TAG Heuer’s Monaco requires no introduction. But, colourful and compelling as the watch’s heritage is, it’s a tale worth repeating. Inaugurated in 1969, and baptised after the Formula One Grand Prix de Monaco, this storied silhouette made horological history as the very first square-cased, waterproof, automatic chronograph, which, at the time, had been considered near impossible to actualise. Though clearly not for Heuer, as the manufacture was then known, and its avant-garde approach to watchmaking.
And, like many of the icons of the Swiss marque, we have Jack Heuer (great-grandson of founder Edouard) to thank for such a radical invention. Having developed the revolutionary self-winding Calibre 11 in the late ’60s, the Heuer scion wanted an equally disruptive design that would do justice to the pioneering automatic movement. He didn’t have to wait long. Piquerez, the renowned Bassecourt casemaker, had just filed a patent for an unusual square wristwatch case that was fully water-resistant – Heuer “immediately knew this was something special” and secured the exclusive rights to use it.
Special, indeed it was – and still is. Catapulted to legend status by none other than Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans, the Monaco remains one of the most distinctive and desirable timepieces to this day, instantly identifiable even across a crowded room. Now, a year on from the chronograph’s half-century celebrations, TAG Heuer proves it has no plans to rest on its laurels, writing a fresh chapter in the Monaco’s story with a trio of next-gen references that continue to break new ground.
Preserving the edgy, angular shape that is the calling card of the Monaco family, all three novelties showcase a 39mm brushed stainless steel case with gently curved flanks, short sloping lugs, slanted pushers and a right-hand crown. The sunburst dial, meanwhile, features a tri-compax layout in two colour schemes, bold black and lustrous blue contrasted by vivid red accents (recalling the 1969 original), with reverse panda-style 30-minute and 12-hour squared subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, respectively, and a permanent seconds indicator smack above a date aperture at 6 o’clock. Playing further on the tension between sharp lines and smooth contours, a minute/second track traces a wide circle around the watch face, while rhodium-plated indices are applied radially, cutting across the negative space of the dial.
The real talking point, however, is the inclusion of an H-link stainless steel bracelet in two of the new models, a first in nearly 20 years for the Monaco. Tapping on archival designs from the early ’70s, but tweaked to meet modern standards, the revised steel bracelet tapers where it wraps around the wrist for improved comfort, and is fastened by a butterfly clasp engraved with the TAG Heuer shield emblem. The third reference, conversely, comes mounted on a handsome black alligator leather strap.
Driving the latest Monaco editions is the in-house Calibre Heuer 02, visible through the sapphire crystal exhibition caseback. Robust, reliable and extremely accurate, this manufacture movement ticks at 4Hz and boasts an impressive power reserve of 80 hours, carrying forward the trailblazing spirit that TAG Heuer has long championed through the Monaco.