Still in the possession of the original owner, this Heuer Autavia was in need of a little freshening up.
(Click pictures to enlarge)
This particular model is known as the ‘Villeneuve’ among Heuer enthusiasts because it was the choice of Canadian Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve. The watch is clearly in view in this iconic picture of the man himself.
Villeneuve was among a group of Formula 1 drivers who were effectively brand ambassadors for Heuer before the term had even been invented. Heuer chronographs adorned the wrists of many famous drivers in the 1960’s and 70’s, names such as Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Derek Bell, Clay Regazzoni, Jochen Rindt and Jo Siffert to name but a few – I wrote about the popular and now highly sought after ‘Siffert’ Autavia in a previous post, see that post here.
Although Heuer did evolve into a full sponsor in Formula 1, in the early days, rather than being presented with the watches, the drivers purchased the watches simply because they liked them and they were regularly bought and sold in the paddock.
As well as an Autavia, Villeneuve is known to have worn other Heuer models too, namely a solid gold Carrera 1158 presented to him when he was a Ferrari driver in the late 70’s and an early quartz, the Heuer Chronosplit LCD.
Heuer enthusiasts and regular readers will have spotted that although the 73663 Autavia shares the same case as many of the other Autavia models, the crown is on the right hand side of the case between the pushers rather than the left and the watch has the hour register rather than a date in the bottom half of the dial.
The reason is that inside this model is a Heuer Leonidas branded Valjoux cal. 7736, an 18,000 bph, manually wound, three register chronograph, rather than the Heuer cal. 11 and 12 automatic found in the majority of the Autavia range.
The movement was in decent shape but as the watch had been relegated to a drawer around 20 years ago, it was long overdue a service as the oils had completely dried out.
The more observant will have spotted that the chronograph start/stop pusher cap was also missing and being one of the Heuer specific ‘fluted’ pushers I was concerned that sourcing one would be a problem. However, just a couple of hours after placing a WTB ad on the excellent OnTheDash forum, a Heuer enthusiast in the US came to our aid and payment/shipping was quickly arranged.
While the pusher was en-route the movement was fully serviced and thankfully contained no hidden surprises. (I wrote a post several years ago showing how the hour register functions on the cal. 7736, click here if you would like to read it.)
The case was then disassembled and cleaned in the ultrasonic tank and the last job was to tackle the crazed crystal. As you can see clearly in the first picture, the original crystal had crazed quite badly but being of sufficient thickness it was possible to carefully sand out all the crazing and polish the crystal back up to a clear finish.
Here’s the watch all finished up and sporting a new strap.
As a final note, the ‘T’ at the end of the model number denotes that the watch has a Tachymeter bezel. It was also sold with a minute/hour bezel with the model reference 73663MH.
** Many thanks to Jill Sparks for letting me feature her watch on the blog and to David Bull for providing the pusher. **