Look­ing back on 50 years of the TAG Heuer Monaco


As is the case with many iconic de­sign clas­sics, the Heuer Monaco (TAG was not part of the com­pany name at the time) di­vided opin­ion. When it was in­tro­duced at si­mul­ta­ne­ous press con­fer­ences in New York and Geneva on 3 March 1969, most peo­ple’s re­ac­tions were less than en­thu­si­as­tic. Ev­ery as­pect of the watch’s de­sign was rad­i­cal: the metal­lic blue dial, the red and light blue hands, the square case and the place­ment of the crown on the left-hand side.

The Monaco’s dar­ing de­sign made it in­stantly recog­nis­able, and it was the per­fect com­ple­ment to the ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy the Swiss watch­maker pre­sented at the same time: the first wa­ter­re­sis­tant square case and the Cal­i­bre 11, the first au­to­matic-wind­ing chrono­graph move­ment. The Cal­i­bre 11 was the re­sult of three years of close col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween watch brands Heuer, Bre­itling and Hamil­ton, and be­came the first au­to­matic chrono­graph. The then CEO of Heuer, Jack Heuer, was not re­ally a fan of the watch’s de­sign either, but he be­lieved the ground­break­ing in­no­va­tions needed a de­sign that would de­mand at­ten­tion. The Monaco did ex­actly that. The dis­rup­tive de­sign was dif­fi­cult to pro­duce, and its pop­u­lar­ity among watch afi­ciona­dos and col­lec­tors was not im­me­di­ate, but it re­mained in the col­lec­tion.

Jack Heuer was con­vinced that mo­tor rac­ing was the right way to pro­mote watches, in­clud­ing the Monaco. He wanted the watches (and dash­board timers) his com­pany pro­duced to be linked to the names and places con­nected with ma­jor races. The Monaco got its name from the glam­orous and well-known Monaco For­mula 1 Grand Prix. TAG Heuer is the Of­fi­cial Watch of the Monaco Top Cars Col­lec­tion mu­seum and has close ties to the Au­to­mo­bile Club de Monaco.

In 1971, the Monaco shared the cin­e­matic lime­light with Steve McQueen in the movie Le Mans. In the mid-1970s, the Monaco re­ceived a makeover. At that time, black was be­com­ing a fash­ion­able colour, and so the Monaco was cloaked in a black an­odised case - known as The Dark Lord.

Heuer be­came TAG Heuer in 1985, and, in 1998, the Monaco’s story con­tin­ued with a re­launch model in­spired by the orig­i­nal. This time, it was re­ceived with much more ac­claim. Over the past two decades, the Monaco has been closely linked to haute hor­logerie, with other ver­sions that fea­ture new com­pli­ca­tions, de­signs and ma­te­ri­als. As it has evolved, the Monaco has kept the rev­o­lu­tion­ary spirit that made it both in­fa­mous and pop­u­lar.

In honour of the fifti­eth an­niver­sary of the TAG Heuer Monaco, the Swiss watch­maker is re­leas­ing a book that cap­tures the history and spirit of the un­likely icon. Para­dox­i­cal Su­per­star doc­u­ments the life­time of the Monaco with ar­chive ex­cerpts, never-be­for­e­seen pic­tures, and sketches of the de­signs and move­ments.

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