TAG Heuer Monaco Split Seconds Chronograph

April 2024

TAG Heuer Monaco Split Seconds Chronograph

TAG Heuer enters a new phase of its long history with a split-seconds chronograph in a case inspired by the famous Monaco. Featuring bold architecture, superlative finishes and driven by a tailor-made “engine”, it is original – and exclusive.


arole Kasapi, a leading watch complications specialist who has done stints at Renaud & Papi and Cartier among other watchmakers, was appointed director of movements at TAG Heuer four years ago. Her mission and objective was to develop the luxury watchmaking arm of this company whose sporting roots go deep.

The direction this development was to take is clearly defined and articulated: “to gear efforts to sports ergonomics”. To put it another way, she explains, “we drew up a programme of gradual launches of haute horlogerie complications and watch models, but specifically designed for active sport”.

The term “sports ergonomics” is defined very broadly, encompassing: cutting-edge mechanical performance, unfailing reliability, optimal readability, robustness, wearer comfort, and lightness. It also includes a sports-focused approach to high-end finishes and decoration.

A long history of making chronographs

“Surprising as it may seem,” Carole Kasapi explains, “TAG Heuer had never made a split-seconds chronograph for the wrist – except for one single model for Ayrton Senna in 1989, but that was a quartz model.” And yet the historical Heuer sports chronographs and stopwatches, especially those with a split-seconds function, were popular with sportsmen and women all over the world, for many years.

Ref. 614 Microsplit: 1/100 sec. stopwatch, 0-2 min. register, precision movement, 17 jewels, split action. Actual running time: 3 hours.
Ref. 614 Microsplit: 1/100 sec. stopwatch, 0-2 min. register, precision movement, 17 jewels, split action. Actual running time: 3 hours.

The company’s crucial chronographic innovations include the Mikrograph, introduced in 1916, capable of measuring intervals of 1/100th of a second, then the Microsplit, also accurate to 1/100th of a second and a rattrapante to boot. These two chronographs were the first in a long line of sports stopwatches and chronographs, which were hugely successful in the 1920s and 30s, and were used at several Olympic Games.

The history of the ever-closer links between TAG Heuer and sports timekeeping continued and deepened through the 20th century.

Advertisement in Europa Star in 1979
Advertisement in Europa Star in 1979

In this chronology of counters, precision sports chronographs and chronograph wristwatches, one date stands out: 1969 and the release of the technically innovative and aesthetically disruptive Monaco. Not only was the 1969 Monaco the first square, water-resistant chronograph, it was also equipped with the famous Calibre 11, the first self-winding chronograph movement with a micro-rotor (developed by a consortium made up of Büren, Dubois-Dépraz, Heuer and Breitling, and later Hamilton).

Nostalgia for the Monaco, nearly 30 years after its creation. Europa Star, 1998.
Nostalgia for the Monaco, nearly 30 years after its creation. Europa Star, 1998.

The Monaco rapidly became a legend and an icon. Its avant-garde aesthetic won the hearts not only of Stanley Kubrick and Sammy Davis Jr. but also that of Steve McQueen, who popularised it in the film Le Mans as early as 1970. Over the following decades, the Monaco went through numerous developments and iterations. It also served as the basis for some of TAG Heuer’s boldest models, such as the Monaco V4, the movement of which is driven by micro-mechanical transmission belts.

The highly experimental Monaco V4. Europa Star, 2004
The highly experimental Monaco V4. Europa Star, 2004

The Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph

“With this totally innovative split-seconds chronograph, we intend to make TAG Heuer’s return to luxury watchmaking a comeback in grand style,” says Carole Kasapi. “That means no compromises. Everything down to the smallest detail has been meticulously thought out, nothing has been left to chance to attain our target of maximum sports ergonomics.”

The powerful 41 mm case of the Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph, just like its crown, its three pushers and their guards, as well as the movement’s bridges and main plate, are crafted in Grade 5 black DLC-coated titanium, which is brushed, sanded and polished. This choice of a material both noble and extremely light was dictated by the overriding design criterion of sports ergonomics. The watch weighs just 85 grams in all.

TAG Heuer Monaco Split Seconds Chronograph

Again with a view to ergonomics, this time regarding transparency, light and visibility, the case is surmounted by a fixed sapphire bezel on which lies a thick, slightly domed sapphire crystal with bevelled edges. Beneath this sapphire crystal, the chapter ring with white and red applied hour markers coated with Super-LumiNova® is also in sapphire, providing an unimpeded view of the movement and its spectacular architecture.

The movement is dominated by two large, vertical arch-shaped titanium bridges that support the chronograph’s two square counters: the minutes on the right and the split seconds on the left. The running small seconds are displayed at 6 o’clock in an unusual hexagonal-shaped counter.

The central hour and minute hands, also coated in Super-LumiNova®, are skeletonised. The chronograph’s seconds and split-seconds hands are immediately recognisable: the former is rhodium-plated and brushed, the latter red-lacquered and openworked. The case is mounted on a red calfskin strap embossed with a fabric pattern and fastened by a titanium butterfly clasp.

The TH81-00 split-seconds chronograph movement

“A split-seconds movement, that is, one capable of simultaneously counting two distinct time intervals, represents the ultimate complexity in a chronograph,” Carole Kasapi explains. "Crafted entirely in titanium, the TH81-00 calibre is the lightest chronograph movement ever made by TAG Heuer. This totally original, shaped movement was newly designed from a blank sheet and made in collaboration with Vaucher Manufacture, which in my view is the best movement manufacturer in Switzerland. And, again with the aim of creating an ergonomic high-end sports watch, it has a frequency of 5 Hz (36,000 vph), so is theoretically capable of displaying tenths of a second, but above all the oscillator is less sensitive to shocks, disturbances and sudden accelerations. Which makes perfect sense from the perspective of our goal of creating a ‘High Sports’ watch, if you’ll excuse the expression.”

The calibre can be viewed through the back of the watch. It is protected by a luminous sapphire block secured by four screws that moulds seamlessly to the shape of the case. Just below, the open-worked oscillating weight reproduces the shape of the TAG Heuer shield and appears to float, as if weightless.

“All the decoration is hand-made. True to the spirit of haute horlogerie, we applied the grand watchmaking tradition of excellence to the finishes and chamfering, but we’ve completely revisited them. The decoration of the main plate, an unusual chessboard pattern reminiscent of F1, is made up of hand-engraved squares in relief, inclined at different angles to catch the light. The surface has a gratté finish – another nod to racing cars, the engines of which are scratched to create asperity and keep the lubricants in place. So many small but meaningful details,” says Carole Kasapi. “I should also mention the fine red line emphasising the oscillating weight. It’s a gradient of red (or blue, depending on the model) – to give an impression of speed – hand-painted using very fine micro-painting techniques.”

The Monaco Split-Seconds Chronograph comes with a five-year warranty, each piece being individually numbered in the order in which they were made, and will be available from June 2024 for an estimated CHF 165,000.

Two versions exist, red or blue, but customers are offered a large range of customisations, from the choice of strap, hands, markers, counters and split-seconds pusher to the colour of the oscillating weight and other options.

When we quiz Carole Kasapi about the promised follow-up to this new “avant-garde haute horlogerie”, she skirts the question with a knowing smile , simply murmuring: “Time will tell…”

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