In light of the ninth edition of the Only Watch charity event, where exceptional one-off watches are donated and auctioned to raise funds in the fight against Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, TAG Heuer presents a rather remarkable watch. It’s astounding not only because of its looks, channelling a historical and highly sought-after vintage Heuer Monaco, but even more so because of the extensive use of carbon fibre almost everywhere, even inside the movement. For Only Watch 2021, and allegedly for one time only, the carbon fibre hairspring returns in the TAG Heuer OnlyWatch Carbon Monaco.
The Heuer Monaco is a true watchmaking icon and, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable watches on the planet. The square-cased watch is highly regarded as one of the strongest designs ever created. Of course, it helped that a cinematic legend named Steve McQueen wore it on the big screen, but watches with a status like the Monaco are rare within the industry.
And while not all Monacos since the model’s inception in 1969 might capture that same, strong spirit, it has remained a cornerstone collection for TAG Heuer ever since. Countless iterations, from time-only to very complicated ones, have seen the light of day in its 50+ years of existence. To many enthusiasts and collectors, a Monaco isn’t a Monaco unless it has a chronograph movement, with the calibre 11 being the preferred choice for obvious reasons.
Today TAG Heuer pushes the Monaco into the future a little further, with extensive use of forged carbon fibre. In some ways, it pays homage to one of the most sought-after Monacos, the so-called “Dark Lord” edition. This fabled Monaco, the ref. 74033N was never part of the official catalogue by Heuer and featured a black PVD-coated case, black dial, and white, beige, and red/orange details on the dial. TAG Heuer has used this very specific colour scheme as inspiration before for the dial of the TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 “France Edition” CAW211S.
The TAG Heuer OnlyWatch Carbon Monaco retains the signature 39mm by 39mm square case; otherwise, it simply wouldn’t be a Monaco. Made entirely of forged carbon, it is a very lightweight watch, even though the chronograph movement will make up for that a little bit. Of course, this isn’t the first carbon fibre Monaco, but it does take it to another level. As ever, the top is covered with the faceted square sapphire crystal. On the backside, however, we see a larger sapphire crystal that reveals the entire movement (more on that later).
Continuing with the carbon fibre theme, the dial is constructed using a single piece of forged carbon as well. This is carefully skeletonized in straight lines, in an almost industrial lattice-work style. The concave outer minute track draws your attention in, where three galvanized brass plates are used to display the chronograph’s 30-minute and 12-hour counters and the small seconds.
Protruding from this minute track are milled, solid blocks of beige Super-LumiNova. In the same vein as the Monaco Dark Lord 74033N and the sun-inspired central theme for this year’s Only Watch collection, the central hour and minute hands have orange details. The central chronograph seconds and the hands for all three sub-dials are also orange.
Turning over the watch reveals the Heuer 02 in-house chronograph movement. While initially, this starts as a standard integrated chronograph movement as you would find in TAG Heuer’s collections, it has been given an extensive makeover. Given the fact the dial of the watch is skeletonized, TAG Heuer put in the effort to decorate the upper side of the movement. The backside is also extensively decorated, most noticeably with a chequered-flag-like Graté finishing.
Where this movement really differs from all other Heuer 02 calibres is the use of a carbon hairspring, which makes a return after it was developed and first introduced by TAG Heuer in 2019 on a tourbillon Carrera, and later presented into the Autavia collection… before being replaced right before commercialization by a more classic metallic hairspring. Utilizing the material properties of carbon for a hairspring makes a lot of sense in theory, as it is non-magnetic, virtually unaffected by shocks, and makes perfect concentric oscillations. While the carbon hairspring has been abandoned for large scale production (probably too optimistic at that stage to be part of a classic Calibre 5 watch), it remains in production for the Carrera Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph and now, in an improved format, for this OnlyWatch Carbon Monaco.
The movement has a special, skeletonized rotor, which is shaped like the TAG Heuer shield. On the outer edge of the rotor, a hand-painted orange-to-yellow line can be spotted, tying in with the use of orange on the front and the theme of this year’s Only Watch collection. Finally, the specially created strap uses a silicone injection into the sole of the leather, which is then heat-stamped into the shape of metal links. Attached to it is the familiar folding clasp, which allows for seamless adjustment of strap length when worn, executed in forged carbon, of course.
TAG Heuer does state this watch will never be repeated, which makes sense as it is intended as a one-off. But, in all honesty, we know how things went down with several other Only Watch creations in the past, lending more than just a little inspiration to very successful collections that followed a unique piece.
The estimate for the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco is CHF 50,000 – 100,000.
Created in 2005, Only Watch is a biennial fundraiser for research on muscular dystrophy – Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies (AMM). Organized under the patronage of HSH Albert II de Monaco, the watches of the 9th edition will be auctioned by Christie’s on Saturday 6 November 2021. More details at OnlyWatch.com