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Chronographs and racing go hand-in-hand. It’s a natural connection—chronographs have been as essential piece of kit for the sport since the 1920s. But far from the ungainly stopwatches and dashboard timers that these early motorists used, the wrist chronographs that evolved in the 1960s and 1970s—the golden era of the sport—have an undeniable allure.
And of these, the most coveted bear the name Heuer.
Heuer had released its first dashboard timer in 1933—the Autavia, so-called for its use in both automobiles in airplanes. These two-register chronographs used the Valjoux 59 movement and had a large pusher at 9 o’clock. Released from 1933 to 1958, the somewhat cluttered appearance of the dial led to its complete redesign by the great-grandson of the company’s founder, Jack Heuer.
Jack Heuer had graduated from university in 1957. At 25, he was eager to spread his wings—far away from the company that his great-grandfather had started in the 1880s. But his father urged him to spend one year working at the family business.
Jack acquiesced, little knowing that this decision would change his life—and the watch world as a whole.
A year after joining the company, Jack found himself in the cockpit of a racing car as navigator. On the dashboard was one of his family’s dashboard clocks—an Autavia. However, the dial of the Autavia proved hard to read in the bone-shaking interior of a rally car, and he misread the dial by a minute. Infuriated, Jack set about to make the Autavia easier to read, giving it a large central minute hand.
Four years later, when Jack assumed the reins of the company, he saw the potential for the Autavia to move from the dashboard to the wrist. Jack Heuer’s Autavia was the first line of chronographs produced by Heuer to bear a model name. At the time of its introduction, there wasn’t a wrist chronograph in existence that had automotive racing as its sole genesis (the Rolex Daytona being a year from birth).
It soon attracted the attention of Formula 1 racers, a relationship which Heuer cultivated. He became a fixture in the pits at the major race courses of the world. In 1969, he would befriend a driver who’d become Heuer’s first brand ambassador—Jo Siffert, who was given an automatic version of the Autavia with a distinctive cushion case.
Siffert was an early enthusiast of this new model of Autavia with its cushion case design, and would often try to persuade fellow drivers to buy one while they were on the racing grid.
This particular Autavia is a rare variant of the Autavia that Siffert made famous. A Reference 73663, it’s powered by the manually-wound Valjoux 7733 instead of the Calibre 11 or Chronomatic that Heuer released in 1969. It combines the best of the old with the best of the new in a combination that we here at Analog/Shift find hard to resist.
We’re sure you will too.
Stainless steel case is approximately 42mm (excluding crown). Heuer Autavia Reference 73663. Valjoux Calibre 7733 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp bevels on the lugs and minor signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Rotating bezel is in good condition, showing some fading and signs of use throughout. Dial is in very good condition, showing fine speckling in the chronograph registers. Luminescent elements of the hour plots and hands show a fine even patina. Heuer crown. Case back shows some signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm black leather strap with white contrast stitching.