Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Heuer Autavia (Heuer Cal. 15)…

Here is a fine looking watch, a vintage Heuer Autavia from the early 1970’s…

(Click pictures to enlarge)

The Heuer name has a been around for a long time, the company being first started by Edouard Heuer in 1860. He developed and patented his first chronograph in 1882, and went on to patent the ‘oscillating pinion’ system in 1887, which has been used in chronographs for more than a century (this watch being no exception.)

In more recent times Jack Heuer (the great-grandson of Edouard Heuer) became the majority shareholder of the company in 1962, and two years later acquired their main competitor Leonidas Watch Co, to become Heuer-Leonidas SA.

A collaboration between the boffins at Heuer-Leonidas, Hamilton-Buren, Breitling, and Dubois Depraz brought to market the first ever automatic chronograph calibre, in March 1969. It was known as the Calibre 11 “Chrono-Matic” and was used in the Autavia, Monaco and Carrera models available at the time.

More automatic calibres quickly followed; first the Calibre 12 which was a redesigned Calibre 11 with a faster 21,600bph rate, then the Calibre 14 which added an additional GMT hand, and finally the calibre in this watch, the Calibre 15…

The Calibre 15 differs from the others in the series in that the design was simplified to include a running seconds indicator in place of a 12 hour register. If you compare the pictures above with an Autavia fitted with a Calibre 12, the differences are easy to see…

The basis for the Heuer calibres was the Buren Cal. 1281, onto which a Dubois Depraz chronograph module was added. The Buren calibre was never designed to accommodate such an addition so changes had to be made, one of them being a 180 degree rotation of the main plate, resulting in the crown being on the left and the chronograph pushers being on the right.

At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that these calibres are manually wound, but with the chronograph module removed you can see that they have a “micro-rotor” winding mechanism hiding inside…

Originally developed by Buren, the main benefit of the micro-rotor system is that the winding mechanism is integrated into the main body of the calibre keeping the height to a minimum, making them ideal for dress watches. (For more information on Buren micro-rotors see here).

Ok that’s enough technical history, back to the watch! It arrived with a couple of issues; it would run, but not for long, and the chronograph didn’t work properly. A movement service solved the running problem as the oil sinks were all dry, but the chronograph was more of a challenge.

Once the chronograph had been re-assembled, it was obvious that the eccentric adjustment screws had been moved (ordinarily these screws aren’t moved during a routine service). If adjustment is needed it’s essential that you understand the function of each of these screws, as making an adjustment to solve one problem can easily introduce another elsewhere.

Progress was hindered further by small spots of corrosion on some of the parts, the most problematic being a spot on the fine teeth of the centre chronograph wheel. However, after careful removal of the corrosion and time spent on getting the adjustment right, it was running and resetting properly again.

The last thing to do was to replace the cracked crystal…

The owner of this watch, Jarl Fr. Erichsen, has a great collection of vintage Heuers, check them out on his blog Classic Heuers.


** Many thanks to Jarl for letting me feature his watch on the blog **

4 Responses to “Heuer Autavia (Heuer Cal. 15)…”

  1. Harry Bishop Says:

    I just updated my bloglink and saw you have you first post on the new site Rich, good to see. Glad you are getting more watch work, are you collecting or buying anything yourself these days?


  2. Bruce Kennewell Says:

    A very attractive face on that watch, Richard.

    All the best.

  3. Rich Says:

    Hi Harry,

    Always good to see you here my friend! Thanks for your continued support.

    I’m not buying too much myself these days, though I’m always on the lookout for something different. The two Aquastars (Benthos and Regate) were the latest additions, both great looking watches with interesting features. Who knows what else may turn up and when!


  4. Jarl Fr. Erichsen Says:

    Glad to see your blog is back on track! Even better looking than before.

    It’s also nice to see my own watch featured on your site. It’s very interesting to see the work you did.

    best regards