TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon Unveiled at Baselworld 2014

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon - frontTAG Heuer’s headliner watch from Baselworld 2014 is the newest generation of its game-changing TAG Heuer Monaco V4, first introduced as a concept watch in 2004. The new Monaco V4 Tourbillon takes the V4 technology to the next level: it is the world’s first tourbillon watch driven by belts.

The audacious Monaco V4 Concept watch, which was the world’s first watch with belt drives, linear mass and ball bearings, derived its name from the “V”-shaped mainplate on which the movement’s four barrels were mounted and by the distinctive case shape, inspired by that of the first TAG Heuer Monaco watch, famously worn by Steve McQueen in the 1971 racing movie Le Mans. The ultra-high-tech timepiece continued that model’s auto-racing theme: the 2-by-2 series of ultra-thin, ultra-resistant belts, mounted on ball bearings and angled at +/-13 degrees, resemble the cylinders in a Formula One engine.

The Monaco V4 — against the expectations of many in the watch world — became a commercial product in 2009, after years of research to overcome the inherent difficulty in making belts that were both thin enough and strong enough to do the work of the gears they were replacing. Since its debut, more than 400 Monaco V4 watches have been sold worldwide. According to TAG Heuer’s director of research Guy Semon, whom we spoke with at Baselworld, subsequent TAG Heuer watches with high-tech complications, such as the Mikrograph and Mikrogirder, could not have existed without the V4. The original Monaco V4 has since been released in other editions, including in rose gold, titanium, platinum and ceramic.

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon - front
TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon, front (above) and back (below)

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon - back

The TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon, however, was even more of a challenge. A tourbillon, as many watch aficionados know, is a device that overcomes the effects of gravity on a movement by placing the balance wheel and escapement inside a rotating cage. Semon and his team added a new element to this system by using a micro-belt — thinner than a single human hair — to drive the tourbillon. The result, TAG claims, is no backlash on the tourbillon and a more fluid rotation of its cage. The timepiece is also equipped with an automatic, linear “railroad” rewinding system, as opposed to a more traditional swinging rotor. According to Semon, the four notched, micro-thin transmission belts (just .07 mm thick) provide an even more efficient shock absorption system than the gears they replace. The barrels, which hold a 40-hour power reserve, are held and rotated on ball bearings, another watch-manufacturing first.

The TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon has a titanium case, with a black titanium carbide coating, that is slightly larger than that of the original V4, at 41 mm. It will be be delivered on a black alligator strap with a push-button folding clasp of the same material as the case. Semon assures us  that this is not a concept watch; it is planned to go to market this year, with an estimated price of 150,000 Swiss francs.

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon - bridge
The V4 Tourbillon bridge
TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon - detail
Micro-thin belts drive the motion of the tourbillon.
TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Tourbillon - angle
Leave a Reply