The Only Watch charity auction provides a great opportunity for watch companies to not only support a highly-worth charity, but also to flex their creative watchmaking skills in creating unique one-off watches for the auction. 2021 is the ninth edition of Only Watch, and the fourth in which TAG Heuer has participated. Befitting the bespoke nature of Only Watch watches, TAG Heuer has developed something special- a hand-finished 2021 TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco.
The latest carbon Monaco may use the latest in watchmaking materials and technology, but it’s a design that owes a lot to the mythical all-black with orange highlights Heuer Monaco 74033N (we’ll avoid the tacky nickname), a watch that was developed but never sold by Heuer during the 1970s. There aren’t many vintage Monaco 74033Ns that escaped from the lab and onto the wrists of collectors, but the Only Watch Monaco will be ever rarer, with just a single watch produced.
Only Watch began in 2005 as a biennial watch auction to support research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Across the eight previous editions, more than €70 million has been raised, with some incredible watches produced. Including the 2021 edition, TAG Heuer produced watches for the 2009, 2011. 2017 and 2021 auctions. Let’s now look back at the three previous watches before we dive into the latest offering.
The Monaco V4 was initially released as a limited edition of 150 Platinum watches following five years developing the innovative belt-driven movement. TAG Heuer offered #001/ 150 to the auction- but other than the special LE number, the watch was the same as the other 149 Platinum V4s.
Two years later, TAG Heuer was back with this amazing unique Monaco, equipped with the in-house 1/ 100th second Mikrograph movement. There was no expense spared in developing this watch and it was the only time that the Mikrograph movement appeared in a Monaco and the only time that this dial and case have been used.
The 2017 edition is the only non-Monaco Only Watch from TAG Heuer and came at the height of the company’s focus on the modular Connected Modular 45 series, offering not only a smart watch, but also a Heuer-02 Tourbillon module. In addition the watch itself, the buyer also received a bespoke watch box and a lunch for four with Jean-Claude Biver, then CEO of TAG Heuer. The watch and extras sold for CHF 38,000.
And now to the latest in the family- the carbon Monaco. While this is not the first carbon Monaco, it does use a different 39mm case to the carbon Bamford Monaco, the most notable difference being the caseback, which is redesigned to accommodate a much larger sapphire caseback.
he watch is TAG Heuer’s latest flirtation with almost producing a modern 74033N Monaco. When TAG Heuer announced that it would make five limited editions to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Monaco, you would have got short odds that one of the five would have been a tribute to the 74033N, but TAG Heuer- correctly- resisted the temptation. We’ve have had the French Limited Edition Calibre 11 and the ACM Full Black Monaco, but neither was a true re-edition- the new Tag Heuer Carbon Monaco is about as close as we have come.
The influence of the 74033N can be seen in the all-black case, two prominent registers housing orange hands, the central orange chronograph hand and the use of aged rectangular lume strips, with a double-strip at 12 o’clock. Orange also happens to be the colour scheme of the 2021 auction.
But what makes this dial different is the use of a skeletonised carbon fibre dial, in what we think is a more successful execution than that seen on the Carrera Heuer 01 and 02 dial models. The dial is made by dial specialist ArteCad (owned by TAG Heuer) and is milled from a single piece of carbon fibre with key surfaces hand-finished with bevelled edges- a finishing technique known as anglage.
Turn the watch over and you’ll see that as much effort has gone into the back of the watch as the front. The caseback is large…very large, with only a thin frame of carbon fibre framing the movement, held in place by four screws.
And what you can see behind this widescreen caseback is a hand finished version of the Heuer 02 movement, that not only benefits aesthetically, but also from the inclusion of the carbon hairspring that was developed for the Carrera Nanograph back in 2019. Why carbon? It comes down to the push for improved time-keeping, with carbon offering improved anti-magnetism, shock resistance and stability across temperature ranges relative to a standard alloy hairspring.
The movement also features a unique oscillating weight in the form of the Replica TAG Heuer Watch shield, with a thin decorative strip of colour that graduates from yellow through to a deep orange red painted by hand. The bridges and plates of the Heuer 02 are also decorated with ten different hand finishing techniques, as TAG Heuer explains:
The final touch is a new leather strap developed by TAG Heuer that looks like a traditional metal bracelet. The link effect is produced by injecting silicon is injected into the sole of the leather, which is then
heat-stamped with a mould in the shape of a metal link bracelet.