Looking Back at the Iconic TAG Heuer Monaco on its 50th Anniversary

50 Years of Legend – Honoring the Iconic Monaco from TAG Heuer with a journey to the past and the future

Steve McQueen at the LeMans in 1971

Just like the race and city it’s named for, the Monaco from Heuer—TAG was not part of the company name at the time—is the epitome of elegance and prestige with a vintage flair. Launched in 1969, Heuer successfully created an eye-catching watch that became famous for its unique design and groundbreaking technology. Now, fifty years later, TAG Heuer celebrates this iconic model with new versions of the legendary original and a dedicated book.

Journey to the Past
As we may already know, in the case with many iconic design classics, the Heuer Monaco surely came with divided opinion. When it was introduced at simultaneous press conferences back in New York and Geneva back on 3rd of March in 1969, most people’s reactions were less than enthusiastic. With the metallic blue dial, the red and light blue hands, the square case and the placement of the crown on the left-hand side, it’s safe to say that the watch’s design was simply radical at the time.
“We wanted to create an outstanding and innovative product, something avant-garde,” explained TAG Heuer Honorary Chairman, Jack Heuer. “when I saw the square case, I immediately knew it was something special. Until then, square cases were only used for dress watches because it was not possible to make them water-resistant. We went forward with this unconventional design and negotiated the exclusive use of this revolutionary case for the Monaco wrist chronograph.”

components of the Calibre 11 movement

The result? Monaco’s completely daring design made it instantly recognizable. On top of that, at the very same time, the Swiss watchmaker also presented the first water-resistant square case and Calibre 11, the first automatic-winding chronograph movement, that was made from three years of close collaboration between watch brands Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton. Ultimately, though, it was a testament and the perfect complement to the advanced technology employed by the the brand.

Jack Heuer, CEO of Heuer at the time, was convinced that motor racing was the right way to promote watches and he also wanted the watches produced by his company to be linked to the names and places connected with major races. Thus, the Monaco got its name from the glamorous and well-known Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. He was not really a fan of the watch’s design either, but he still believed that the groundbreaking innovations needed a design that would immediately demand attention. Long story short, the Monaco did exactly that.

the Monaco Calibre 11

Above all, even though the disruptive design was actually rather difficult to produce, and its popularity among watch aficionados and collectors was not immediate, in the end, it remained in the collection. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Journey to the Future
After the watch became legendary after Ateve McQueen sported it in the classic 1971 Hollywood racing film titled “Le Mans,” and Heuer became TAG Heuer in 1985, the Monaco’s story continued with a re-launch model inspired by the original in 1998. This time, it was received with much more acclaim compared to the original one. After that, over the past two decades, the Monaco has been closely linked to haute horlogerie, with other versions that feature new complications, eye-catching designs and better materials.

The Monaco V4

As for now, special for 2019, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the TAG Heuer Monaco, a new Monaco limited-edition model will be launched at each Europe, the United States and Asia—in order to celebrate the timepiece that first caught the world’s attention 50 years ago. Aside to that, the brand also will be releasing a book that captures the history and spirit of the unlikely icon. titled paradoxical superstar, it documents the lifetime of the Monaco with archive excerpts, never-before-seen pictures, and sketches of the designs and movements.

All in all, as it has evolved from time to time, the Monaco has kept the revolutionary spirit that made it both infamous and popular, and surely will continue to do so. From its origins as the revolutionary watch to its current incarnation, TAG Heuer Monaco is still the perfect accompaniment for those living life in the fast lane, on the wrist of bold and fearless gentlemen.

Clockwise from left the Monaco
Calibre 11; the Monaco V4; components
of the Calibre 11 movement
opposite page steve McQueen
at the LeMans in 1971