SAVOIR FAIRE Collected, Vol. 4, Part One

Morgan King & Neil Ferrier

7 min

In the fourth of our series of interviews with TAG Heuer aficionados, we chat to Discommon’s Neil Ferrier and collector extraordinaire Morgan King. Neil Ferrier is the mastermind behind the elite industrial design firm Discommon – with Heuer in his veins – and Morgan King is the legendary ‘big kid’ with an unrivalled passion for collecting. In this first part of a conversation, which took place on three continents, we covered catching the collecting bug, McQueen, and ‘double-wristing’...

The Edge  First of all, where are you both? Neil, you’ve been ejected from your office, is that right? 


Neil I live in Greenville, South Carolina. I was in California for eleven years, but moved the business over here with my family for the greenery, and a little bit more of a manageable city size. As long as I have some form of useful airport, that’s pretty much all I need. Although obviously I haven’t needed that much in the last year… so yes, I’m at home. Our office is in a big industrial coffee roasting facility, and if they’re roasting, or if somebody has come in with covid, which they decided to do at the weekend, then we’re not there. 


The Edge  That’s a very fragrant office choice. 


Neil It is awesome, but the roasting process is a little louder than I expected! So I’ve since bought a building that was all kinds of derelict, abandoned, whatever you want to call it – it was bad. Now I’ve got the project, which will take a year probably, of turning that into our headquarters. Until then I’m still in the coffee shop. 


The Edge That project sounds exciting. And Morgan, what about you? 


Morgan I’m in Taipei, Taiwan. For the moment we’ve decided to leave Los Angeles. I’m in Pasadena normally. We were thinking of leaving for Asia just for a couple of months, and then next thing you know, August came around, and my kids were like, ‘what about school? Are we doing it online?’ But my wife said no, they should do it peer to peer, and we enrolled them in an American school here in Taipei. So we’re here for at least one year, although my eldest is now back to online schooling because she missed California deeply. She’s on a different time zone to the rest of us, running around at 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning, while everyone else is trying to sleep. 


The Edge I can see you’ve kept yourself surrounded with some US memorabilia – your cap, the picture of the New York skyline. So, let’s start by you telling us about your connection to TAG Heuer, and watches in general. 

Morgan King's personal collection - TAG Heuer Formula 1


Morgan Well, my first experience was in Europe. I went to Europe when I was a freshman in college with my buddy whose mom was working at the U.N. So there I am hanging out around the Louvre in Paris, hanging out in London, going to each city – as a fresh 18-year-old, you know, it was great. And I’ve always loved watches, chronographs, pop watches, and I was in this watch shop, looking around at all these cuckoo clocks and Swiss army knives, and then there was a whole line of TAG Heuer watches, and I was like, what are they? There was an F1 chronograph, plastic bezel, and I just loved it. It was the F1 from 1995. It was ridiculously gorgeous. At the time I only had a credit card with a thousand dollar limit, but I put it down, and that was that. The rest of the trip I was just eating UN crackers, UN cheese, because I was so poor. 


The Edge The start of your collection was sponsored by the UN, I like that.


Morgan Don’t tell my friends, I don’t think they ever knew that I was living off the attaché group! But it was amazing. And ever since then I’ve just loved TAG, and I’ve collected the 1500s and of course the 2000 series. When 2001 came around, the reeditions, I saw the re-edition Carrera, reedition Monacos, and the first thing in my head was that if these are reeditions, what do the originals look like? So then of course I went to Google – well, I don’t think we had Google then, I probably went to Yahoo – and then I was like, oh, I want these too. 


The Edge Do you still have that first TAG Heuer you bought? 


Morgan I do. And when I was at the Heuer summit in 2013 one of the TAG Heuer people was nice enough to refresh everything, so I have a brand new Quartz movement, dial, bezel…

The Edge And what are you wearing right now? [Morgan shows his hands] Oh my God. Bare wrists!


Morgan [Laughs] I know. I’m normally double-wristed, but because I’m interviewing…


Neil But do you double-wrist with an Apple watch, or with two watch watches? 


Morgan Two watch watches. 


Neil Strong! I’ve never managed that. Now it’s Neil’s turn…. 

Heuer Autavia 2446C GMT

The Edge Yes, let’s see your wrists…


Neil I have one on, a 2446C GMT. 


The Edge Lovely. 


Neil It’s unrestored, which is uncommon for me, I’m usually into bringing things back to the way they were. My history with watches starts with the classic story of a watch found in a drawer. When my grandfather died, we found his flying watch in his sock drawer, which was a grey dial Monaco he had bought new when he was a dentist with the military, but it had broken, so it got sent away to TAG for restoration for my 18th birthday. And now I’m 37, so that was a while ago. It got some of the last vintage parts that were still in stock. So it got, I think, a mainspring and some other parts that were still original, which is really cool. The deal was just that I had to use it, so I rolled all through college with a Monaco. 


