Restoring a Heuer Monaco PVD
One of the most enjoyable parts of vintage watch collecting is the thrill of the hunt- some of these models are so rare, that it’s not just a case of paying over the odds to get the watch you want- sometimes, they’re just not available.
Without doubt, the most iconic vintage Heuer is the Heuer Monaco- Steve McQueen’s watch. A crazy square case with its distinctive blue, white and red dial. For many people it’s the very reason that they become attracted to the Heuer and TAG Heuer brand. And when you talk about the Heuer Monaco there is one model that is rarer and steeped in more mystery than any other- The black Heuer Monaco 74033 PVD- known as the “PVD Monaco”.
This is the story of one PVD Monaco that was rescued from Singapore and given a new life- and its the story of one collectors hunt for his ultimate watch. You may recall the post on Calibre 11 that discovered this watch back in October- well, here is what happened next.
I’ve been a Heuer collector for around six years now, starting from the time that I discovered a 1533G Monaco in the stock of my fathers watch shop. By daily profession I’m a Goldsmith and my father is Master-Watchmaker- so it’s no surprise that I have the watch collecting virus. Together with my two brothers and sister, I’m the 4th generation of watchmakers in my family. Around two years ago I had built my Heuer collection to include the essential vintage Heuers- a Siffert Autavia, a McQueen Monaco and some other Autavia’s and Monaco’s. At this point I started to like the Carrera Dato 12 and of course the mythical PVD Monaco.
It all starts with a dream, a certain desire to own a particular watch. Well, this feeling should sound very familiar to every serious vintage collector. You should know of what I’m talking about now. But I also always keep in mind something Jeff Stein from OnTheDash once told me: “Don’t confuse scarcity with value”.
This brings me to the PVD Monaco. I started to search for information at OnTheDash, where I knew there had been some discussions in the past- and I studied the details: the unique dial, the case finishing and the movement. After a while I knew enough to be certain this would be my next and ultimate Heuer- my “Holy Grail”.
So I searched and waited- and then searched again and again, every day, every week. There were two PVD Monaco “projects” that had caught my attention over the past two years- both of which I passed on because I thought that they either weren’t right or were too expensive for my wallet.
A Find from Singapore
On October 15, a story was posted on Calibre 11 about what looked to be a PVD Monaco for sale in Singapore. The watch
This was not the first time that the seller had tried to sell this particular watch- a similar “For Sale” post two years earlier had attracted no interest from any buyers. The Seller simply posted the watch again online and it was picked up by Calibre 11- Thank you David! [DC: My pleasure Abel- Nice to be able to repay some of the help you’ve given me over the years]
At this point I immediately had the right feeling. But considering it was already several hours after the original message was posted, I was pretty sure there would be other potential buyers for this “PVD-Project”, especially at that price [DC: The Seller had listed the watch as a genuine Vintage Heuer Monaco, but its unclear that he realised how rare his watch was- hence a reasonable asking price].
To make a long story short…I was the one who finally bought the watch. Unluckily there were two or three other people who were disappointed. Afterwards I came to know that the people who were also interested in this watch (and made the seller an offer) appeared to be well known fellow-Heuer-collectors too…So, after we finally closed the deal…I only had to wait for the package to come in. And the wait began…
The Real Thing?
So, I only had seen a few pictures from the watch that didn’t show a lot of detail- but just enough for me to be happy that this was a genuine watch- it was condition of the dial and hands made me do it. I immediately fell for their natural patina: nice vintage lume on the dial and orange chronograph hands.
The case was a different story, as you can clearly see from the original seller pictures. The case had been re-polished, but worse than this it had been re-polished incorrectly and without consideration for the original finish. The original PVD layer had been completely removed and the case-back was brushed in the wrong direction. The edges of the case-back that are supposed to be high-gloss polished, had for some reason been given a brushed finish- a nightmare.
In fact, the case was my biggest concern. As I know only too well, it’s a very difficult job to re-finish a Monaco case and still retain the integrity of the original finish- and isn’t that what it’s all about with these timepieces, respect for originality?
Regarding the movement, I was always confident that it would turn out to be a genuine Heuer- signed Valjoux 7740 Calibre. While the seller believed that watch had a Valjoux 7736 movement, this was unlikely given the differences between the two movements (the space between the pushers of a Valjoux 7740 is much more then with a Valjoux 7736). Servicing and spare parts for this movement would be no problem at all…or at least would be one of the smaller challenges.