TAG Heuer’s pop­u­lar Monaco wasn’t al­ways as well-re­ceived as it is to­day—as the watch turns 50 this year, let us re­count how it beat the odds and gained iconic sta­tus

Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - CONTENTS - Text Nicolette Wong

Ex­pe­ri­ence the highs and lows of the TAG Heuer Monaco

It was 3 March 1969, and the very first au­to­matic chrono­graph was about to take the world by storm. Heuer (what TAG Heuer was known as back then), along with part­ners Hamil­ton, Breitling and Dubois-de­praz, had been work­ing on the Cal­i­bre 11 for the past three years, and it was fi­nally ready to wow the world. Un­for­tu­nately for Heuer, the watch in which this cal­i­bre was set— the Monaco—re­ceived an un­der­whelm­ing re­sponse upon its launch. And it was not just be­cause of the com­pe­ti­tion it faced in the race to claim the ti­tle of the world’s first au­to­matic chrono­graph—the Monaco, with its square case and left-handed crown, was just a lit­tle too un­con­ven­tional for unim­pressed col­lec­tors. But 50 years on, the TAG Heuer Monaco and its Cal­i­bre 11 have both be­come in­dus­try icons.

“We wanted to cre­ate an out­stand­ing and in­no­va­tive prod­uct, some­thing avant-garde. When I saw the square case, I im­me­di­ately knew it was some­thing spe­cial,” said TAG Heuer hon­orary chair­man Jack Heuer about the cre­ation of the Monaco. That said, Jack ad­mits he was not ex­actly a fan of the design but saw its po­ten­tial. At the time, square cases were usu­ally only used for dress watches, be­cause the shape made it im­pos­si­ble to make the case water-re­sis­tant. Un­til the Monaco, that is. On top of the fact that it houses the Cal­i­bre 11, the Monaco is also the world’s first water-re­sis­tant square watch. Paired with the me­tal­lic blue dial, red and light-blue hands, and left­handed crown, the Monaco made the per­fect case for thor­oughly dis­rup­tive watch design.

The Cal­i­bre 11 is a much-beloved movement, and is known for be­ing one of three creations that were vy­ing for the ti­tle of world’s first au­to­matic chrono­graph— the other two be­ing the Zenith El Primero and the Seiko 6139. The Cal­i­bre 11 em­ployed a mod­u­lar con­struc­tion, with a Hamil­ton-buren base movement and a Dubois-de­praz chrono­graph mo­d­ule, and has since un­der­gone many evo­lu­tions.

Given the luke­warm ini­tial re­cep­tion that the Monaco re­ceived, how did it be­come the icon it is to­day? The credit is due to the king of cool, Amer­i­can ac­tor Steve Mcqueen, who strapped on the Monaco and climbed into a Porsche in the 1971 film Le Mans, forever seal­ing the link be­tween the watch and motorsport­s.

In the years since, the Monaco has stood on its own unique mer­its and en­joyed nu­mer­ous re­makes, all of which have been snapped up by col­lec­tors en­am­oured of the dis­tinc­tive watch. To cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of the Monaco, TAG Heuer will be launch­ing new ver­sions of the leg­endary orig­i­nal, along with a commemorat­ive book about it and mul­ti­ple events to fete the oc­ca­sion around the world. As at this point in time, the brand has only re­vealed three out of the five limited-edi­tion commemorat­ive ver­sions of the watch. The Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edi­tion ref­er­ences the pe­riod in its name with a vin­tage-in­spired colour pal­ette composed of a warm green, grey, red­dish-brown and yel­low; the Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edi­tion fea­tures a bold red dial and a black calf­skin strap punc­tured with holes lined in red—an ode to the world of speed and style Mcqueen was syn­ony­mous with; and the Monaco 1989-1999 Limited Edi­tion re­flects the in­dus­trial style of the Nineties, with a largely blue and sil­very ap­pear­ance com­ple­mented with a splash of red.

The Monaco has come far from its un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous de­but, and we’re cer­tain that it will con­tinue to wow col­lec­tors the world over.


BIRTH­DAY BOYS The im­age of ac­tor Steve Mcqueen sport­ing the Heuer Monaco in Le Mans re­mains etched in the mem­ory of peo­ple up till to­day; the Monaco 1989-1999 Limited Edi­tion. Op­po­site: The Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edi­tion is the first of five commemorat­ive de­signs that TAG Heuer will be re­leas­ing this year

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