Made in Monaco: Testing the TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre Heuer 02

Fans of the Monaco racing watch – introduced in 1969 as one of the world’s first automatic chronographs – love its blue sunburst dial and contrasting silver counters, red hands, and square shape with its expansive sapphire crystal and faceted edges. The newest version, the TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre Heuer 02, our test watch, offers these same visual features, all of which TAG Heuer has continued to refine based on the earlier Monaco Calibre 12 model. The once-flat registers are now slightly recessed, giving the design more depth and interest.

TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre Heuer 02 Ref. CBL2111.FC6453.

Here’s another update: the symmetrical arrangement now shows elapsed minutes and hours rather than minutes and seconds. The running seconds indication is now placed at 6 o’clock — a clever solution even though every minute the seconds hand sweeps across the date window for a period of several seconds. With its use of the new movement, TAG Heuer designed a clear layout of the displays, but this also involved a compromise. Including the small seconds display at 6 required moving the “Automatic” lettering upward and placing it between the two registers.

A Modern Manufacture Movement

Changes to the dial layout are based on a fundamental innovation. With automatic Caliber Heuer 02, TAG Heuer is now using a fully developed, in-house chronograph movement in its Monaco line. Recall that the original Caliber 11 from 1969 was a collaborative project between Heuer, Breitling, and Hamilton-Büren in addition to the module specialist Dubois Dépraz, which contributed the chronograph mechanism. The long-awaited in-house base chronograph movement first appeared in 2017 as the Caliber Heuer 02, which was introduced in the retro model Autavia Calibre Heuer 02. Previously at TAG Heuer, “only” the complex Calibre Heuer 02-T was available (with an additional tourbillon) and before that, the Calibre Heuer 01, based on a Seiko movement.

The Calibre Heuer 02 is an eye-catcher with its red column wheel, black rotor and decorative cutouts.

Now, for the first time, a Monaco chronograph is powered by a true manufacture movement. This innovation actually brings real advantages to the user. Mechanical watch fans can use it to measure intervals of up to 12 hours instead of just 30 minutes, and when fully wound, the Monaco Caliber 02 runs for up to 80 hours — almost twice as long as its original 42-hour power reserve — so you can take off the watch on Friday and put it back on Monday morning without any problem or interruption. And the new movement complements the Monaco visually, with its modern, high-tech look, generous diameter of 31 mm and large sapphire crystal in the caseback. The new model is much more appealing from the back than the similarly designed Monaco Calibre 12 with the ETA 2894 movement, or the Monaco Calibre 11 with a modified Sellita SW300 movement and the crown on the left.

However, the new manufacture caliber does have one disadvantage compared to the previous movements: the unidirectional rotor is rather noisy on its return. In our test of the Autavia Calibre Heuer 02, the sounds made by the rotor were not quite as noticeable, which is probably due to the different case construction.

Quality and Operation

Our real-life test on the wrist of the Monaco Calibre Heuer 02 showed a gain of only 3 seconds per day. On the electronic timing machine, the gain was only 2 seconds, ideal for a mechanical watch.

This newest variation of the well-known watch shows its mettle both in its finishing and its ease of operation. The interestingly shaped pushers with their protective guard rings are easy to use thanks to the column-wheel control of the chronograph, and the vertical clutch ensures that the stopwatch hand start is quick and smooth. It is also easy to open and close the alligator leather strap with single-sided safety folding clasp and to adjust it to the perfect length using the integrated clamping mechanism.

The Monaco case is impressive with its longitudinally curved sapphire crystal, protected pushers with faceted edges.

However, we found one drawback to the watch’s excellent craftsmanship: the substantial 39 mm by 39 mm stainless-steel case and its dramatic 15.1-mm height, in combination with its square shape, is not as comfortable to wear as you might like. But this certainly won’t deter Monaco fans from this new version, the first chronograph with a 100-percent in-house movement, especially since the $6,150 price tag is the same as that of the Monaco Calibre 11 with the crown on the left.

Since all the positive features of previous Monaco models remain unchanged, and the new movement offers a number of additional upgrades, we can conclude that anyone who doesn’t mind the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock and the relocation of the “Automatic” lettering will see this new manufacture watch as the best Monaco of all time. 

Manufacturer: TAG Heuer SA, Rue L.-J. Chevrolet 6a, 2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre Heuer 02
Reference number: CBL2111.FC6453
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with seconds, 30-minute and 12-hour counters, date
Movement: Manufacture Caliber Heuer 02, automatic, 28,800 vph, 33 jewels, hack mechanism, quick date adjustment, column wheel, vertical clutch, eccentric fine regulator, Kif shock absorber, 80-hour power reserve, diameter = 31 mm, height = 6.95 mm
Case: Stainless steel, curved sapphire crystal with no anti-glare coating, sapphire crystal caseback with 4 screws, water resistant to 100 meters
Strap and clasp: Alligator strap with safety folding clasp
Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours (With chronograph switched off/on):
Dial up -1/0
Dial down +2/+3
Crown up -4/-2
Crown down +9/+10
Crown left +4/+5
Crown right +2/+3
Greatest deviation 13/12
Average deviation +2/+3.2
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 270°/263°
Hanging positions 241°/235°
Price: $6,150
Dimensions: Diameter = 39 mm by 39 mm, height = 15.1 mm, weight = 122 grams

Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The perfectly finished alligator strap can be adjusted to any length thanks to the clever and comfortable safety folding clasp with clamping mechanism. 9
Operation (5): The pushers are large but the flat crown is hard to grasp. A hack mechanism and quick-date adjustment are provided. 4
Case (10): The complex shapes and flawlessly machined surfaces are fascinating. 9
Design (15): An absolute classic. Only the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock is a point of debate. 13
Legibility (5): Ideal hand length, but the fine markings on the minutes track make it difficult to read the minutes with precision. Both the hands and hour markers glow with sufficient brightness. 4
Wearing comfort (10): The square shape of the case and its 15.1 mm height detract from optimum comfort. 7
Movement (20): The in-house chronograph movement Caliber Heuer 02 has a number of quality features — column wheel, vertical clutch and a long power reserve, plus a modern and attractive look. 16
Rate results (10): The daily gain of 2 seconds, measured electronically, is almost perfect. Only the deviation between the positions of 13 seconds is rather high. 7
Overall value (15): A good price ($6,150) for an in-house chronograph with a legendary design 13
Total: 82 POINTS

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  1. Nils Maydell

    You can say value for money: a no nonsense watch. Great review!

  2. Gerry Dimatos

    I’m not so sure on the dial with the Tri Compax design and the lettering of “Automatic” or its positioning but I do like the Heuer 02 chronograph movement….
    Finally the Monaco gets a “proper” movement to do it justice!
    From Gerry Dimatos in Melbourne Down Under…

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