‘Andretti’ 3646 Heuer Autavia Second Execution
Early Autavias are amongst the beautiful professional chronographs ever made. They have the historic chops to rival pre-moon Speedmasters and even Daytonas. Speaking plainly, the other two evolved more gracefully with age in the decades that followed. The current TAG Autavia I regard as a shell of its former self. But the true vintage Autavias, well, there may be no better buy in sporting chronographs right now. If you’re new here, think of this as a pre-Oyster Daytona without any hype whatsoever, no badge snobbery, and even stronger motorsport pedigree—particularly F1.
Mario Andretti didn’t just win the F1 championship in 1978 and the Indy 500 in 1969, he is a watch guy to this day. In fact, it’s hard to find images of him back in the day without a Heuer somewhere in the frame. There are a lot of early Heuer Autavias that are easy to love. Autavias were all over the paddock for decades and the Heuer shield was advertising on half the grid. But what’s more interesting is that many drivers chose to wear them personally, totally unsponsored. As a result of both, many Autavias have some of the coolest names in all of chronographdom. This one, the 3646 Autavia, we call ‘Andretti’.
Now, technically, Andretti wore maybe ten different Heuers throughout the years. He’s even got his own Talking Watches episode. But there are two watches that became inextricably linked to him, both 3646 Autavias. One was awarded for fastest quali time in the ’66 Indy 500. The other was awarded for the same in ’67. Both were signed by Motor Age on the dial. He was photographed many times wearing these watches later in his career, which ran from F1 to Le Mans and everything in between.
Technically, this is a slightly earlier watch. Both 3646 Andretti wore had straight baton hands and a third execution dial, not these earlier (arguably more collected) luminous dauphines on a second execution. However, most people call any 3646 with a second execution screwback Autavia case an Andretti, although you do occasionally see people call these a ‘Pre-Andretti’. Either way, with a 12-hour bezel, it probably ties for a dual first place with the 2446 ‘Rindt’ for me as one of the most beautiful, most historically interesting Heuers. Even if the first execution big eye dials are more collected, this has the story to tell and the photos to pour over. For me, that’s more fun. If you want others to know what you’re wearing, buy a 6263. If you love F1 history, handsome chronographs, and don’t care what anyone thinks, this is the move.
This example sports a lovely and honest patina. The case has strong factory bevels with light surface wear. That is mirrored on the 12 hour bezel (always the best look for me) with a mild ghost patina and light marks. The dial is clear of damage with a honey tritium tone, matched everywhere including the handset. It comes with its Heuer buckle, from a well-regarded London retailer.