For the last decade, I’ve been slowly watching Heuer’s Autavia (short for automotive/aviation) gain favor from collectors besides Jeff Stein. There is a limit to how much one can spend on a 6263 before alternatives start to look more appetizing. Today, I think I can say the same for the 6542. This 2446C isn’t just great as an alternative to Rolex’s 6542 Bakelite, it’s great by its own merits.
The 6542 is a grail for many and deserves to be. Heres the thing though: it suffers from what I call Ferrari-syndrome. The watch has become such an icon that when I see someone wearing it, I think to myself, “Do they love watches or do they just have money?” The watch is a victim of its own success. It has become such an icon that it equally attracts people who understand its historical greatness and those who just have money to buy whatever others call great. However, one of the great joys of vintage watches is the depth of the rabbit hole. It goes deep enough that, with a bit of knowledge, one can often buy a piece twice as interesting as another for half the outlay. That’s what we have here today: a vintage watch exclusively for people who love watches.
The Autavia GMT has a full suite of charms all its own. Firstly, it’s both a chronograph and a GMT. This enables many practical uses. Secondly, there are no shortage of unique details: fluted pushers, panda sub dials, overly-precise bezel markings, tanned tritium plots, and red GMT hand included. Last, the proportions are perfect. The stout lugs and oversized case shout 1970s in the best way possible. These Autavias used Valjoux 72s like all the greats of that time. That’s no bad thing as there are parts remaining and any decent watchmaker can service it. All told, its piece with boundless appeal.
This example has the kind of patina you’d hope for. Importantly, the dial hasn’t degraded and shows a beautiful even tanning across all tritium applications. Its bezel is on the way to being ghosted but hasn’t been knocked about much. The case is ever-so-slightly polished but still presents strong original shape. Aside from the lack of documentation which one hardly sees, it’s exceptional. And more importantly, if you wear it, it says good things about you as a collector and lover of vintage watches.
Find this Autavia GMT here from Watchworks in Haarlem, Netherlands