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The 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans took place on September 28th—the tenth and final round of the World Sportscar Championship.
Due to massive protests in France, the race (scheduled for June) was postponed until September. In addition, a series of new rules set limitations on engine sizes and speed. Engines larger than 5.0L were banned from competing in the Sports categories, while a 3.0L limit on engines was adopted for the Sports Prototype class, facilitating the use of Formula One motors to save development costs.
Enzo Ferrari, disappointed by the limitations, refused to compete. The race then fell to John Wyer’s Ford GT40, driven by Lucien Bianchi and Pedro Rodríguez; the new 3.0L Matra 630, driven by Henri Pescarolo; the Alpine A220; and a Porsche 908.
The Porsches took an early lead, only to be plagued by a variety of electrical problems. But Wyer’s cars pushed on. Though Wyer was left with only one working car, it was in the lead.
Henri Pescarolo had a stunning performance in the new Matra 630. The car started the race with mechanical problems, which sent it down to 14th place. But Pescarolo drove the car to the second place in the rain, despite a windshield wiper failure and his teammate Johnny Servoz-Gavin refusing to drive the car in such conditions.
However, during one of the last pit stops the car caught fire and could not continue.
The victory eventually went to the GT40 driven by Bianchi and Rodríguez. This was the first overall GT class win for the Porsche 911.
For racers like Pescarolo, Bianchi, and Rodríguez, the Heuer Autavia 2446C provided the ultimate race-worthy watch. This watch had a simple and rugged look. Its beefy 40mm case with beveled lugs, a bidirectional rotating bezel, and 20mm strap bring a contemporary feel that’s not too big to fit under your cuff.
The three bezel options for the Autavia 2446C give credence to the fact that this watch was produced for sports racing enthusiasts as well as pilots. The most common bezel is the minute-hour. Its two scales—a minute scale, useful for timing events, while the hour scale can used as a second time zone. Another option was a rotating tachy bezel, is used to measure average speed for racing, while the hour time zone bezel is primarily used for pilots.
The Valjoux 72 movement in the 2446C is one of the most celebrated manual-wind chronographs ever created. Thanks to its column wheel, the chronograph operates beautifully, with a smooth, positive feel to the pushers that doesn’t take excessive pressure to engage. The watch houses a visually perfect triple sub-dial layout and ticks along at a leisurely 18,000bph, enough to keep any racer in contention.
This particular example is an earlier execution model fitted with a white central chronograph hand and features a beautiful case with crisp beveling, along with a nearly flawless reverse panda dial with lovely matching creamy luminescent plots on the hour markers and hands. Fitted with an unsigned beads of rice bracelet with straight end links, this lovely piece is everything you should be looking for in a vintage compressor-case Autavia!
Stainless steel compressor case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Heuer Reference 2446C. Valjoux 72 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa late 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent condition overall with crisp bevels on the lugs and only light signs of normal wear. Rotating bezel is in very good condition with minor signs of wear. Dial is in excellent condition with some signs of aging and beautifully patinated luminous plots on the hour markers and hands. Heuer signed crown. Case back has some signs of wear consistent with use.
Includes one 20mm unsigned stainless steel beads of rice bracelet.