some of which will be equipped with a stopwatch function.
And lastly, I still envisage that a 50th Anniversary Monaco will be unveiled at some point during 2019. This landmark is too important to pass without mention.
I’ve put my reputation on the line by making the three predictions above. I just hope that TAG Heuer saves my blushes and at least make some of my prophecies come true.
- Model: TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
- Case: Stainless steel or Bronze; diameter 42mm; water resistance 10ATM (100 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and solid caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date
- Movement: Calibre 5; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 38 hours
- Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with additional NATO strap or calfskin leather strap with matching pin buckle
- Prices: As at 9.4.2019
WBE5112.FC8266 – Blue dial and bezel, brown leather strap – £2900
WBE5110.FC8266 – Black dial and bezel, brown leather strap – £2900
WBE 5111.FC8267 – Grey dial with steel bezel, brown leather strap – £2850
WBE5112.EBO173 – blue dial and bezel, S/S bracelet & NATO strap – £3200
WBE5110.EBO173 – black dial and bezel, S/S & NATO strap – £3200
WBE5191.FC8276 – Brown dial and bezel, brown calfskin strap – £3500
WBE5190.FC8268 – Green dial and bezel, khaki calfskin strap – £3500