The Dark Lord Rises: Meet The New TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco
Editor’s note: For nearly a decade now we have curiously anticipated the Only Watch Auction. The 2021 edition doesn’t disappoint! While watches earlier this year had a green theme, this year’s Auction watches seem to have an orange theme. Following the releases from Watches & Wonders 2021, today we present the new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco. Here’s our preview and the Gut Reaction Review (Grr…). For our standard detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
Heuer’s Monaco is one of my favourite watch designs of all time. The 70’s rare ‘Dark Lord’ version of this more than 50-year old design is considered as one of the best iterations by Monaco collectors and enthusiasts alike. For me, the very idea that a 52-year old watch design can seem so modern is what makes the new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco tick.
With the extensive use of carbon — from the case and skeletonised dial down to the hairspring — to dark grey aesthetics and a burst of orange, there is a certain moody air about the timepiece that I appreciate. Add to this the introduction of hand-finishing the movement and what you get is a Monaco as cool as McQueen and as special as his legacy.
The Heuer 02 calibre used here is fitted with a carbon hairspring, is hand-finished using 10 different techniques including a distinctive gratté finish that gives the impression of a chequered flag. This is completed by a unique oscillating mass in the form of the TAG Heuer shield which is hand-finished and hand-painted in the gradient shades of Only Watch 2021.
Aesthetics wise, the high point is the presence of a hand-finished skeletonised concave forged carbon diva with machined blocks of Super-LumiNova® that lends it a distinct flair and is almost Monaco V4 in appeal.
The skeletonisation brings to Monaco a very Hublot-esque feel, something welcome but not surprising given both the brands belong to the LVMH group. I also like that only the chronograph hands are orange, while the running second’s hand at 6’o clock is not. This gives it a more chronograph purpose-built appeal.
The outer case is of course reminiscent of the 2018 TAG Heuer x Bamford Monaco LE, a watch that met with polarising opinions. But this new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco should meet with a positive response from the collector community, given the ‘Dark Lord’ version was sorely missed in 2019 when Heuer released 5 variations for the 50th-anniversary celebrations.
As for me, if I was one of those who could bid at the auction, I would have definitely bidder for this. It ticks all the right boxes: iconic shape, timeless appeal, modern materials, different skeletonised aesthetics, excellent use of restrained colour, weekend proof 80-hour power reserve, and stellar looks.
It also features a bespoke handmade leather strap that mimics a bracelet and I hope that the brand offers a version of this strap as part of the regular collection soon.
Measuring the usual 39x39mm square case — technically it’s not a square, thanks to the case being one irregular quadrilateral monolithic chunk — and 15.6mm thickness, this version is estimated to go between CHF 50’000 – 100’000 at the auction.
But based on the Bonham’s Monaco “Dark Lord”, Ref: 74033, Circa 1974 sale of £53’750 (AU$ 98’937) inc. premium from 2018, something tells me that this should break its initial estimate with ease.
The new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco follows the release of the Monaco Green Grand Prix de Monaco Historique Limited Edition from April this year. When it comes to both the engine and the dimensions, they both read the same. But when it comes to aesthetics, in the immortal words of Chandler Bing from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, could they be any different?!
In regards to the charity, 54 brands are participating this year for the 9th edition — the first one was in 2005 — of the biennial charity auction Only Watch, whose aim is to raise funds for research against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This auction has raised more than 70 million Euros — the 2019 edition raised CHF 38’593’000 — so far and has enabled scientists to continue their research.
The lots will go on a small world tour — unfortunately, and surprise surprise, Australia is not a part of it — and then auctioned in collaboration with Christie’s on 6 November 2021, at 2pm (Geneva time), at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues.
The apparent — from a majority of the releases across the 54 brands — albeit unofficial orange theme for this year’s Only Watch Auction is reflected subtly but surely on the dial of the new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco. Reminiscent of the famed Monaco ‘Dark Lord’ version, the hands feature a welcome burst of orange, providing the busy timepiece with a much-needed colour break.
Flip the watch and this theme is continued with the presence of hand painted gradient shades of Only Watch 2021.
The ref. CBL2191.FC6507 features the newer — as compared to the original calibre 11 in my Monaco LE 1969-1979 or the 17-jewel Valjoux 7740 manual wind calibre in the 1974 Dark Lord— TAG Heuer Automatic Calibre Heuer 02 automatic manufacture chronograph movement.
This updated in-house movement measures 31mm in diameter, is comprised of 33 jewels and 168 individual components including a column wheel and a vertical clutch, and beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h).
One of the major benefits of this new movement is that it offers an impressive 80-hour power reserve.
“A reimagining of the iconic ultra-rare Monaco “Dark Lord” in carbon, combining visionary avant-garde design and cutting-edge materials with exceptional traditional handcrafted savoir-faire”. The press release summarises it perfectly
That’s All Folks!
We all know how Monaco’s came about and rule: the race between three watch brands — Seiko, Zenith, and a partnership between Breitling, Heuer and Hamilton-Buren — that wanted to be the first ones to introduce to the world an automatic chronograph is the reason for the former, and gracing the wrists of none other than the King of Cool in the movie Le Mans is why they got to be so popular.
The new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco adds to the legend of this timepiece, bringing to play a unique skeletonised forged carbon dial and bespoke leather strap. Modern Monaco’s rarely get better than this.
To find out more about the new TAG Heuer Only Watch 2021 Carbon Monaco and other Only Watch auction timepieces, please head to the ONLY WATCH 2021 collection website here. All images unless otherwise specified are ©TAG Heuer. All basic information Copyright © Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies. Make sure to check out our reviews of Watches & Wonders 2021 releases here.