Heuer Autavia GMT
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Heuer Autavia GMT

It's 1933. Alfas and Fiats clear their naturally-aspirated throats in the Italian spring air. A huddle of drivers sling taunts as they stub out cigarettes, warming themselves as their engines do the same. Among them, one holds a new piece of equipment, freshly removed from a small brown box. Among the mutters a strange, foreign word can be discerned: Autavia. The church bells of Brescia chime, signaling the beginning of the race. The Mille Miglia has begun. 

The Heuer Autavia was born into the automotive world in 1933 as a stopwatch, large steel cases affixed to the interior of race cars, capable of up to 12 hours of continuous timing. A crucial tool for drivers, the Autavia became a race favorite and by the late 1930s was in widespread use. It enjoyed its place on the dashboards of auto racing until 1958 when Heuer introduced the Monte Carlo as its new 12-hour stopwatch.

But by 1962, Heuer had re-imaged the Autavia as a wrist-mounted chronograph, the 12-hour timing capability combined with timekeeping.

The Autavia had always been associated with aviation (its name is a portmanteau of "Automotive" and "Aviation") with numerous versions of the early Autavia timers being fitted into aircraft throughout the 1940s and 50s, but it wouldn't be until 1969 that Heuer would introduce its wristwatch version geared specifically toward aviators. 

By the time Heuer produced the GMT, the Autavia line had already undergone one change to its case design, leading the first run of GMTs to be housed in second-execution screw-back cases. This was short-lived; Heuer updated its case design again, introducing the snap, or compression case back design, changing the reference from 2446 to 2446C (C for "compression") which would become the reference for all 3-register Autavias until the early 1970s when Heuer brought in the larger, cushion case design that would become the hallmark for that era of Autavia. 

The Reference 2446C GMTs would ultimately be produced in four distinct executions, with variations to the dial printing, the sub-register size, the pushers and crown and handsets. Though these executions were never rolled out all at once — variations were adopted gradually, leading to some watches riding the line between once clear execution and the next, i.e. a 'first execution' dial with 'second execution' hands, for instance — complete examples of each execution do exist and are prized among collectors. 

This stunning example is a first execution Ref. 2446C GMT, bearing all the hallmarks of that production run including a MK I dial with smaller, stepped sub-registers and the 'T Swiss' printing, the early compression case, and the steel luminous hour and minute hands paired with white sweeping seconds hand; these features, combined with it's 111xxx serial, make this 2446C a very desirable example among Heuer elite.  

We'd be remiss if we didn't also call out this GMT's incredible aesthetics. Its perfectly faded bezel and pleasing patina on the matte luminous dial and handset augment the untouched case (with factory case back engravings still visible!) perfectly. We're offering it here on a vintage JB Champion bracelet that was once clad in gold plating that has been worn down from age- an uncommon but oddly satisfying effect.

To read more about the variations of the 2446C GMT, visit our friends over at On The Dash, HERE. For even more detail, check in with their blog, HERE.

Details

Available exclusively at Marshall Pierce

SKU: AS02398

Stainless steel case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Reference 2446C. Valjoux Calibre 72 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1960s.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with sharp lugs and moderate signs of use and wear. Bezel is in very good condition, showing some signs of age. Dial is in very good condition, showing patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Signed crown.

Includes one 20mm JB Champion brick link bracelet with straight end links- once gold plated, now worn down from age.

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