While many collectors have an idea of a dream watch they wish their favourite brand made, very few people get past the dreaming stage and make the watch a reality. Joe Ganzler, a well-known expert in Gibson Les Pauls guitars from 1958-1960, did go past wishing and the result is this watch- a custom-made homage to the Heuer Monaco 74033N PVD.
The idea started with a post back in March on the Watchuseek TAG Heuer forum where Joe wrote:
“…What if a guy with more money than sense (so far, so good!) took a CAW2110 [TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 12], had the case PVD’d (or more properly DLC’d), was able to source some decent orange-red hands and some more “accurate” minute/hour hands – that fella would be a LOT lighter of wallet, but he’d also have a pretty cool Monaco!”
Eight months on the watch is a reality, a time-frame that illustrates the complexity of custom watches and the trial-and-error that goes into getting each component just right. This is the story of Joe’s one-off Monaco, a watch that will hopefully inspire TAG Heuer to consider an “All Black” Monaco of its own.
Heuer Monaco 74033N
The PVD-cased Heuer Monaco 74033N (“N” for Noir, or Black) is the most valuable and rare vintage Heuer watch, despite the common view being that the watch never went past the prototype stage at Heuer (in fact, when I showed a photo of the watch to Jack Heuer in 2010, he couldn’t recall the watch).
Using the manual-wind Valjoux 7740 movement, the “PVD Monaco” features a unique dial and fantastic Black and Orange colour scheme. We’ve featured this watch before, with the example above being restored by Abel Court back in 2009.
But despite the legendary status of the PVD Monaco, TAG Heuer has not- yet- produced a re-edition. So, given how rare and expensive these watches are, the only option for a collector determined to get their hands on a reasonably priced PVD Monaco was to go and make one.
Joe’s project started with the watch above- a standard 2007-era TAG Heuer Monaco CW2113, featuring the Calibre 17 movement (ETA 2894-2). Joe chose this model as the donor watch rather than the newer Calibre 12 Monaco, because the older model shares the 38mm diameter and plexi-glass crystal of the 1970s original.
The design goal was to create an homage to the Monaco 74033N- but not a copy. Think of this project as creating what a modern TAG Heuer re-edition might look like.
The first step in designing the dial was to sketch out the pattern and create a stamp. It wasn’t possible to produce a direct copy of the dial, mainly because the layout of the Calibre 17 movement is different to that of the Valjoux 7740.
Specifically, the date window on the “re-edition” sits lower than on the original, and the markings on the registers are different, reflecting the functionality of the Calibre 17:
- 3 o’clock register: Running seconds (vs. 30 minutes Chronograph on the Valjoux)
- 9 o’clock register: Records elapsed Chronograph minutes (vs. Chronograph hours)
These small details aside, the dial is faithful to the original, down to the off-set “30/ 15” and “60/ 30” markings on the sub-dials.
Once the design was chosen, a pad was created. The photo above shows an early test, applied to a piece of black matte metal. While the original intention was to create a new dial, the final version below uses the Monaco CW2113 dial as a base, retaining the sunken registers.
Note that the minute and seconds hash marks on the prototype above are all the same length, while the final dial (below) has longer minute markers. This is just one example of the trial-and-error approach that you need to be willing to endure if you go down the path of creating your own dial.
The case work was done by Jack at International Watch Works. The case was bead-blasted and then a matte “Diamond-Like Carbon” (“DLC”) finish applied. The DLC coating is applied via the traditional PVD (Physical Vapor Deposit) process, but it’s significantly harder (and therefore more durable) than coatings used in the 1970s and 80s.
The pushers and crown (a “Heuer” crown from a Calibre 17 Heuer Monaco Re-edition, and another example of the detail that has gone into the watch) were kept in contrasting stainless steel, just as with the original.
One of the most challenging aspects of the project ended up being the hands. While it would have been easy to re-use the standard Monaco hands, the modern Monaco design is different to the 1970s Heuer design, as they feature “tails” The solution sounds easy: cut the tails and attach a tube at the bottom. But getting this right took several attempts.
The final result is close to the original- albeit a slightly shorter hour-hand, and a thinner minute and hour hand.
The Finished Watch
So, here it is: the Heuer Monaco 74033N “re-edition”, a limited edition of one. The end result looks great and certainly a level above the usual custom creations. While there were many opportunities to take short-cuts along the way, every effort was made to respect the original design theme.
The printing on the dial looks good when viewed in actual size, but the limitations of the customised approach can be seen when the dial is magnified. Given the complexity of making dials, it’s no surprise that a custom-made dial can’t match the quality of a mass-produced dial.
The other detail to note is that the original colour scheme was more of a red-orange, rather than the bright red used on Joe’s custom Monaco. This was a deliberate choice, as the objective wasn’t to produce a straight copy.
The bracelet on this watch is from Omega(!), and while Joe has a preference for watches on bracelets, I think this Monaco would look fantastic on the rally-style strap used on the 40th anniversary Monaco.
Overall, the watch looks great, and for a custom job involving several suppliers, the result is first rate. The only areas that I’d focus on to improve a second version would be the quality of the dial printing and lume application, and the use of a shade closer to Orange. But we’re in the territory of nit-picking here, given how well the project turned out.
To see more photos of the finished watch, click here.
Probably the question that Joe will be asked the most about the watch is how much the project cost- and the answer may surprise you given the hand-made nature of many parts: Around USD4,000, including the donor watch. The watch is a true one-off and there are no plans to produce other examples, or to sell this one.
The future of the TAG Heuer Monaco Black?
Seeing the finished watch begs the obvious question: will TAG Heuer produce an official Monaco PVD re-edition? While there has been a modern PVD Monaco (The Monaco Twenty-Four Gulf), TAG Heuer has not released a re-edition style Monaco with a PVD finish, let alone one with the colour scheme of the Monaco 74033N.
Despite the success of Joe’s project, the PVD re-edition that I would most like to see is a Monaco Twenty-Four with a dial that pays homage to the 1970s original.
So what do you think? Should TAG Heuer issue a re-edition of the Monaco 74033N and if so, should it be based on the traditional Monaco Calibre 12 or the modern Monaco Twenty-Four? Tell what you think below and we’ll show the responses to TAG Heuer..perhaps if the response is strong enough, Joe’s custom project could inspire a production version.
Thanks: A special thanks to Joe Ganzler for sharing these photos and the story of his watch. A big thanks also to the readers and contributors at the Watchuseek TAG Heuer forum who supported the project.