Once the bug bit me, the only remedy was to track down “the watch”. I absolutely had to find a Heuer Autavia 2446. To me, within the pantheon of rotating bezel 60’s sports chronographs, the Autavia has always acted the part of Zeus. Specifically, the 2446 2nd Execution screw-down case models reign supreme. There’s just something about these watches and I’ll do my best to explain the fascination. Plus, the buying experience was an adventure, which always ups the lust factor! For deal-seekers, I apologize because “affordable” #TBT takes a decided respite in pit-lane this week as we take a look at the undeniably fantastic vintage Heuer Autavia 2446 “Jochen Rindt”.
The Heuer Autavia 2446 is found…
Vienna… It’s one of the first places my then-girlfriend, now wife, visited after we met. We found the city to be so architecturally beautiful over such a vast space and rather enchanting with its multitude of ornate reminders from the last real Empire in Europe. Contrastingly, during my European tenure, it’s also the one European city where I’ve experienced the snootiest, worst customer service; Paris, your reputation is undeserved in my opinion. Back to the positives: of course, you also have the famous schnitzels, which would make the city a runaway favorite candidate for a Fratello South office (if Robert-Jan or the rest of the team are reading this, they’ve now completely lost their concentrative abilities). So, overall, Vienna is a remarkable place, but it now stands out to me for another reason: it’s where I “located” the Heuer Autavia 2446.
To be fair, I could have found the Heuer Autavia 2446 from anywhere as it was on eBay. In fact, I actually came upon the watch about four hours before I stumbled upon the Breitling 765 CP. I remember it clearly; I woke up in a fog after having slept little. The day before was a long one filled with meetings and was capped off with a massive steak and copious amounts of wine. Foolishly, I mentioned that my experiences with both products in Austria had previously been disappointing, so my local colleague was determined to erase the past; he didn’t disappoint. So, returning to the following morning, I did the normal and checked listings on my favorite sites and there it was, listed in the USA…the “Rindt”. The fog had lifted and the hunt was on… Now, I ask that you stick with me, as I’ll take you on the inner workings of an eBay negotiation. It was a new experience for me, but it’s probably not so rare.
An arduous negotiation for the Heuer Autavia 2446
I did some checking with Jeff Stein on the Heuer Autavia 2446 and despite pictures of questionable quality, he confirmed that all looked decent. There was one big issue, though: the price. The seller listed the watch at $7k (with a Speidel bracelet…naturally) or best offer and that just felt high to me. Not long after, though, Jeff informed me that this, indeed, was at least in the relative ballpark, if not a touch high, when taking into account the current market. It was time to think it over, but when I returned to look at the watch hours later, it was gone. As I’ve mentioned, one often has to act quickly in this market and it seems that I had neglected my own advice. Later that night, though, back in the Fatherland, the piece returned.
Round 2 brought the same Heuer Autavia 2446 back to the “bay” but this time it contained a price tag of roughly $8,500 or best offer…what was happening? Amazingly, only an hour or so later, the price changed the $9,995 or best offer! It was time for me to communicate and what ultimately transpired was quite interesting. I asked the seller about the watch in general but also why it was delisted and, finally, why the “buy-it-now” had escalated thrice. Regarding the watch itself, it had been owned for a long time by the seller and he was really only selling it to help fund his child’s education. Fair enough… Regarding the pricing, a “German dealer” (I can guess who this is on 2-3 fingers) had reportedly offered $5,700 when the watch was first listed and a deal was struck. Not so fast…said dealer asked the seller to falsify the customs value for shipping in order to avoid duties and the seller, feeling uncomfortable, refused. Here’s where it gets even more interesting. In a classic game of “if I can’t have her, no one can”, the German dealer then stated that the watch was worth at least $7,500 and that the seller was underpricing it. This part I find mazing because $5,700 plus incoming duties into Germany would have come in under $7,500. Not enough fat for a good profit? Perhaps…
The seller then relisted the Heuer Autavia 2446 with the $8,500 price and likely felt there wasn’t enough padding between his actual acceptable level, so he raised it to $9,995 or best offer. Over the next couple of days, I kept in touch with the seller and more offers came in, but we ultimately struck a deal and I made the offer through eBay. I won’t reveal the price, but needless to say, it was due south of the “dealer’s” quotation of what the piece was worth. In the end, it turned out to be a watch of impeccable condition and a piece that has, sadly, only become more expensive since I bought it 4-5 months ago.
