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Many of the best drivers of the golden age of motorsports --the 1960s and 1970s-- strapped a Heuer timepiece to their wrists. And of all of them, it is perhaps the Autavia that is the most iconic of them all. Heuer first applied the name "Autavia" (a portmanteau of "automotive" and "aviation," signifying its intended use in both automobiles and aircraft) to dashboard clocks in cars and airplanes. But it's with the wrist-worn chronographs intended for use in motorsports that the name "Autavia" is best associated.
The earliest Autavias wrist chronographs were introduced in the mid-1960s and housed manually-wound chronograph movements. These early models had screw-down case backs, unusual for racing chronographs of the period. These were followed up by snap-back compressor cases for improved water resistance. In 1969, Heuer shifted to the larger, cushion-style cases that are most often associated with the model, primarily to accommodate the new Calibre 11 automatic movements.
This Autavia 2446C features the larger compression case snap-back case, fitted with a rotating bezel. The 40mm case is thin for its size, and the downwardly-angled lugs hug the wrist, making it great to to wear, and arguably the most comfortable of the three primary case styles. Its triple-register inverse panda dial is probably the most popular color way and configuration in the chronograph market, and this particualr example is supremely clean, with crisp printing, beautifully faded lume, and crisp white subsidiary register devoid of the discoloration and wear commonly seen on these models. It also comes fitted with a MH (Minutes/Hours) bezel insert, early barrel pushers, and a signed crown.
Internally, the 2446C is powered by the Valjoux 72 manually winding chronograph movement, also found in the Rolex Daytona and Universal Geneve Nina Rindt. The Valjoux 72 is generally regarded as one of the best chronograph units ever made, a further indication of the incredible quality that Heuer brought to market at the time. With its case profile, superlative movement and attractive dial, this generation of Autavia is about as perfect a vintage chronograph as you can get, and this example doesn't disappoint on any level. While values languished for many years, a recent surge in appreciation for the model is both a testament to the endurance of its design as well as its impeccable racing heritage.
Stainless steel compressor case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown and pushers). Heuer Reference 2446C. Valjoux Calibre 72 manually-wound chronograph movement. Circa 1968.
Overall Condition: Case is in excellent condition, with strong lugs and crisp bezels with only light signs of wear from age and use. Dial is in excellent condition with no noteworthy blemishes, spotting, or hand drag. Printing is crisp Luminescent elements on the dial and hands show a beautiful even patina. MH bezel insert has some discoloration and wear notable between 25 and 30 but is in otherwise very good condition. Case back is in very good condition showing light wear, and retains crisp engraving. Signed Heuer crown.
Includes 20mm black leather rally-style strap from Autodromo.