With four equal sides and four equal angles, no watch is more instantly recognizable than the TAG Heuer Monaco. Named after Jack Heuer’s favorite Grand Prix track, it was a revolution when it was introduced in 1969, becoming the first square water-resistant automatic chronograph. Ref. 1133 had re-invented the wheel, and it had given it four straight edges.
Its metallic blue dial, bright red minute hand, and left-hand crown made it unlike any other Swiss-made watch, and it caught the eye of one man who would forever change the course of the brand’s history. At the height of his fame, Steve McQueen handpicked the square wristwatch for his character during the filming of Le Mans, in 1971.
Such is the popularity of the watch that it has been in uninterrupted production ever since, its iconic case lending itself to several commercial models, limited editions as well as the brand’s concept V4 collection.
But the cult fascination for the original watch means that TAG Heuer releases homage editions of the ref. 1133 every few years, most recently in 2003, 2009 and 2010. All three came close to the original, but with major differences, such as red sub-dial hands and a crown-placement to the right on the 2003 and 2010 models, or a 38x38mm case and special engravings on the 40th anniversary watch from 2009.
In fact, the new Tag Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Chronograph is the closest we’ve ever been to wearing an original ref. 1133. The resemblance is uncanny. The legendary petroleum blue dial is back, with its familiar white counters, diamond-polished horizontal hour indices, red accents and red chronograph hand.
So is the date window at 6 o’clock, and more importantly, the words “Monaco” and “Automatic Chronograph,” which find their original positions, next to the original Heuer logo at 12 o’clock. Even the crown makes its way back to the left side of the case.
Of course, TAG Heuer has taken the opportunity to improve the design ever so slightly, or rather, bring it into the contemporary market, the biggest change being the almost sacrilegious redesign of the case.
Oddly enough, the original TAG Heuer Monaco was not entirely square, but the new three-part steel case measures precisely 39x39mm. Meanwhile, the chronograph’s push-pieces at 2 and 4 o’clock are now rectangular, the lugs slightly larger and the case-back see-through to reveal the return of the automatic calibre 11.
The new Tag Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Chronograph (ref. CAW211P.FC6356) comes with a perforated black calfskin strap, and is priced at $5,900.
In the long run, the Tag Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Chronograph also seems to confirm the two-way path the Swiss brand is being led by interim CEO Jean-Claude Biver.
On the one hand, the brand has been showing signs of “the Biver Effect,” with a string of limited editions made in partnership with young, successful, but fleeting names such as the David Guetta, and Cara Delevingne.
On the other, it is reaching back into the archives, successfully, by showcasing its roots with faithful and affordable re-issues of its most beloved models. Last year, it did so with another iconic chronograph, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2015 nominated Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph.