Entering its ninth edition, Only Watch is a biennial charity auction under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert of Mo- naco. This year’s instalment brings together unique timepieces from over 50
brands. The watches, which have been on a promotional tour for the public, media and enthusiasts, will be auctioned off on Nov 6 at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues, Geneva, in collaboration with Christie’s.
Proceeds from the sale will go towards supporting research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. To date, Only Watch has raised over EUR70 million for this cause.
To gain insights on TAG Heuer’s contribution to the Only Watch auction, Options spoke to its heritage director Nicholas Biebuyck.
“We have supported Only Watch on a number of occasions in the past including the editions in 2011 and 2017. Both our CEO Frédéric Arnault and I have a close personal relationship with [Only Watch founder-organiser] Luc Pettavino, and we are of course very keen to be involved as a result.
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“The Only Watch auction is a fantastic initiative and a beautiful way to bring our industry together in service of creativity and generosity. We are delighted to be able to contribute a TAG Heuer piece to the 2021 auction and engage our community around the project as much as possible,” he says.
Biebuyck is a relatively new face at TAG Heuer, having joined only early this year, but his passion for watches and an affinity for the brand meant that he soon felt right at home. “I grew up collecting vintage chronographs, starting when I was a teenager, so Heuer timepieces were one of my obvious interests. And within my household, we shared a passion for cars and motorcycles, so there was a very natural and strong connection to the brand.
“As I continued my career in the watch industry, these ties grew even stronger, and my subsequent move to TAG Heuer has re- ally felt like a homecoming. I feel very privileged [to be in] this role, which combines my personal and professional interests so perfectly,” he explains.
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As heritage director, Biebuyck is the point of contact for most of the brand’s departments, including the product team, as his knowledge of TAG Heuer’s museum pieces is a source of great inspiration. The pieces that most captivate watch lovers often pay tribute to the iconic timepieces of the past while pushing the boundaries of traditional watchmaking.
“We concentrate our efforts on our core pillars — the Carrera, Monaco and Aquaracer, for instance. Our aim is to consolidate these icons rather than simply producing copies of less prominent models, which wouldn’t build a strong and consistent story for the brand,” Biebuyck adds.
Crafting a timepiece for the Only Watch project meant all hands on deck at the watch house.
“The Only Watch project was definitely an illustration of teamwork at its best. It in- included members from the research and development teams, design, conception, heritage, innovation, movements ... a truly cross-functional endeavour within TAG Heuer that also spanned our entire supply chain.
“We collaborated with our partner dial manufacturer ArteCad, as well as master dial artist and micro-painter André Martinez from Le Locle, and Artime SA for the movement hand finishings, leveraging expertise across the board to achieve the exceptional result we imagined. Like many watchmaking projects, the timeline was probably our greatest challenge but we were able to turn it around in just a matter of months,” Biebuyck says.
TAG Heuer’s contribution to the auction is the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco, a reimagining of the ultra-rare Monaco “Dark Lord”. As the Monaco range is perhaps the brand’s most recognisable, it was a natural choice for this celebrated event.
“We took inspiration from the famed Heuer Monaco reference 74033N, which is a legendary model within our collectors’ community. Aesthetically, the piece was very impactful with its full black dial, which translated nicely to the carbon concept we had in mind for Only Watch 2021. The ambition was to leverage our heritage to create something daring, spectacular yet authentically linked to our brand,” explains Biebuyck.
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The Monaco Reference 74033N, also known as the “Dark Lord”, was produced in the mid-1970s. Although it did not appear in any of the brand’s catalogues or advertising, it is highly sought after today and is considered a rare piece.
The TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Mona- co is not the first to be forged in blacked carbon fibre — the 2018 Monaco Bamford also used the same material. However, the case of the Only Watch timepiece has been specially designed with a large sapphire crystal caseback to give the owner an unobstructed view of the Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement, all while remaining waterproof.
In order to make this piece worthy of the Only Watch auction, the TAG Heuer team went the extra mile by elevating the Heuer 02 calibre with personalised details. It contains the brand’s exceptional in-house carbon hairspring, which ensures an impressive level of anti-magnetism, shock resistance, stability in different temperatures, and an excellent chronometric performance because of its refined geometry. The TAG Heuer shield — decorated with an orange to yellow gradient in honour of the Only Watch 2021 shades — forms the oscillating weight.
In addition to all these impressive details, the TAG Heu- er Only Watch Carbon Mo- naco features 10 types of exquisite hand-finishing, which took 25 hours to produce. While many techniques — such as anglage, black polishing, circular graining, perlage and chevron engraving — were used to create depth, the most striking is the rare graté decoration, which creates a chequered-flag motif visible on the movement’s bridges and surrounding it. What makes the TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco really pop is the skeletonised dial, which was crafted in collaboration with dial specialists ArteCad. Starting with a single piece of carbon fibre, this complex dial was unearthed by milling and drilling until it resembled the struts on a racing car — a reference to TAG Heuer’s role in the evolution of motor sports.
All this is done by hand using a fine-watchmaking technique called anglage. In addition to the date display, the watch has a chronograph and small-seconds sundial, all atop black galvanised brass plates. Standing out from the black are details in Only Watch 2021’s sunset colours, and hour markers that are individually machined blocks of highly luminescent beige Super-LumiNova.
The watch is completed with a unique strap that looks like a metal bracelet but is actually leather crafted with a link effect that took months to get right. This technique represents another first for TAG Heuer.
The world of horology is waiting excitedly as the auction approaches. The TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco will be among an impressive line-up of fine timepieces created to help fund research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“I am sure that we will get great value for our model in the auction in favour of this great cause. [We hope the future owner of this watch will be] someone who will truly appreciate the incredible work put into the creation of such a special piece, embodying teamwork, heritage and our brand values, and who will take immense pleasure [in it] every time they wear it.”