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In 1962, Jack Heuer inherited the company that his great-grandfather had founded in Saint-Imier nearly a century before. He had already played a role in the design of some watches, starting with the Solunar in the late 1940s. But in 1962, the responsibility of running the company fell on his shoulders, and he found himself faced with the daunting task of safeguarding his ancestor’s legacy while at the same time forging his own.
The Heuer name was not unknown in racing and flying circles. Starting in 1911, when the sport of automobile racing was still in its infancy, the company produced dashboard clocks for cars, boats, and even airplanes. So when Jack Heuer, a longtime racing aficionado, took the helm of the company, he saw an opportunity to revitalize—or at the very least reexamine—the company’s already-successful line of chronographs.
He first tried his hand with the Autavia, which at the time of his succession was a stopwatch with complex dial. This proved problematic when he was acting as navigator for Swiss driver Samuel Heuer (no relation) during a rally in 1958. Jack Heuer misread his 12-hour Autavia stopwatch by a full minute, causing his team to come in third.
By 1961, he felt that the Autavia stopwatch had become “redundant,” and therefore ripe for a revitalization.
In its place the brand launched the line of Autavia wrist chronographs. This was the first line of chronographs produced by Heuer to have a model name. Furthermore, the Autavia was purpose-built for “skin-divers, sportsmen, and scientists”, according to an ad in 1962, with a handful of iterations coming with a rotating bezel, a first for the brand.
From it's birth, the Autavia wristwatch was optimizable for the wearer; buyers could choose an Autavia with a tachymeter bezel, an hour bezel, a 12 hour bezel (which could also function as a GMT), and a minutes/hours bezel.
Over its twenty years of production, the look of the Autavia changed subtly, as Heuer continued to refine and improve the model. The first generation Autavias (from 1962 to 1968) remain perhaps the purest expression of the model, and command millions of dollars at auction. In 1968, to succeed the first generation, Heuer released an Autavia with squared-off lugs and a “snap-back” or compression (rather than screw back) case back.
1968 also saw the introduction of the Reference 7863C (C for Compression) Autavia Dato. Heuer had released chronographs with date functions before, starting in the late 1940s, but the Reference 7863C was the first Autavia to feature a date function. Like the other Autavias, the Dato was released with MH, T, or H bezels, like the one featured here.
This particular Dato is powered by the Valjoux 7732, a 2 register chronograph caliber with added date function.
Owing to limited production of the 7863C, it has garnered significant attention among Heuer enthusiasts, especially in recent years, who are looking for something rare and interesting to add to their collections. With it's balanced inverse-panda dial and spartan simplicity, it's easy to see why...
Stainless steel compressor case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown and pushers). Heuer Autavia Reference 7863C. Valjoux Caliber 7732 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement with Date Function. Circa late 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in good condition with signs of use and wear throughout, including some dings on the left side of the case. Rotating bezel is in very good condition with minimal signs of use and wear. Dial is in very good condition with some slight discoloration to the chronograph register at 9 o'clock. Luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands have gained a fine even patina over time. Heuer-signed crown. Heuer case back shows some scratches and tool marks but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm black leather strap. Also includes two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle.