When you think military-issued pieces, you probably think Milsub for the Royal Navy, MN Tudors, Type XX chronographs, or the Dirty Dozen. You likely do not imagine Heuers for the Kenyan Air Force. And yet, they exist. Functionally-funky vintage cool does not come much stronger than the KAF-issued 73663. The Autavia was, as I’m sure you know, a contraction of automotive-aviation. We often see the automotive side of the Autavia with Rindt and Siffert chronographs being worn by F1 playboys and F1 playboy-wannabes. We rarely see the aviation aspect of the autavia on display. This 73663 proudly served on the wrists of Kenyan aviators, likely in Northrop F-5s.
Heuer produced an estimated 250 examples of these very charismatic chronographs over two years. The KAF’s demand was, apparently, not immense. The chronographs featured Arabic numerals, a beautiful detail specific to this run alone. The order was for luminous dials, and Heuer obliged with this elongated font. The rest was standard 42mm steel case and Valjoux 7736. The KAF Autavia would be instantly recognizable to the Jeff Stein and Eric Wind types, but very few others. I love the ‘if you know, you know’ (IYKYK) watches. The KAF Autavia has it in spades.
Many of these survive today in widely varying condition. The value these watches held in a country like Kenya meant that they were held on to by families, and not thrown or scrapped as was common of Western service member’s watches. As to how they’ve held up though, that is a different story. Many were lumed, polished, or serviced by their original owners . . .not exactly George Daniels levels of attention. Unsurprisingly, Heuer didn’t open a boutique in Nairobi during the 70s. Nonetheless, that widely varying character is, to me, a part of their charm. We know these were used as intended and, surely, that is the highest purpose a watch can fulfill.
This example is in what I’d call moderate dial condition and strong case condition. The former has certainly seen a relume, but not a terrible one. However, the mixture is not exactly color matched like a collector would like to see today, likely done to keep this watch in service through the 80s. Its case is full, with strong edges. Thankfully, the all-important caseback engraving is still deep and clearly visible. It comes from a well-regarded German retailer.
Find this KAF 73663 here from Brevet Watches for 8600 EUR.