Heuer "First Execution" Autavia
"In the autumn of 1961 I decided with my production team to create a new “Autavia” as a wrist chronograph. Until then we had never added a turning bezel to one of our wrist chronographs. We therefore designed this new “Autavia” to have a turning black bezel with a choice of division markers. A bezel with 60 separate one-minute divisions, for example, would allow the wearer to set a marker for a defined interval of less than one hour; a 12-hour division would allow the time in another time zone to be displayed; and divisions of 1/100th of a minute would be useful for time study purposes... Looking back I can say that the “Autavia” wrist chronograph was the first real wristwatch product I personally created for the company."
- Jack Heuer in his autobiography "The Times of My Life", p. 66-67.
2915-1. Double Swiss Underline. Say these phrases to a passionate sports chronograph enthusiast and they will immediately know what you are talking about, the very beginnings of the two of the most highly regarded chronographs models, the OMEGA Speedmaster and the Rolex Daytona, that began in 1957 and 1963 respectively and still exist to this day. Both of these watches were created with motorsports in mind, and have gone on to become cornerstones of two of the most prolific companies in watchmaking, helping them weather storms over half a century and evolving into two of the most recognizable and iconic timepieces ever created. But there is a watch with an even closer connection to the world of unadulterated excitement, speed, and the playboys that should be held in at least as high regard as these two familiar faces of the watch world, and will inevitably find its place in the core of the line-up of one of the most storied manufactures for years to come when it is reintroduced next year: the Heuer Autavia.
A portmanteau of the two disciplines it was aimed to encompass, that of the automobile and aviation, the Autavia was born in 1933 as a dashboard timer. It was superseded by the Auto-Rallye with a big central minute hand to make it incredibly legible, which then evolve into the Monte Carlo with digital hour recording. With the success of the Monte Carlo, the original Autavia dashboard timer was discontinued, leaving an abandoned catchy name. Jack Heuer and the design team in fall 1961 went to the drawing board to create one of the the first Heuer chronographs with a name and the first with a rotating bezel, allowing for a 60-minute timer, a rudimentary second time zone or a decimal scale. Launched in 1962, two variants were available, both manual wind: the reference 2446 for the three register version powered by the legendary Valjoux 72 movement as used in a certain Rolex Daytona, and the reference 3646 for the two register version powered by the Valjoux 92.
The earliest and most desirable examples are referred to by collectors as the "First Execution" and the dials of these models are distinguished by their large white sub-dials contrasting against black dials and painted radium hour markers to make the time as visible as possible at night. Due to the aging process, the luminous material no longer glows for extended periods and will generally have aged to tone ranging from soft caramel to burnt orange. The hands came in a variety of styles starting with hands entirely covered in radium, referred to as ‘all lume’, to a triangle-shaped insert of luminous material, and lastly a simple stick down the middle of the hand. These watches were introduced at a time of transition and at least two "First Execution" Autavia dials are known with the "T" signature above "SWISS" denoting tritium lume, while most have radium lume. All of these early Autavia watches have unsigned crowns and pushers that are slightly smaller than later generations.
While later examples made their way on to the wrists of such great drivers as Jochen Rindt, Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, and Derek Bell, it is the First Execution Autavia that shows the origins of this iconic model.