The Heuer Autavia 2446…background & details
The Heuer Autavia 2446 you see here is what is known as a 2nd execution screw-back case. Known as the 2446M, it followed the initial Autavias of the early to mid-1960’s that contained dagger or dauphine-shaped hands. The model featured was produced from roughly 1968-1969 and was worn, with the optional Gay Freres beads-of-rice bracelet, by the popular 1970 F1 World Champion Jochen Rindt. So, this explains the derivation of the nickname. It should be known that the 2446M’s were offered with one of three bezels: the 60-minute, the 12-hour, and a tachymeter. Only the minutes bezel has been seen on the wrist of the driver, so the Heuer universe tends to associate this variant with Rindt.
39mm, well 38.8 to be exact, is the case size of the Heuer Autavia 2446 and that makes it a really nice wear. In fact, compared to the Carrera and Camaro of the same era, the Autavia is one chunky nugget of a watch. The watch features a thick, domed crystal and a bubble-lack back to form a beefy 13.5mm thickness. Perhaps the reason for thickness has something to do with the 100m of water resistance, but it gives the watch a far more formidable presence versus the rest of the then contemporary Heuer lineup. Inside the Autavia beats the familiar Valjoux 72. Like the rest of the Heuers, it goes unadjusted, but it’s signed on the bridge. Finally, the lug width sits at a period correct 19mm. As mentioned, the watch was available on either bracelet or strap.
When analyzing the details of the Heuer Autavia 2446, it’s hard not to be struck by the stark simplicity of the watch. Your eyes rest on black, white and silver – that’s all. It’s not unlike a lot of chronographs I’ve reviewed such as the Breitling 765 or even the Gallet Multichron Pilot, but it is put together in a manner that achieves near-perfect balance due to the right amount of detail on the dial and harmonious proportions. Whereas the Gallet has a lot happening on the dial, too much perhaps, and the beautiful Breitling impresses with its bold size and vast black dial expanse, the Autavia comes in somewhere in the middle. It really does look like the wrist version of the very “instrument-ish”, dash-mounted timer that inspired it.
For starters, that ultra serious font of “Heuer Autavia” looks so purposeful and doesn’t crowd at all. In fact, the Heuer Autavia 2446 looks very similar to another fantastic watch from the same period, the Rolex Daytona 6262. Both feature nearly identical Singer dials, pump pushers, and obviously the same – essentially – movement. The dial markers are great, Daytona-like, applied pieces with squared-off lume towards the outer edge. Hands are simple and similar to the Carrera and everything is nicely legible. The sub dial hands are black and are nicely contrasted against the white central chrono hand, but the detail that really ties the dial together is the printed white minutes ring. The seconds/minutes markers on the ring are a little longer than on the Daytona and that probably makes the dial look a touch smaller, but it represents strong styling to me. Between each second are four reasonably long lines used for measuring 1/5-second increments. The length suggests a more purposeful, measurement intent than the Daytona due to greater legibility at a glance. It’s all so simple, but works so nicely. Message to TAG: amongst all the reissues and “inspired by” pieces, why has nothing been released related to these early Autavias?
Some other key points to note on a Heuer Autavia 2446 fall outside the dial. The bezel is a high quality, bi-directional piece that blends seamlessly onto the case when viewed from the side. It has a nicely weighted inlaid aluminum component that is often found in rough shape: this one is nearly flawless aside from a scratch around 1:00. The lugs on this Autavia feature some very fine edges that are easily marred by a good thwack or they lose their shape due to an overzealous watchmaker. They’re masterfully sculpted, light and elegant, especially at the tips. When viewed from the side, the lugs offset the thickness created by the center of the case.
