SAVOIR FAIRE From Darkness, Light

7 min

Shining a spotlight on the one-of-a-kind TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco.

Once every two years, the luxury watchmaking community comes together for a singular event: Only Watch. This fundraising auction, now in its 9th edition, has raised over 70 million euros to date, with 99% of profits going directly to support Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. Organised under the High Patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II and at the initiative of Luc Pettavino, former CEO and shareholder of the Monaco Yacht Show, Only Watch has become a landmark event for the industry, bringing together high-end watchmakers from around the world for a worthy cause and inspiring a dedicated return to savoir-faire.

For TAG Heuer, Only Watch is a highlight of the industry calendar, not just for its admirable purpose, but for the way it mobilises our teams as a true cross-disciplinary project. It brings us together across departments and expertise, forging collaboration and conversation in exciting new ways, and pushes us past our creative and technical limits. It drives us to reinvent the wheel – or watch, as it were.

In the creation of the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco for this year’s auction, we’ve pulled out all the stops, tapping our in-house experts and cherished external collaborators in order to imagine and assemble a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime watch forged in black carbon fibre. At the end of the day, the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco is a visionary timepiece and a link between our history and future. Join us on a joyride through its conception and design.

All hands on deck

How does a luxury watch brand deliver a spectacular, original wristwatch—one that can stop time and catch breaths at the Only Watch auction? Well, it takes a village… or in our case, many of our talented team members. When it comes to this year’s TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco, a riff on the maison’s mysterious black-coated Monaco from the 1970s (for more about the watch and its legacy, read this article), our TAG Heuer experts stand out for their guiding vision and craft. Whether in terms of the watch’s movement, habillage or overall creative direction, this project was executed with great skill – to absolute perfection.

After months of dedicated teamwork and development, wherein TAG Heuer’s designers, engineers and partners (more on our collaborations coming up below) poured their hearts and souls into the endeavor, the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco was born. Through their unmatched savoir faire, this wristwatch is powered by TAG Heuer’s in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph, a Swiss-made movement with an 80-hour power reserve: a tribute to high-end, high-functioning watchmaking. 

Our watchmakers themselves have described this project as an enriching experience, which allowed them to better know and collaborate with their colleagues in unexpected ways, and to reach exciting new creative heights.

Human (and technical) resources

At TAG Heuer, we have an intimate understanding of our core competencies, our in-house expertise. After all, we’ve been perfecting the art of watchmaking since 1860. We also know to which trusted partners we can turn in order to complement our savoir fare. 

For the making of the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco and its striking skeletonised dial (hewn from carbon, of course), we collaborated with our long-time partner ArteCad, highly regarded dial specialists. They were able to deliver a spectacular dial, a structural masterpiece—with a perfectly legible water-resistant face—created from a single piece of carbon fibre.  This is the very first open-dial in the history of the Monaco – a true rarity, with subtle, accumulated geometry that nods to the “art-déco” style of the Monaco frame. 

For a very special, hand-painted touch, we sought out micro-painter André Martinez, based in Le Locle, only a few kilometres from TAG Heuer’s headquarters in the Swiss watchmaking town of La Chaux-de-Fonds. André hand-painted the movement’s unique oscillating weight (in the form of the TAG Heuer shield) with a fine line in a seamless orange to yellow gradient, a tribute to the colours of Only Watch 2021. 

To elevate the timepiece’s movement with an exceptional level of finishing, we worked with Artime SA, an industry leader in decorative techniques. The TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco took its final form through no fewer than 10 types of hand finishing! The most visible effect is the rare graté (or etched) decoration, which creates the chequered-flag motif seen on the movement’s bridges, in turn carrying further engravings.

For an added sense of depth, the movement also features other hand-finished techniques including precision angling, black polishing, circular graining, straight graining, perlage, snailing, sandblasting, chevron engraving and sunburst finishing. All that, plus 25 hours of additional hand-finishing to achieve a timepiece worthy of Only Watch.

Bridge decorated with handmade scraping, using the racing flag’s design. Vertical scraping which creates a first set of squares, and a horizontal set, which altogether creates an illusion of light when you look at the watch.

Past, present, future

With TAG Heuer’s rich catalogue of intriguing timepieces to draw from as inspiration, the maison turned to the mythical black-PVD-cased Monaco Reference 74033N (known by collectors as the “Dark Lord”). The result? An outstanding wristwatch synthesising five decades of watchmaking heritage with the most advanced contemporary watchmaking techniques available. 

The signature carbon escapement, which dramatically increases the precision of motion, is a true technical innovation recently developed by the LVMH group; our one-off reinterpretation of the original ‘Dark Lord’ takes this carbon element to new heights. 

TAG Heuer has used carbon fibre for the Monaco case before, as with the 2018 Monaco Bamford, but the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco is a unique watch explicitly designed to carry the largest sapphire crystal caseback ever seen on a Monaco. 

The dial is a tribute to our watch lineage, through work with ArteCad. They applied milling and drilling techniques to reveal striking shapes that stretch across the face of the watch like the struts on a racing car chassis, a subtle reference to TAG Heuer’s integral role in the evolution of modern motor sport. Furthermore, the fact that the watch’s carbon fibre dial is hand finished marks a fascinating juxtaposition of traditional open works dials and the ultra-contemporary carbon fibre model.

The watch is a tangible link between TAG Heuer’s history and future, with nods to the past through a forward-thinking lens. Take, for example, the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco strap: It’s a leather strap that reinterprets the iconic Monaco metal bracelet, but in curved leather. This was created through a highly technical process including the creation of a 3D membrane, something that would have been completely unthinkable or impossible…even just a few years ago. 

Every couple of years, Only Watch presents us with the opportunity to reimagine, to reinvent an incarnation of a high-end timepiece, and with the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco, we look back into our history to project ourselves forward into the future of watchmaking.

The 9th edition of the Only Watch auction takes place November 6, 2021 in Geneva. For more information, visit the official website.