On December 12th, 2020, the Phillips RACING PULSE auction was held in New York City. The event was live-streamed to what was a record online attendance. The highlight of the auction was positioned at Lot 20, which was the Heuer Monaco. This wasn’t of course just any Heuer Monaco. It was the last-known Heuer Monaco to be worn by Steve Mcqueen while filming his iconic racing film, the Le Mans (1971).
The most important Heuer timepiece of all time goes back to 1969 when it was first created. When the Heuer Monaco was released, it was arguably a game-changer. The timepiece was the world’s first square waterproof (Piquere case) that featured a self-winding chronograph movement. The movement in question was Tag Heuer’s Calibre 11, which had a micro-rotor oscillating mass and also the unique placement of the crown on the left side of the watch case.
Designed by the one and only Jack Heuer, the timepiece was named for the iconic Formula One racetrack and was chosen by none other than Steve McQueen as his choice of chronograph watch for the Le Mans film in 1970. At the end of filming, Steve Mcqueen gifted the watch to the film’s Chief Mechanic and McQueen’s personal mechanic; Haig Alltounian. The timepiece has been cosigned by Alltounian himself, with the watch case back featuring an engravement dedicated to him by Steve McQueen; “TO HAIG Le MANS 1970”.
The CEO of Tag Heuer, Frédéric Arnault, states that “Steve McQueen and his Heuer Monaco not only became one of the most recognized and celebrated timepieces of the last century, but it forever shaped the culture of TAG Heuer. We have been humbled by the excitement within the watch community leading up to the auction, and this record result is a testament to the historic importance and continued legacy of this Heuer timepiece.”
The timepiece was originally listed as an “estimate of request” and opened with a bid of $200,000. Watch enthusiasts tuned in around the world from online and over the phone to see the 7-minute bidding war take place over this incredible timepiece. The watch was eventually sold to an online bidder for $1,800,000 (before buyer’s premium), which historically now marks a new record price for a Heuer timepiece at an auction. This Steve McQueen timepiece is the most expensive Heuer wristwatch ever sold.
Paul Boutros, Senior Vice President and Head of Americas for Phillips Watches stated that “It was a tremendous honour to have been entrusted with the sale of this Heuer Monaco on behalf of Mr Alltounian. Having generated tremendous interest from collectors and enthusiasts around the world, we are thrilled with this world record result. This historic timepiece will always be associated with the glamour and thrill of auto racing, and it can certainly be considered one of the most important Heuer wristwatches of all time.”