REVIEW: UK REPLICA TAG HEUER AUTAVIA ISOGRAPH WITH RETRO STYLE

Contrary to the last several centuries, watchmaking today is a fast-moving business. For everyone else, they’re playing catchup, and every move that stays static or goes backwards, in comparison to the exponential growth found at the front, is another inch closer to obsolescence. For cheap fake TAG Heuer, the Autavia Isograph is that hopeful step forward—or is it a step back?
What do TAG Heuer, Omega and Rolex all have in common? In the sixties, the golden era of the mechanical wristwatch, when they were designed to be used and not posed in, all three of those brands were competitors. I mean, they’re still competitors now, but back then it was different. Now it’s mostly just a popularity contest, and a cutthroat one at that.

Where the brands once competed against each other to be the best, toughest, most capable, it’s more of a song and dance these days. No one is expecting a revolution in automatic chronographs, or deep-sea divers—there’s more an expectation of good quality, good looks and—most importantly—brand recognition.

TAG Heuer used to be a well-recognised brand, an equal to Rolex. Now? Well, you know how it is now. If you can afford the Rolex, ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll be buying the Rolex. But how did it all happen? How did AAA quality replica TAG Heuer lose that edge? And more importantly, what can it do to earn it back again?

I’ve bleated on about the quartz crisis enough times that the regulars will probably be rolling their eyes to hear about it again, but think about it like this: mechanical watches are vinyl, and the watches that replaced them, quartz, are more like the compact disc. So much more advanced was the quartz watch that I’ve skipped cassette tapes—and ignored 8-track entirely—and as you can imagine, that sort of put a stop to the whole mechanical watch thing right there.
Although it didn’t because like vinyl, mechanical has a very quaint, very emotive appeal that struck a chord quartz didn’t. And again, just like with vinyl, the sentiment of the niche group of aficionados that couldn’t let go eventually bled into the wider zeitgeist and became mainstream. Now you can buy a vinyl record in your local supermarket. Now mechanical watches are a mainstay for any up-and-coming earner.

I mean, think about it—it’s wacky. These old, outdated, weighty, time-telling bracelets form the fundamental sponsorship strategy of the most top tier sporting competitions in the world. F1, Wimbledon, the Olympics—all sponsored by manufacturers of watches way too inaccurate to reliably time any of those events.

But we like them anyway because we’re soft. We’re not robots. We don’t want to live our lives the logical way, we want to live them the emotive way. Marley and Me wasn’t sad because taking the time to bury the dog wasted an otherwise productive Sunday afternoon, it was sad because doggies are the best. Why are doggies the best? Because we’re soft.

Rolex is a master at knowing where exactly in our softness it needs to poke to squish the right emotions. Wearing a Rolex is not about telling the time, it’s about feeling special, appreciating craftsmanship and honouring heritage. Can a TAG Heuer do that? It’s certainly trying. Given the variety of its recent back catalogue, it’s tried in many different ways, but unfortunately for them, there’s no instruction manual on how the soft parts of humans work.
We’ve seen modern TAG Heuer, like the Carrera 02T, we’ve seen retro like the 160 Years Silver Limited Edition—and now there’s this, the Autavia Isograph, and it’s something else altogether.

Imagine if you were trying to explain to an alien what makes a Rolex more desirable than a TAG Heuer—or rather, what makes a TAG Heuer less desirable than a Rolex. No matter how you try, there’s no sensible answer, no logical message that summarises the human love affair with branding. And that’s the crux of it: on the whole, people prefer the brand Rolex to the brand TAG Heuer.

Is TAG Heuer less accomplished, less historic? No, not really. It was founded forty-five years before Rolex, was pivotal in the relationship between timing and motorsport, spearheaded ground-breaking developments in mechanical advancement. By all rights, it should be as well-loved as Rolex at least.

But it’s not, and it knows it, and it’s trying to do something about it. That something is the brown dial replica TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph, and as you can see, it’s very different to what’s come before. There’s not much not going on here, from heritage-inspired touches borrowed from vintage pilot’s watches, to modern design elements like the 42mm size, bold use of colour—for the Swiss at least—and a heady mix of materials, including bronze for the case, titanium for the case back and ceramic for the bezel.

It’s almost as though the guys and gals at TAG Heuer said, “We’ve tried vintage, we’ve tried modern. Let’s take everything people like about the most popular watches and put them all into one design—that’s sure to work!” It’s a melting pot of watchmaking trends, perhaps a last hail Mary to make something stick. The secret of TAG Heuer’s struggles to reinvent itself aren’t all that secret after all.
Mechanically, the Calibre 5 inside is very unusual, but not in a way seen before. Most manufacturers with the capability to build their own movements source hairsprings from third parties, as they’re the hardest part to make, but not here. Instead, TAG Heuer has sourced a third-party movement and replaced the hairspring with an in-house one, made from carbon composite no less. Technically, that’s a pretty big deal, having first featured in the very expensive concept tourbillon 02T Carbon—and it’s yet another ingredient in the mixed bag that is the £3,150 Autavia Isograph.

Does it work? Does this mishmash of concepts and ideas achieve TAG Heuer’s goal of moving the brand one step forwards? Does the watch poke the soft, squishy parts just right? Well, the truth is it’s going to take more than just one watch to change the way people think of the brand, but is this at least the right direction? Honestly, I don’t know. The watch is nice, if a little busy and convoluted, perhaps, but to my eyes, it kind of works. It’s a bold decision, that’s for sure, and when nothing else works it’s usually time to go big or go home. I suppose it’s too early to see in which of those directions the Autavia Isograph’s destiny lies.

I don’t think I’ve been this stumped on a watch for a long time. Honestly, I genuinely don’t know what to make of it. Or perhaps I’m overthinking it? Perhaps a watch is just a watch? Of course, there’s no magic bullet for catching up with Rolex—Omega’s Seamaster Pro is proof of that—and maybe it’s my love of the history of TAG Heuer clone and those iconic moments it made famous that makes me project my wish for the brand’s success onto the Autavia Isograph.