Flipping the watch over reveals a beautifully inscribed case back that is unlike any other Heuer of its day. It’s incredibly cool and also somewhat difficult to find in nice condition.
Finally, the controls are of significant interest. Nicely sized cap pushers fit the case well and surround an unsigned, correct, big winding crown. Heuer strangely sold both signed and unsigned crowns on this edition of the Autavia (strange because other models of the time certainly had signed), but beware of smaller, incorrect, signed replacements. They’re flat out wrong and don’t look very good.
The Heuer Autavia 2446 on the wrist
The Heuer Autavia 2446 wears very well. It wears roughly true to size, but certainly a little larger than a 2447 Carrera and certainly more so than a Camaro. The lugs are lengthy, like on a Carrera, so that helps. Note that these intricate lugs, and the overall watch height, help contribute to a lot of the wear that you often see in pieces on the market. There’s simply a lot that can get caught on anything while being worn. Unfortunately, I don’t own the correct end pieces to fit the Gay Freres bracelet that I own, but thankfully the Rindt looks great on a rally strap. I continue to order from Giuliano in Italy and I’ve found that tan, brown and black all suit the watch and give it different “looks”. I wear this watch for all sorts of occasions – both business and pleasure – and it’s highly versatile.
Oh, and I actually brought this piece to the Nuerburgring for the WEC race and found it to be a great, and appropriate, partner.
Crack open the wallet (really wide) for the Heuer Autavia 2446
I covered Heuer in my Vintage Market update this past Summer and mentioned how the brand is truly on fire. For sure, there are key automatic Heuers that continue to be popular and climb in price but the more simple manual wind pieces have really come into their own over the past 6-12 months. I mentioned that the racing history of Heuer in general and the fact that these watches carry a lot of the looks of the Daytona has helped bolster interest well. Go take a look at 6262 prices and you’ll see why prospective buyers of those suddenly have large amounts of cash to throw at the equally deserving Heuers. Aside from that inflow, though, I think the market had simply overlooked pieces like the Heuer Autavia 2446 for far too long. I’m sure that secret circles exist where vintage Heuers can be found, but I see roughly 1-2 of these Rindt’s for sale at any given time, versus so many manual Daytonas, and the 2 that I can think of are “dogs with fleas”; good ones go fast. What I can tell you is that pricing was roughly $3,500-4,000 about a year ago and that $7,000 for a nice piece is now either normal or slightly “bargain-esque”. I did see one listed here at 7,950 GBP and it sold – let’s assume there was some level of negotiation. So, there you have it: these are now truly expensive. By the way, as a barometer, a 2-register 3646 will come up at auction in September in London, so it will be interesting to see how it does.
When considering a Heuer Autavia 2446, I’d avoid messy pieces or those with overpolished cases; the serial number should be visible between the lugs. Parts are not easy and they are extremely expensive on the secondary market. Furthermore, there’s a fair amount of meddling that has often been done to the watches. Mechanically, servicing can be done with relative ease, but be very careful with buying pieces that are missing key exterior or dial components. eBay is a good place to look as well as chronotrader and auction houses. Unless you get truly lucky, expect heavy interest when bidding.
Final thoughts on the Heuer Autavia 2446
The Heuer Autavia 2446 2nd Execution is a landmark piece. Great looks, a hot brand, quality build, a workhorse movement, and a racing connection all help to explain the current fervor for decent examples. There were little variations such as the piece we covered here, but this model really represents the last serial production piece before Heuer started to go down a different path. Sure, the later compression-case 2446C’s came along and are worthy in their own right, but I’d argue that some of the subtlety found on today’s subject was lost due to their size, more mainstream case design and an ultimate shift to more mundane, less expensive, movements. The C’s, to me, represent a transition from the manual wind to the Cal. 11’s that were just over the horizon.
I hope you enjoyed this long look at the Heuer Autavia 2446 “Jochen Rindt”. It’s one of my favorite pieces and I do think it is a worthy add to a chronograph collection if one has the good fortune of finding one at a decent price. Thanks for tuning in to #TBT and keep the comments coming! Until next week…