IS THE HEUER AUTAVIA 2446 'RINDT' THE QUINTESSENTIAL RACING CHRONOGRAPH?

The triple-register manual wind chronograph is one of the brand's most recognisable models with a poignant association.

IS THE HEUER AUTAVIA 2446 'RINDT' THE QUINTESSENTIAL RACING CHRONOGRAPH?

With the exception of the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona, most of the nicknames given to Rolex sports models are split between soft drinks and superheroes, with the odd coffee shop or carton character thrown into the mix. With vintage Heuer, the nicknames tend to be real heroes, stars of the track who wore the watches named after them. Hence, we have the Siffert, the Andretti, and most recognisable of all, the ref. 2446 Heuer Autavia ‘Rindt’.

The Autavia was the first Heuer watch to have a model name, previously they had just used reference numbers, and the first Heuer chronograph to include a rotating bezel. This function allowed the tracking of elapsed time on the main hands, or a second time zone – the reasoning behind the name being a combination of Automobile and Aviation.

Manual wind movements powered the Autavia through its various iterations from 1962 until 1969 when automatic movements took over. Jack Heuer’s specific effort to target the racing community with this new model range saw Autavias grace the wrists of Mario Andretti, Derek Bell, Steve McQueen, Clay Regazzoni, Jo Siffert and Gilles Villeneuve. The longest-running of the screw-back manual wind models was the third version of the dial and the second version of the case, known as the ‘Rindt’ as it was worn by German-born racing driver Jochen Rindt.

Rindt tragically lost his life before the end of the 1970 F1 season, his second driving for Lotus. He had expressed concerns about Lotus’ reliability the year before, along with his racing partner Graham Hill who quipped “Every time I am being overtaken by my own wheel; I know I am in a Lotus”. Rindt felt that he had to take the risk as Lotus were the fastest car saying ominously, “At Lotus, I can either be world champion or die”.

As the 1970 season moved to Monza, a high-speed track, Lotus chose to remove the rear wing to reduce drag and allow their drivers to capitalise on increased slipstreaming. Despite reports from his teammate that the car “wouldn’t run straight” Rindt was happy enough to switch to a higher gear ratio to increase the potential top speed of the car. On the fifth practice lap, Rindt’s car veered into the barrier at the approach to the Parabolica. On impact, the barrier parted causing the car to hit a stanchion head-on. Rindt had always been worried about the possibility of being caught in a car fire and so had a habit of only using 4 of the 5 straps of his harness, ignoring the crotch strap. This proved a fatal mistake as the force of the impact slid him under the restraining belts and cut open his throat. Rindt was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.

With only three remaining races after Monza, Rindt had won 5 out of 10 giving him a significant lead in the Championships. Jacky Ickx, the closest challenger was unable to close the gap, making Rindt the only driver to win an F1 Championships posthumously. The championship trophy was handed to his widow Nina by Jackie Stewart on 18 November 1970 in a ceremony near the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

For some, the Autavia 2446 'Rindt' is the ultimate expression of Heuer's style. Compact, highly legible and eschewing the vibrant colours of the ‘70s models. If you are going to represent a hero on your wrist, this is a great choice.