The history of automobile racing is punctuated by the untimely deaths of so many legendary drivers. Long before racing became even remotely “safe” through innovations in impact-absorbing bodies, cage design, neck braces, fire suppression systems, and so on, hundreds of drivers met their fate at the wheel of their racecars. The legacies of many of these drivers have unfortunately been lost to time, their contributions and victories a mere side note in the history of the world’s greatest sport.
This is not the case with Jo Siffert – the Swiss Formula 1 and Sports Car legend whose legacy lives on not only in the minds of racing enthusiasts worldwide, but also for vintage watch enthusiasts. Like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, Jo Siffert’s name is inextricably linked to a particular wristwatch – the Heuer Autavia. As we’ve mentioned before (and most certainly will again), the Autavia is one of our favorite vintage sporting chronographs, with a perfect combination of looks, functionality, and history.
Period Heuer advertising claimed that the Autavia was the professional racer’s choice. Clearly, this was the truth. Like the Paul Newman Daytona and the Steve McQueen Monaco, the “Jo Siffert Autavia” references a particular model of the iconic chronograph – the rare and ultra desirable white-dialed version that Siffert himself wore.
Produced in far lower quantities than the standard black dial and “Viceroy” models, the Siffert Autavia is immediately differentiated by its reversed color scheme and vibrant blue chronograph hand. And while all models of the Autavia are pretty damned cool in our book, the Siffert models take the cake. Heuer collectors agree, and good examples of Siffert Autavias (most notably the automatic Calibre 11 versions) regularly command prices 4-5 times higher than other versions at auction.
Jo Siffert and Steve McQueen
Few vintage chronographs can claim to have as genuine a connection to motorsports history as the Heuer Autavia, and for that reason they are must-have timepieces for automobile and wristwatch collectors alike. Even funny man and Porschephile extraordinaire Jerry Seinfeld wears a Siffert Autavia. If you’re a vintage car enthusiast looking for the right timepiece to complement your style, look no further.
For more information on the Heuer Autavia and the Jo Siffert version, we recommend you pop over to Hodinkee.
Words by: James Lamdin - A vintage watch connoisseur and founder of analog/shift, an online boutique for a curated selection of exceptional wristwatches.