Of this year’s major watch-world semicentennials — Omega landing on the moon, Zenith launching the El Primero, etc. — the one that has yet to be fêted in a major way is the debut of the TAG Heuer Monaco, renowned for, among other notables, being the first self-winding chronograph wristwatch in a square case. That changes in the second half of 2019, as the Swiss brand has announced it will release five limited-edition watches over the coming months, each inspired by the original and each visually representing a different decade. The first made its grand debut, appropriately, at the 2019 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. Here’s a look at the new Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition.
But first, to those other notables: The Heuer Monaco (TAG would not be added to the company name until the 1980s) was famously introduced at a simultaneous press conference in New York and Geneva on March 3, 1969, as the first watch outfitted with the groundbreaking Caliber 11, one of the very first self-winding chronograph movements (along with Zenith’s El Primero and Seiko’s Caliber 6139, which were both either introduced or on the market that same year). Caliber 11 was the result of a joint effort between Heuer, Breitling, Büren Watch and Dubois Dépraz, but it was the Monaco, which also boasted the watch world’s first water-resistant square case, that became the most iconic chassis for that legendary engine. And yes, the automotive analogy is apt: the watch was the brainchild of founding family scion and then-CEO Jack Heuer, a motorsports aficionado who named it for Formula 1’s most prestigious Grand Prix race. The Monaco would develop strong ties to motor racing, making its way to the wrists of some of that era’s most heralded drivers, such as Jo Siffert, and gained even wider renown when it was worn by Steve McQueen in the 1971 racing film Le Mans.
TAG Heuer has produced numerous “tribute” versions of the Monaco in recent years, among them 2017’s Monaco Gulf Special Edition, whose dial sported the blue-and-orange Gulf Racing stripes from the racecar that McQueen, as a Siffert-inspired character, drove in Le Mans. The dial of this first 50th-anniversary timepiece, designed to channel the shapes and colors of the 1970s, is even more distinctive from the original — dark green with brown and yellow details on the indices and hands, with grayish “sunray black” for the emblematic, softly squared subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. The former displays the running seconds while the latter tallies 30 chronograph minutes; the date appears in a window at 6 o’clock. The addition of an elegant côtes de Genève finish to the dial of this famously sporty model also identifies it as special and collectible.
The stainless steel case measures 39 mm in diameter and has an array of alternating brushed and polished finishes. The sapphire crystal over the dial is domed and beveled. Water-resistant to 100 meters, the case has its chronograph pushers positioned at 2 and 4 o’clock on the right side, while the crown is more unconventionally placed at 9 o’clock on the left side. This arrangement, as well as the use of the vintage “Heuer” logo on the dial rather than the modern “TAG Heuer” is another nod to the design of the original 1969 Monaco. One more such homage is on the solid caseback, which is engraved with the original “Monaco Heuer” logo, here joined by inscriptions for “1969-1979 Special Edition” and “One of 169;” the watch is limited to only 169 pieces.
Behind the caseback is the movement, the contemporary version of the automatic Caliber 11, whose attributes include a rapid date correction, a 28,800-vph balance frequency, and a 40-hour power reserve in addition to its integrated chronograph function. The brown elements on the dial are echoed on the brown calf leather strap, perforated in the style of classical racing gloves and attached to a folding clasp in polished stainless steel. The box that the watch comes in also reflects the original packaging, and, like the timepiece, each one will sport colors evocative of the horological decade it celebrates. The 1970s model has a dark blue box with a classic Heuer logo and a horizontal checkered stripe pattern. The watch’s cushion is yellow and the box’s interior is green, matching colors on the dial. The Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition retails for $6,550.