The TAG Heuer Monaco celebrated its 50th year in 2019 with a whole lot of fanfare. At the Shanghai Gala, brand ambassadors Li Yifeng and Cara Delevingne introduced us to a limited edition set that commemorates the last decade of the famous watch. But first, let’s get up to speed on Monaco’s heritage before we say hello to the new entries.
It’s That Square One
Surely, that’s how the TAG Heuer Monaco has been described to the uninitiated over the decades. It’s arguably the world’s most recognizable square watch, so it wouldn’t be a stretch seeing it that way. Or, you may have heard it referred to as that watch with the “robot face.” In truth, the hands at the 10:00 position do make “eyebrows” over subdial “eyes” that kind of look like a robot staring at you in a judgmental robot-like way.
Still as Cool as Steve
There may be no more iconic celebrity to promote this watch than Steve McQueen in his 1971 Formula One flick Le Mans. He sported the then-modern watch in the movie. McQueen famously embodied his parts and was a hands-on guy who loved to drive race cars really fast. McQueen’s Heuer (the TAG part came along later) was selected because that was the brand most race car drivers wore. Years later, collectors are still after the models with blue-and-white dials like what McQueen wore in the movie.
But Much More than McQueen
What the watch set out to do was novel, then and arguably even now. Heuer wanted to create a chronograph that functioned as a stopwatch with no need for winding. Today, these automatic chronographs are common but that wasn’t the case in the 60s when fitting the parts for both automatic movement and a chronograph into a watch case seemed impossible. But Heuer did it with Caliber 11! Seiko was also working on the problem and released a similar movement in Japan soon after. However, Monaco had crossed the finish line first and will forever be remembered for its old-school chronograph creds.
Let’s Look at Those Limited Editions
Looks like the fifth time’s the charm for the Tag Heuer Monaco, which has seen tribute editions that honor the designs from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Now, we look to the 2009-2019 period to complete the five decades worth of Monaco design elements. Unlike past entries, which went heavy on the retro-racing style, the final round keeps things modern and cosmopolitan, even leaning to the minimalist. But before you cry foul, that we’ve gotten too far from McQueen’s eye-grabbing racing stripes, let’s see how they pay homage to racing history with a practical eye on style in the modern world.
So, we have sandblasted stainless steel cases with high polish finishes that would be at home in any dress-casual situation — sleek, cosmopolitan, confident. Offsetting the natural rigidity of a square case, the crown and pushers are unconventionally spaced to the left and right as they were on the iconic original in 1969. Sleek sunray dials bring the look back to the present time with some modern sheen. Look closely and you’ll notice the dial’s “Heuer” logo is a throwback to the pre-TAG days.
The contemporary updates continue with Super-LumiNova on the hands and indices to light the timepiece up.
Inside the watch case, you’ll find that the now-famous self-winding chronograph Caliber 11 (that was a breakthrough all those years ago) still powers the watch. But now, it’s got a 40-hour power reserve. In keeping with the Formula One motif, calfskin straps have race-inspired perforations and contrast stitching.
A Few Final Honors
TAG Heuer is celebrating the golden anniversary of Tag Heuer Monaco in a few other notable ways.
Monaco Heuer 02. We’re seeing the launch of the Monaco Heuer 02! It clearly draws design inspiration from the watch’s time in the 70s. Its racing past is honored by the addition of a second indicator at the six o’clock position, while the PVD sunray dial keeps things modern and sleek in conjunction with silver opaline accents. Unlike classic Calibre 11 designs, the crown and pushers share space on the same side of the case, which houses an impressive 80-hour power reserve.
Monaco Calibre 12 Final Edition. A limited run of the Monaco Calibre 12 Final Edition is also rolling out to commemorate 50 years of the iconic watch. Monaco devotees will know that the Calibre 12 was something of a game-changer. It flipped the crown from its lonely spot on the left to between the pushers on the right side of the case. This gave the watch a sleeker and a more conventional look and increased its versatility. The latest entry has a subtle grey brushed ruthenium dial that oozes sophistication when paired with a black alligator strap. These final 1,000 pieces end the glorious run of the Calibre 12.
Sure, legions of TAG Heuer Monaco fans are likely going after the small number of limited-edition pieces that are available. And if you’ve got the luck and the means, we hope one of these signature watches will be on your wrist. If not, just look around. With 50 years of history and heritage, there are a whole lot of Monaco’s out there just waiting to hit the road again.