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WATCH MY NAME -What’s in a name when it comes to Autavia ?

While the story of Autavia is well known, this combination conveys unsuspected messages.

In our journey into the strange and wonderful world of watch names, there is a special category, a mixture of creativity, risk and underlying meanings : that of “invented” names. Such is the case for Heuer with the famous Autavia. It appeals to the imagination and prevents the natural association between name and object. In this way, it creates an immediate link with the subject and inevitably raises questions. Autavia’s story is well known. The name comes from the combination of AUTomobile and AVIAtion, and originally defined onboard instruments for aircraft and cars. What is interesting about the history of names is that the chance effects of a creation – in this instance the combination of two words – can generate many other variations and contain many messages. Before being called Autavia, the first Heuer onboard instruments were called “Time Of Trip”, and united planes and cars around the theme of travel. The first Zeppelin was also equipped with these famous “Time Of Trip” stopwatches.


Above and beyond travel, these two industries are also linked by the notions of engineering, technology, and mechanics. And since the name appeared in 1933, it can also be viewed as a message of modernity and progress, with aviation and the automobile still in their infancy. By inventing the name Autavia, Heuer achieved a marketing feat : that of creating a moniker that would establish itself over time and be applied to very different products. Because the initial Autavia bore no relation to that of 1962, or of today. Such is precisely the advantage of an invented name. It adapts and evolves with its product. A Submariner will never be a pilot’s watch, whereas an Autavia can take many forms and its name will remain valid.

As Jack Heuer’s first watch creation, the Autavia is a model he designed to be simple, legible and robust. With Autavia, Heuer was launching his brand into the big wide world of wristwatches. The name Autavia would enable this radical change, while maintaining a strong connection with the original onboard instruments. Autavia is therefore a first, if not an ancestor. This is amusing, given that Otavia is also the name given to the oldest animal fossil. Proof that fate is a great provider. Autavia and Otavia : two ancestors having given birth to many descendants !


According to Jack Heuer, the Autavia chronograph – launched in 1962 – was to be “a modern chronograph for a modern man”! However, in a rather original way, the name seems feminine, ending in A and featuring a gentle sound when spoken out loud. This introduced a contrasting and even surprising side to a watch designed for activities that tended to be more masculine in those days, such as driving. By naming some of its chronographs in this way, Heuer dared – albeit unintentionally – to adopt a different positioning. Once again, the name Autavia offers a wealth of possibilities, enabling it to create its own story, without being influenced by its environment. Moreover, when someone says Autavia, one could easily understand Octavia, a female name associated with a pleasant appearance, a strong, independent personality, as well as flexibility and adaptability. The latter description is quite interesting, given that one of the distinctive features of the Heuer Autavia is the presence of an external bezel whose function may vary according to the models. It can thus be transformed into a GMT watch, a regatta chronograph, a diver’s watch or a more classic watch equipped with a tachymeter scale. The Autavia is therefore a chronograph characterized by its adaptability, its flexibility, as well as by a unique style.


Over the years, the Autavia, run by a ValJoux 72, became automatic. Its movement changed, but since its name Autavia also contains the first letters of AUTomatic, the name remained – and also conveys another message, because Autavia harbors many other little secrets. Avia, for aviation. Yes, but what enables planes to fly and cars to run ? Gasoline, of course. In 1934, a few months after the creation of Autavia, a Swiss company named Avia was created, encompassing nearly 100 oil companies… Avia, gas, planes, cars. Did the founders of Avia draw inspiration from Autavia ? We’ll never know, but the timing is interesting.

And now for a look at the last three letters : VIA. Here again, there is more than one meaning : the Latin word for road, or the preposition meaning “passing through”. The message is clear, the Autavia is a watch referring to travel, to moving from one place to another, but also a model that would evolve and “pass through” various stages, designs and functions. By incorporating the idea of evolution and movement, the name Autavia enabled Heuer, then TAG Heuer, to develop these watches by endowing them with different personalities. Autavia thus became the name of an entire range, as much as that of a watch.

TAG Heuer indeed launched a new Autavia at Baselworld 2019, once again springing a major surprise in that it is not a chronograph, but instead a three-hand watch. It retains its bezel, which sets it apart from the brand’s other historical watches, while also displaying pleasing legibility, another feature common to all Autavia models. This time innovation also finds its place inside the watch, since TAG Heuer has equipped this new arrival with a new movement, chronometer-certified and less sensitive to shocks and magnetic fields. With this new evolution, TAG Heuer has astonished the brand’s historical enthusiasts who naturally associate Autavia with a chronograph. Perhaps we will see another form of renewal in 2020 ?

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