Then when I was about 25 I met Abel Court in Belgium and managed to convince Abel to restore it for me, and that was basically the [happy] disaster of my Heuer ‘thing’ starting. At that time, my company was growing, and I started to have a little bit more income. I found a Carrera on eBay that I thought was really well worth restoring, and Abel restored it for my dad to give me for my 30th. So then I had a Monaco from my grandfather, and a Carrera from my dad, and I’ve never bought another of either of those since. I’ve just been getting Autavias, and some others – I did get a Dato Carrera because it was such a crazy iconic black dial. 


The Edge I love the idea of these age markers being measured in watches. Can I ask what’s on the horizon for your 40th? 


Neil Well first of all, there was another marker, which was that my son was born at the same time as the Calibre 11 guys doing an Autavia re-edition, so my three year old son has a new one of those in a box… although I have worn it a couple of times. For a long, long, long time I’ve wanted one of Max Büsser’s watches, so I think it’s probably going to be an MB&F for my fortieth. Max is an awfully good friend, but I’ve never owned any – my wife would murder me. I’m just trying to get there by the time I’m 40.

Heuer Monaco 1133B ("McQueen") from Morgan King's collection

The Edge When it comes to having a special affection for TAG Heuer, Morgan, I hear you have a special place in your heart for Steve McQueen. That’s got to be a factor, right? 


Morgan I have a little love affair with Steve McQueen. He’s my man. Of course, the movie Le Mans was great, and when you think of Steve McQueen, you also think of Paul Newman. So I have this affinity with chronographs, and the Monaco was one of the things that I gravitated towards, just like how Neil is with Autavias. I just love the Monaco’s square shape, and I just love the double ‘threes’. The 1133 case. And the Monaco was released on March 3rd in 1969, right? Three three. Is that a coincidence? I don’t know. Are the Illuminati involved? 


The Edge Since you bring up the Illuminati, I have to ask you, how did you get your prototypes? 


Morgan [Nervous laugh] Erm… I don’t know. I swore I wouldn’t say. 


Neil It’s alright Morgan, I’ve done enough things to get into trouble with TAG too. I’m probably going to get asked about them at some point. 


Morgan Just be wary, when they invite us for meetings, they’re going to lock us up. 


Neil [Laughs] I had a cease and desist from seventeen lawyers in New York in my early thirties, that was my wake-up call.


The Edge We can go into that later. Are you going to not reveal then, Morgan, how you got them? 


Morgan No, of course I will. As you know, the Heuer community is very, very close and very fanatical. There are crazy, crazy Heuer fans.


Neil Just a little. 


Morgan Just a little bit, right? Abel Court, Paul Gavin, Richard Crosthwaite, you know, Gianni, Paolo, the famous Frenchman Laurent that we love and dearly miss. When you have all these guys getting together, there’s always rare finds coming up. When I first started buying Monacos, it was usually on eBay, and Jeff Stein was helping me, all these guys at the summit. And Richard Crosthwaite, he’s a car editor, test-driver…


Neil He’s essentially an incredible reporter, on vehicles, and other intriguing items. 


Morgan Right. And he was like, ‘I love Monacos, you love Monacos…’ There were some really cool Monacos he was able to accumulate for his Heuer Monaco book. At the time, I only had maybe three or four. I don’t know if you know my history, but I’m a big collector. I’m a baseball card collector, I’m a comic book collector, I’m a toy collector, I go to Comic-Con every year, and I’m a big kid, just a big, big kid. So I said, ‘hey, Richard, if you ever want to sell any Monacos, call me. Let me know, any time’. And after the book was written, he said ‘you know, I’ve had my joy. I’m ready to get rid of some of them’. And I said, ‘which ones?’, and he said, ‘all of them, everything in the book’, and I thought, how can I sell a kidney? Can I sell a child? What should I do? But we struck a price, and I bought all the watches in the book. So I have his Monaco collection. Well, I have most of it. There was quite a strong collection…


Neil This is quite a bold move. I like this Morgan. This is an actual swan dive. 


Morgan You go big, or you go home! Richard was a gentleman, but he didn’t sell me everything… but that’s how I got the two prototypes that I have in my collection, which hopefully will stay in my collection, unless my wife kills me, and then they can go to Neil, for his son. 


Join us for Part Two, to discuss the magic of colour and the importance of mischief…


(Small) part of Morgan King's watch collection