Only Watch 2011: TAG Heuer Mikrograph 1/100th "Monaco"
The charity auction Only Watch, to benefit the children affected by muscular diseases, represents an important challenge for Tag:
-The most emblematic model from Tag Heuer is unquestionably the «Monaco».
It was named after the prestigious Principality (and because «Monte-Carlo» was not available anymore).
Its popularity increased incredibly fast, thanks to the technological lead it featured when it was released, in 1969 (chronograph on a Buren micro-rotor movement), Steve McQueen having chosen this watch and its revolutionary look for his film «Le Mans».
-The charity auction takes place on the Rock of Monaco, the reference to Tag storytelling is unmistakable.
-The restless market craves «Talking Pieces», and is awaiting the adaptation of the revolutionary technical solutions presented by Tag during Basel World (Pendulum, Chrono Mikrograph 1/100, Chrono Mikrotimer 1/1000).
Challenge fully taken and chalked up. I was very pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when Only Watch disclosed the watches of the auction; The Tag did not have to be ashamed when faced with the superb De Bethune and other De Witt; In many respects, it possesses the qualities of a product from independent watchmaking. For example, the design of its case and the volumes of its dial are a reminder of the aesthetic codes from Hautlence (« logical », you may say, Guillaume Tetu earned his spurs working for Tag!).
The movement is also very «watchmaking 2.0»: it is the mechanism of the Mikrograph, the 1/100’s of a second chronograph presented by Tag during Basel World 2011. It features a double balance, the first managing time in a classical way, with a frequency of 28800 v/h, in other words 4 Hz, and the other set at a frequency of 360000 v/h, namely 50 Hz. Visually, the central hand of the Chrono turns 10 times as fast as that of a classic chronograph, the movement around the railway is quite revolutionary: contrary to the «Zenith Striking Ten», the rotation is absolutely fluid and linear.
This movement had certainly been presented in a beautiful set case/dial (revisiting the codes of a vintage pocket-chronograph), but hopelessly classical for such an innovative caliber, regretfully.
Yet, the Mikrograph 1/100 just addressed this anachronism between look and technology.
The watch is 43mm across, which seems reasonable, but square watches seem far bigger than circular ones. By way of comparison, the classic«Monaco» is only 39mm. As a result, the watch is relatively bulky when it is worn, with a length fortunately limited to 43mm, reduced lugs, as well as a nearly perfect racing wristband, that maintains the case right in the middle of the wrist.
As for the middles, I’d rather have bevels akin to the V4 or the telephone «Link», more adapted to the relative thickness of the Mikrograph caliber; Nonetheless, the case is very well finished, with an alternation of polished and brushed surfaces perfectly mastered.
The great stylistic added value is of course with the dial. The rather radical choice was to reduce the time display zone in order to enhance the Chrono function secondary-counters. Iconoclastic but a logical choice, as much as the innovation carried by a functional 1/100s chrono is important.
In the center sit 2 small hands displaying hours and minutes, not to be mistaken with the rectangular «hand» which is the continuation of the chronograph’s, while the small second hand sits at 9 o’clock.
The hand at 3 o’clock indicates the minutes of the Mikrograph, when its seconds are displayed at 6 o’clock and the Power reserve at noon.
The emphasis was clearly put on the look at the expense of logics, the counters are obvious reminders of automotive, and overall constitutes a missing link between the classic Tag Heuer «Monaco» and a V4. Despite a standard bezel height, the layout as well as the different levels of counters and secondary counters give lots of volume to the dial. The most beautiful part of the dial is, in my opinion, the grey railway, bordering on «old lavender», which clearly fences the course of the 1/100s hand.
When the chrono is working, and a little in the fashion of the JlC Duometre platine, the watch is totally different, the dial is more lively, the eye catches it differently, the ballet of the 1/100 Chrono is totally hypnotic: We were wearing chronos during the visit (Rolex 6238 and JlC Amvox2) and after trying the Mikrograph, the hand of a classic chrono seems desperately slow and wheezy.
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If the tributes paid to the Rock, to the «Monaco» 1969 and to automotive, favorite theme at Tag, are obvious, the link with sick children was not.
In order to stick to the theme of the charity auction, Tag asked a South African artist, Paul Du Toit, to put his hand on the presentation box. Paul Du Toit fell sick at the age of 11, a juvenile arthritis that handicapped him for 3 years. Three years spent at the hospital, bed ridden, three years of anguish. A period that will leave its mark on all his works. Paul was therefore perfectly able to deliver an artist’s vision for sick childhood…
Nowadays, on the Only Watch auction, there are two main trends: The slightly modified series watches with a customized emblem, a different color scheme or a facelift.
And there are those who fully play the game, with heavy modifications such as original dials, extensive engravings, or even, for the most committed, a brand new model.
Tag undoubtedly signs one of the most interesting watches of the auction;
It remains to be known if it will be produced in (Mikro)series or if it will remain a unique piece.