The story of the Heuer Autavia 2446C GMT goes hand in hand with the history of Heuer as a chronograph pioneer in the 1960s. However, the Heuer name obviously dates back much further than that. The Heuer Watch Company was founded in 1860, making it both a legendary and historic Swiss brand. Nowadays, the brand is most well known for its sports chronographs from when Jack Heuer was at the helm of the company in the 1960s. Today, collectors would give an arm and a leg for some of the vintage timepieces released during that decade – one of the most famous being the Heuer Autavia.
Heuer first introduced the Heuer Autavia in 1962. The model’s name was taken from a dashboard clock released in the 1930s. The Heuer Autavia was actually the company’s first chronograph, predating the iconic Carrera and Monaco. Thus, this is the model that kicked off the famous decade of Heuer racing chronographs.
The first-generation Autavia was an elegant, 38-mm chronograph that was designed from a blank canvas. The watch featured what would become the typical 1960s look with oversized subdials and dauphine hands. These characteristics ensured excellent legibility, even when racing on the track. The two-subdial version got its power from the Valjoux 92 movement, while the three-subdial edition featured the Valjoux 72. Both are legendary hand-wound chronograph calibers that are well respected among collectors.
In 1967, Heuer began updating the model, which resulted in the release of the second-generation Autavia a year later. This version featured an updated case design – the so-called “second execution” – that was slightly larger. Heuer also changed the bezel and dial design multiple times over the years. The most eye-catching change was reducing the size of the subdials. All versions of the watch, however, featured a screw-down case back and were available with two or three subdials.
In addition to introducing the second-generation Autavia, Heuer was working on a completely new case design in collaboration with E. Piquerez SA (EPSA). ESPA had created the so-called “compressor” case back in 1961, which tightened when subjected to increased water pressure. Heuer chose this design for the new Autavia, making it more versatile by increasing its water resistance. The new 40-mm Autavia 2446C (C for “compressor”) debuted in 1968. The new case design differed significantly from that of both the first and second generations. It had flatter squarer lugs and a more modern look.
The brand introduced a new 2446C GMT watch alongside the regular chronograph model. This variant stood out with its blue and red “Pepsi” bezel featuring a 24-hour scale. This wasn’t the only version of the Autavia with a GMT function, however. There was also a screw-back version. Over time, the 2446C GMT became the more iconic of the two and much more sought-after by collectors. Despite the external alterations, the manual Valjoux 72 movement continued to power the compressor version of the watch. The GMT variant, in turn, relied on the Valjoux 724 movement – a GMT version of the tried and tested Valjoux 72 with an additional GMT hand to indicate the time in a second time zone.
Some collectors consider Autavia 2446C models transitional references due to the introduction of the legendary self-winding Heuer Calibre 11 in 1969. This has somewhat of a negative connotation, but I would argue that the GMT version, in particular, has become an icon in its own right and one that is very desirable among collectors. It is a legendary 1960s Heuer chronograph with a legendary hand-wound Valjoux movement and a very recognizable color scheme.
If you go hunting for an Autavia 2446C GMT, you will find that there are several different dial variants referred to as Marks 1-4. The push-pieces also differ between versions. As is always the case with vintage watches, make sure you do your research or ask an expert for advice. Like many brands back in the day, Heuer released quite a few versions of their watches with different hands, dials, and colors. It takes some effort to determine which one you prefer, but once you do, you will find the 2446C GMT is an excellent watch that is very wearable today. With its color scheme and contemporary case design, it has barely aged at all.
When it comes to price, the Autavia 2446C GMT has retained its value over the past five years. Prices have ranged from $12,000 to $17,000, depending on the watch’s condition. The Autavia 2446C GMT did not have a particularly long production run, and it is in high demand among watch collectors, so there could be an increase in price over time. With the great compressor case design and iconic “Pepsi” bezel, this is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic GMT watches of all time.