Интернет-магазин DONTA

Tag Heuer Enters High-end Watchmaking With $150,000 Monaco Split-seconds Chronograph

Coming in the succession of connected models, lab-grown diamonds and solar-powered movements, this Watches and Wonders launch is “inscribed in the brand logic” for CEO Julien Tornare.

Tag Heuer Enters High-end Watchmaking With $150,000 Monaco Split-seconds Chronograph

The 41mm Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph has a movement made entirely of titanium, with a bezel and case back cut from sapphire.

Packed into the 41mm case of the Monaco watch that Tag Heuer is revealing Tuesday at this year’s Watches and Wonders is not just a split-seconds chronograph.

It’s the brand’s opening bid in high-end watchmaking, a coherent next move for the company, according to chief executive officer Julien Tornare.

“There has been an important reposition of the brand over the last few years, with a move upmarket, the sustainable development [plan], the arrival of solar-powered movement and last year’s 60th anniversary [of the Carrera line] that generated a strong dynamic,” he said.

“Arriving with a complication that’s linked to high-end chronographs is very much in the brand’s DNA,” the executive continued. “The succession of a connected watch, the Diamants d’Avant-Garde lab-grown diamonds and this return to high-end watchmaking are inscribed in the brand logic.”

While it may be the brand’s main novelty at this year’s fair, the watchmaker isn’t exactly a newcomer in this field, according to the executive. “It has existed [for us] in the past, through the complications of the early 20th century,” he said.

The brand is among the few that can lay a legitimate claim on chronographs and innovations through its connection with motorsports, pointed out heritage director Nick Biebuyck. Early patents by Edouard Heuer included improvements on the oscillating pinion, hermetically sealed cases and keyless winding.

And in 1916, the company launched the first 1/100th of a second stopwatch with the Mikrograph, swiftly followed by the Microsplit, a 1/100th of a second split-seconds chronograph. “It was effectively a rattrapante version of the Mikrograph,” Biebuyck said.

That clinched the brand’s spot as the preferred timekeeping device at the Olympic Games through the 1920s and 1930s.

“So from very early on in our history, we’ve had precision timekeeping combined with the split-seconds complication and that could continue throughout the rest of the 20th century,” he continued. “Whilst the focus has been the utility of the product, we’ve always had watches that are extremely functional and precise from the beginning. More often than not it meant that we were making a high-end product [due to] materials and design that made them exceptional timekeepers.”

Tag Heuer Enters High-end Watchmaking With $150,000 Monaco Split-seconds Chronograph

There was the 11.402 reference that became a paddock must-have in the 1960s and was used by Scuderia Ferrari, followed by the Microtimer 1/1,000th second that became the Italian racing team’s Le Mans Centigraphe, timing multiple cars at the same time.

Then came the quartz split-seconds chronograph wristwatch introduced in 1989, a hit among driving legends like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in the decade that followed.

“We have the history and the legitimacy, so it’s more about reoccupying an important territory without ever leaving our core business,” the CEO said.

Although Tag Heuer’s bread and butter continues to be watches priced between 3,000 and 12,000 Swiss francs, a segment where the brand intends to stay strong, Tornare pointed out the increasing proportion of tourbillon watches flying out the door. “That shows us the expertise and know-how of the brand is recognized not only by the public but also by connoisseur collectors,” he continued.

He expects this clientele to be sensitive to the multifaceted challenges the model posed and the innovations built to address them.

As such, what better form factor than the Monaco, celebrating its 55th anniversary this year and billed as a “symbol of contrarian design,” and what better complication than the split-seconds, a further play at burnishing the brand’s watchmaking credentials.

“We are the house of the chronograph and watchmakers say that [it] is the queen of chronograph complications, the ultimate complexity in the genre,” said Carole Forestier-Kasapi, Tag Heuer’s director of high-end watchmaking and movements strategy. “But oddly enough, for all the timekeepers we made, that mechanical rattrapante complication was never used for a wristwatch.”

That oversight is now corrected with this timepiece, which was three years in the making.

Sports-appropriate ergonomics formed the bedrock of the design, she explained. “That means being lightweight to be easy and comfortable to wear during sports but also a movement made to withstand shocks and accelerations.”

Hence the choice of a 5Hz movement and the development of a novel oscillating weight that is a ceramic ball-bearing mechanism to ensure this weighty element of the movement doesn’t sustain any damage with important shocks.  

Tag Heuer Enters High-end Watchmaking With $150,000 Monaco Split-seconds Chronograph

The watch and 360-plus components are packed in a 41mm case.

Packed inside a case 15.2mm thick are more than 360 components, but the ensemble only weighs 85 grams — in stainless steel, it would weigh almost double. “We didn’t just stop at the case,” Forestier-Kasapi said. “The entire movement is made of titanium, right down to the bridges and the folding clasp.”

Another feature is its fixed bezel and beveled case back, both in sapphire. “What we wanted to do was an immersive piece where one has the impression of diving through the complication because there’s no metallic boundary with the movement,” Forestier-Kasapi said. “It’s something that you have to have in hand to appreciate fully.”

The first items are expected to be delivered in June and continue arriving at a rhythm of five or so a month, amounting to 20 to 25 by year’s end.

Though individually numbered, these Monacos won’t be a limited edition per se.

“If you want this kind of product, we are by definition limited in quantity,” Tornare said. “We don’t have the desire to stop at a particular number, but we will do a perfect job and satisfy clients that have the highest requirements, so the capacity is what it is and [the watch] must remain something rather exclusive.”

Although Tornare expects the new Monaco to generate buzz this year, he remains serene in the face of predicted choppy conditions ahead.

“We are used to roller-coaster years in watchmaking,” he said. “The brand will continue its development — initiated thanks to the work of my predecessor and the teams — as its growth is resilient in the face of such turbulence. Repositioning ourselves in high-end watchmaking is a long-view move more than an operation for 2024.”