Looking at TAG Heuer today, it’s hard to imagine that this commercial giant was once a small(ish) family-owned business driven by a passion for motorsport. However, the truth is that Heuer – as the company was then known – was a major player in the development of chronograph wristwatches in the 1960s and 70s. As a result, popular vintage models in good condition demand premium prices, making them inaccessible to most. Even so, you shouldn’t give up your dream of owning a historically significant Heuer chronograph just yet!
One of the brand’s most famous contributions to this golden era of racing watches is the Heuer Autavia ref. 1163. Alongside the Monaco, this was the first model that Heuer equipped with the then-new Calibre 11. If you’re not familiar with this movement, it’s often referred to as the world’s first automatic chronograph movement. Best of all, well-maintained pieces are not too hard to find, nor are they outrageously expensive. Although, as we can see in the chart below, there was a large – if temporary – spike in demand in 2018. But more on that in a minute.
Perhaps the main reason why the Autavia ref. 1163 has maintained such moderate prices over the years is that it had a fairly long production run and was offered in various dial, hand, and bezel combinations. What’s more, its movement also evolved over time, becoming the Calibre 11-i before being replaced by the Calibre 12. However, there are some shared features across all Autavia 1163 watches, including fluted push-pieces within individual cutouts in the case. A crown with the Heuer logo also sits at 9 o’clock on every ref. 1163, and each timepiece has lugs that are 20 mm wide.
It may come as a surprise to learn that the ref. 1163 was not a major commercial hit – at least not at first. In fact, Heuer was struggling to sell any chronograph wristwatches at the time. As a result, they had to seek out creative ways to increase sales. The most notable strategy that involved the ref. 1163 was Heuer’s collaboration with the Viceroy cigarette company in the early 1970s.
Back then, Viceroy was looking to position themselves as “the sportsman’s cigarette.” They had already inked a deal with the Parnelli Jones racing team before approaching Heuer, then the leader in track timing, to further cement their connection to motorsport. Heuer agreed to produce a special version of the 1163 as part of the deal. This model bears the reference number 1163V and could be purchased for the discounted price of $88 if you mailed in the end flap of a Viceroy cigarette carton. Most watches had a black dial with white subdials, red accents, and red striped hour and minute hands. However, the most highly coveted version is the so-called “Orange Boy,” which had orange accents instead of red. Low production numbers mean this watch is much harder to find and inherently more valuable than the standard Viceroy editions.
Unsurprisingly, Heuer sold a greater number of ref. 1163V models since the standard ref. 1163 had a retail price of about $200 at the time. In fact, they sold significantly more 1163Vs than the non-discounted 1163MH (minute/hour bezel) or 1163T (tachymeter bezel). This means that, today, Viceroy versions are more common on the secondary market, which helps keep their average price on Chrono24 quite reasonable. Of course, this also means that they are less collectible and, therefore, unlikely to increase in value over time.
That being said, there are some versions of the ref. 1163 that are markedly more desirable and sought-after than others. A good example is the 1163T “Siffert Autavia,” named after the legendary Swiss Formula 1 driver and Heuer fan, Joe Siffert. Characterized by a white dial with black subdials, pieces in good condition sell for an average of $21,000 on Chrono24. In fact, this model is so beloved that TAG Heuer has released several updated versions over the years, including a limited-edition collaboration with the Heuer fan site Calibre 11 (calibre11.com) in 2018.
Before wrapping up, let’s circle back to that sudden increase in value the ref. 1163 experienced in 2018 and try to see if we can make sense of what happened. As you can see from the chart, its average price briefly more than doubled on Chrono24 mid-way through 2018 before settling back to the more modest average price you see now. It seems this can be attributed to a serious case of “Heuer fever.”
It started with a Phillips auction in late 2017 that focused on vintage Heuer chronographs and culminated in the release of three different vintage-inspired ref. 1163 models in 2018. The first was the aforementioned collaboration with the website Calibre 11. Then there was a new Autavia “Orange Boy,” developed in partnership with Hodinkee. The third and final new release was the Heuer Autavia 02 Viceroy 1972 “Re-Edition” from TAG Heuer themselves.
All this exposure seems to have resulted in a large, albeit temporary, surge in interest in vintage Heuer ref. 1163 models. It seems unlikely that we’ll see something similar in the future, but that’s not to say that the ref. 1163 isn’t still an attractive buy for vintage collectors. These cool watches are indelibly linked to motorsport and available at reasonable prices. There’s a lot to like, I’m sure you’ll agree.