TAG Heuer Monaco Carbon

TAG Heuer has produced a very special Monaco for this year’s Only Watch auction. This year, the brand revives a collector’s classic in an all-new, carbon-cased construction. Inspired by the fabled Monaco “Dark Lord” of the mid-70s, this one-off piece is sure to strike a chord in the heart of the TAG Heuer collector lucky enough to get his or her hands on it.

Every two years, many of the world’s greatest watch companies come together to participate in the Only Watch charity auction. The auction raises money for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In all, 99% of the proceeds benefit this worthy cause. With CHF 38,593,000 raised for the cause in 2019, Only Watch serves as an important way for the watch industry to give back. It’s also, however, a chance for watch brands to bring their most wild ideas to the table in the form of unique, highly desirable pieces. And this year, TAG Heuer certainly won’t be letting the enthusiasts down with the Only Watch Tag Heuer Carbon Monaco.

The inspiration for this year’s Only Watch offering comes from the ultra-desirable Monaco reference 74033N. As the story goes, Jack Heuer felt inspired by a custom black PVD Royal Oak he’d seen on the wrist of King Juan Carlos I of Spain. To breathe vitality into the brand’s top model as sales lagged in the 70s, Heuer produced the experimental Monaco 74033N. It featured a stark black PVD case and a black dial with popping, orange chronograph hands. Heuer produced the watch in such low numbers (100-200 pieces) that it never actually made it into the brand’s catalog. Dubbed the “Dark Lord” by collectors, the Monaco 74033N (featured in an article by Jorg here) has become one of the most desirable Heuer chronographs in the brand’s history. At auction, it has fetched upwards of CHF 60,000. This made it a perfect platform of inspiration for TAG’s Only Watch offering.

But TAG Heuer didn’t simply want to produce any old reissue. On the contrary, the brand went all out, making this the most futuristic Monaco yet. While the hands, indices, and color palette hearken back to the original Dark Lord 74033N,  TAG Heuer brings the design into 2021 with a forged carbon fiber dial and case. Recalling the brand’s racing heritage, the dial is skeletonized to resemble the struts of a race car. Each skeletonized segment of the dial is faceted with hand-finished bevels. This unique piece is actually not the first Monaco with a carbon fiber case. That title went to the Monaco Bamford edition in 2018. This year’s model, however, features a unique redesign. The new case features the largest sapphire exhibition back on a Monaco ever. And you’re going to want a generously sized sapphire crystal on the back to see the uniquely finished caliber H02 inside. Compared to a standard Heuer 02, this movement required 25 extra hours of hand-finishing. It also features no less than 10 different finishing techniques. While some of them, like anglage, perlage, and black polishing may sound familiar, the rarest and most visible is the so-called graté finishing, which gives the bridges and movement holder their chequered-flag look.

The Heuer 02 caliber inside the Only Watch Carbon Monaco features a skeletonized date wheel. It also has an exclusive rotor with an orange-to-yellow gradient accent. Keeping with the theme of superb hand-finishing, the gradient is applied not by machine, but by hand, under the masterful touch of local dial artist and micro-painter André Martinez. But the movement does not only look stunning. It also performs like a champ, with a brand new carbon hairspring. Making its very debut into the Monaco line, this new hairspring is completely non-magnetic and incredibly resistant to shock and temperature fluctuations.

But even if you can’t get your hands on the Only Watch Tag Heuer Carbon Monaco, the in-house Heuer 02 movement is now available in regular the Monaco lineup. And it’s a caliber worth talking about, which marries chronograph tradition and forward-thinking specs. A traditional column wheel gives the pushers a crisp action, while a vertical clutch ensures a stutter-less start to the elapsed seconds hand. For an automatic chronograph with a thicker vertical clutch, it remains quite slim at 6.95mm. It even offers a modern 80-hour power reserve and 12 hours of chronograph timing functionality.

Quite fittingly, the Only Watch Carbon Monaco comes on an aesthetically congruent black leather strap. The strap itself is made using a special molding technique that is new to TAG Heuer. First, the brand injects silicon into a durable leather sole for both pliability and strength. Then, TAG Heuer uses a heated press and a special mold shaped like the links of steel bracelet to give the leather a three-dimensional H-link pattern. The ends of the strap remain unstamped, to allow for precise adjustment with the forged carbon fiber deployant clasp. Though this technique, as well as the movement’s carbon fiber hairspring, are limited to the Only Watch Carbon Monaco at the moment, it will be interesting to see if or when these features trickle down into the standard Monaco lineup.

The TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco will go under the hammer on November 6, 2021, at the Only Watch auction in Geneva. As with all of the timepieces up for auction at Only Watch, this watch is strictly a one-off piece. If the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco sings to you, then you’ll need to be ready to pounce. Head on over to the Only Watch website to learn more about the auction and how to register to bid. The estimated hammer price for this watch is between CHF 50,000 and CHF 100,000. So strengthen your resolve and prepare your finances as need be!