There are very few watches within the industry that can genuinely be called icons. However, there is one watch that nobody argues about concerning its elevated status: the TAG Heuer Monaco.
The Monaco was launched simultaneously in Geneva and New York on March 3rd, 1969. Its provocative appearance with its fire-red chronograph hand, metallic blue dial, domed crystal, and big, squared-off case represented a complete break with conventional watch design aesthetics. Equally radical was the engineering required to ensure the chronograph’s perfect water-resistance — a world first for a square-shaped timepiece. But what was ticking inside was even more revolutionary: the now famous self-winding Chronomatic ‘Calibre 11’, the first self-winding automatic chronograph movement with microrotor, so precise it still rivals the demanding standards of professional chronometer instruments.
However, it was with the launch of the film Le Mans, in June 1971, that sealed the Monaco’s destiny, as Steve McQueen insisted on wearing it for the duration of the filming. The watch, already a scene stealer in daily life because it was so instantly recognizable, when linked to the actor and the Le Mans movie, became ‘the watch’ of the epoch. And why? Because Steve McQueen was ultra-cool, the man men wanted to be like and the man women wanted to be with. He was admired, revered and acclaimed as a screen idol and nearly thirty years after his untimely death he remains, like the Monaco, an icon of popular culture.
MONACO 1969 - MONACO 1969 ORIGINAL RE-EDITION 1969-2009
Ever since, the Monaco's emblematic square-shaped dial has been synonymous with TAG Heuer's innovative aestheticism. Reissued in 1998 in a limited edition of 5,000, it was entirely redesigned in 2003 and refitted with a 7-row steel bracelet of square links echoing the daring aesthetics of the case.
Since then the Monaco has grown in stature both aesthetically and technically. In 2003 at BaselWorld, the TAG Heuer Monaco Sixty Nine Concept Watch, was presented as the first Swiss wrist-worn mechanical watch combined with a 1/1000th of a second chronograph. The brand's first reversible, mechanical/digital watch is an innovative timepiece that bridges the traditional with the avant-garde by using the iconic dial of the watch on one side and a very distinctive high-tech digital face of the Microtimer on the other, making it the first prestigious Swiss chronograph wristwatch accurate to 1/1000th of a second.
The Monaco V4 was a stunning technological breakthrough that emerged just one year later. At its heart is an advanced integrated mechanical movement, encased upside down in a high-design evolution of the classic square-faced Monaco. The name V4 derives from the movement's four barrels, which are mounted in a V shape, like cylinders in a supercharged motor-racing engine. The name also pays tribute to the movement's inspiration: while the V4 draws from the newest concepts in industrial technology, its true muse, like the original Monaco's, is the world of high-tech, high-performance racing car engines.
Next came the Monaco Watch Grande Date with a 37mm polished stainless steel case and two dials in black and blue/silver, with a small seconds counter at 6 o’clock and diamond-shaped hands. Compellingly designed and crafted, with its elegant alligator strap and clean, architectural lines inspired by the Monaco V4 case, this watch relocates into modernism. The classic Monaco attributes are slightly softened by the charm of white leather, or brown or black python. The case is set off by 26 diamonds accentuating the bezel’s right angles, with a further 13 diamonds decorating the dial. Typically Monaco, this model plays with harmonies of tone, material and texture.
And now …
Today, TAG Heuer celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Monaco by launching the Monaco Classic Chronograph Collection, chronographs fitted with a TAG Heuer ‘Calibre 12’ automatic movement. Directly inspired by the original design, these chronographs have a sapphire crystal glass and a transparent caseback to enable a viewing of this superb, classical movement. The watches come with a dark blue alligator strap and stylish silver and blue dial with red hands.
To complete the celebrations - and the offer, there is The Tag Heuer Monaco 1969 Original Re-Edition 1969-2009. To commemorate this historic anniversary, TAG Heuer has proudly re-issued this iconic blue-dial timepiece in a limited series of 1,000 pieces with an exclusive case back signed by Jack Heuer and engraved in honour of its mythical ambassador Steve McQueen. Equipped with the Calibre 11 movement, this classic has pushbuttons at 2 and 4 o’clock, crown at 9 o’clock, counters at 9 and 3 o’clock, hand-applied date window at 6 o’clock and diamond-tipped horizontal hours indices.
MONACO V4 CONCEPT WATCH
The TAG Heuer Ambassadors Saga: Unprecedented Star Power
Heuer’s pioneering partnership with Jo Siffert and the fortuitous endorsement of Steve McQueen launched a new era of celebrity endorsement for the brand. Already an established presence in the motor racing world, Heuer, which became TAG Heuer in 1985, aggressively assembled an incomparable roster of racing icons, including Jacky Ickx, Clay Regazzoni, Niki Lauda, Gilles Villeneuve, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. At the same time, it strengthened its Hollywood connections by partnering with movie stars like Burt Reynolds, Jack Lemmon and Charlton Heston.
TAG Heuer next moved into a wider range of sporting disciplines, signing such Ambassadors as six-time Grand Slam tennis champion Boris Becker and Olympic track and field superstar Carl Lewis.
In the 21st century, TAG Heuer has uniquely combined sports and glamour through a new roster of celebrity talent, including Hollywood megastars Uma Thurman, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, tennis sensation Maria Sharapova, golf legend Tiger Woods and professional race champions like Lewis Hamilton, Kimi RaÏkkÖnen and Sebastian Vettel.
Today, 40 years later, Monaco’s legend and TAG Heuer’s ambassadorial saga continue because of a relentless pursuit of design and engineering excellence and an unparalleled history of sports and glamour. No other luxury brand has ever assembled such a prestigious, high profile and charismatic roster of world-class talents. Race icons Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jo Siffert and Steve McQueen represent the legendary past of TAG Heuer. Lewis Hamilton, Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, Jeff Gordon, Kimi RÄikkÖnen, Sebastian Vettel and Shah Rukh Khan represent the brand’s exciting future.
Source: Europa Star April-May 2009 Magazine Issue