The following article first appeared as a footnote in the GAME CHANGERS print catalogue.
In 1969, one of the most avant-garde chronograph wristwatches was released by Jack Heuer, and today it is an icon amongst watch aficionados, known for its automatic movement and modern square-shaped case. The Heuer Monaco reference 1133 took its name from the legendary Formula One racetrack and was brought to international fame when the Monaco timepiece appeared on the wrist of the American actor Steve McQueen in his classic auto racing film, Le Mans, released in 1971. The chronograph design created a new aesthetic, with its large oversized square-shaped case, blue dial, white subsidiary dials and red-accented hands and hour markers.
The caliber 11 self-winding chronograph movement was revolutionary, and its release in 1969 coincided with the release of the first quartz movements by Seiko. Automatic chronograph wristwatches did not exist during the early 20th century due to manufacturing complications, however with technical advances following World War II, as well as mechanical advances by both the military and scientific communities during the 1960s, horology was ready for the release of a modern movement that was set to change the world. Heuer was long known for precision timekeeping, but due to the expense to create a new movement, the brand partnered with Breitling, Büren and Dubois-Depraz, each with the expertise needed to help accomplish their goal. Heuer and Breitling brought traditional horological skills for chronograph making, Büren had expertise in micro-rotor automatic movements and Dubois-Depraz were industry leaders in modular movements. In order to set themselves apart from the pack, Heuer turned to renowned case maker Ervin Piquerez S. A. (EPSA), which developed the compression watch case, and it is their bold and creative design that is synonymous with the Monaco today.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Monaco, TAG Heuer has released a series of five limited edition wristwatches that each represent a decade since the iconic chronograph was first released. As the Grande Finale to these celebrations, they have created the present unique timepiece, and it is an honor for Phillips to offer this “Monaco Piece d’Art” in this Game Changers watch auction. For this special creation, TAG Heuer unearthed a new old stock Monaco from 1969 from its in-house heritage department, fitted with an original caliber 11 movement and bracelet.
But this was only the beginning. For the first time ever, TAG Heuer’s watchmakers disassembled the vintage caliber 11 movement and applied high-grade finishing on every part, including mirror polishing functional surfaces, screw heads and adding three new jewels, bringing the total to 20 rubies. The most impressive artistry is visible on the bridges. Completely engraved by hand in a font reminiscent of the style of the late 1960s are the words “Cal. Eleven” on the chronograph bridge for the minute and seconds counter, and “Monaco” on the hour counter bridge. Completed over several months, only four of the brand’s watchmakers had the skills necessary to work on this Monaco Piece d’Art, and in order to perform the work, they needed to create new tools.
Highly skilled watchmakers first cut the solid caseback and created an opening for the addition of a sapphire crystal, now allowing the owner to see this unique caliber 11. The watch is accompanied with a special navy blue outer packaging which matches the dial, a unique red presentation box with white leather interior showcasing the stainless steel cut out from the case back, a loupe, replica of the historic Monaco leaflet, an original movement drawing, and a signed copy of Paradoxical Superstar by Jack Heuer.
This superb and unique Monaco Piece d’Art is being sold for charity with the proceeds being donated to the United Way of New York City. Dedicated to improving the lives of under privileged children and families, TAG Heuer will support United Way of New York City’s education campaign, Read NYC.