If you’re into Heuer or the vast watch-motorsport crossover, you’ll probably know the name Siffert, given to a certain ref. 1163T with a panda dial and blue accents . . .but you may not know why you should care. It’s often said that the stars which burn twice as bright last half as long. Certainly, that was the case with Jo Siffert. The man was a paragon of respectful motorsport and summarized all that was cool about Formula 1 racing in the ’60s, but was taken far too early. I think it is not by coincidence that he also had the taste to choose one of the raddest spec Heuer Autavias to accompany him.
Siffert began racing motorcycles in Switzerland, but quickly went into endurance and can-am racing, then the F1 world stage. Among many highlights, Siffert battled and defeated Jim Clark in a BRM, raced 917s, and won the Targa Florio. Tragically, his approach to an F1 title was cut short during a World Championship Victory race at Brands. As far as we know, an 1163T was likely on wrist the day we lost him in that crash. He was a kindhearted man who was said race damn hard but fully respectfully, often pictured shirtless or in aviators next to a beautiful woman, about to go rinse a Porsche or BRM with a Heuer on his wrist.
But it wasn’t just any Heuer. The 1163 Autavia was Heuer’s flagship, an evolution on one of the first-ever automatic chronographs. Its calibre 11 was joint venture which took all the might of Heuer, Breitling, Buren, and Dubois-Dépraz to architect. The Autavia existed previously, but this was the first reference with that calibre, a so-called ‘Chronomatic’ micro-rotor. Everything else oozes 70s cool style: fluted pushers, 42mm C-case, and highly legible two-register panda dial with tachymetre scale. Six dial variants exist, with this Mk4 released in ’71 with polished hands and black indice inserts. Many Siffert variants are not yet abhorrently expensive, particularly by comparison to other 60s/70s chronographs with immense history, despite much great scholarship by a person whose last name is Stein. Mostly though, the Siffert is today an echo of the era when F1 drivers were not petulant children, refueling pit stops were long enough for a cigarette, and bringing down lap times truly meant risking life and limb. It’s a Heuer for those who understand history and that distinction.
This example sports a very sharp case. Its bevels are proud, with tons of contrast between the brushed upper and break. The dial shows little ageing outside of the cream tritium applications, matched on the dial and handset. Its serial numbers are still clearly engraved. It comes from a well-regarded Miami retailer.
Find this Siffert Autavia here from Menta Watches for 9500 USD.