TAG Heuer Monaco, Formula 1 on your wrist 

Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

Fast, faster, the fastest – When the tires are smoking and the start flag is waving, every second counts. When we talk about racing, watches with a built-in chronograph can't be far away.

In this regard, the TAG Heuer watch brand has one of the most legendary watches in the industry, the Monaco Chronograph.

Today, we will get you up to speed and tell you everything you need to know about the Tag Heuer Monaco.  

When we think about the brand Tag Heuer, for many, the Monaco is the first watch that comes to mind. This special watch was made in honor of the 1969 Grand Prix in Monaco. The Monaco is all about racing, therefore it has a chronograph to measure accurate lap times. With the unique, or some would say strange design, this watch enjoys absolute cult status. Additionally, the watch was worn by Steve McQueen, which for some, is kind of a big deal.  


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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The Brand Tag Heuer

Before we talk about the Monaco, we would like to take a look at the history of Tag Heuer, so you understand why the Monaco is what it is.  

Just like many other watch manufacturers, it all started with a talented watchmaker who opened his own workshop. In the case of Tag Heuer, it was Edouard Heuer who opened the doors of his shop in the beautiful village Saint-Imier, in Bern, Switzerland in the year 1860. Since wristwatches were not that big of a deal at the time, he started with the production of pocket watches and chronographs, known for their exceptional quality.

The young engineer soon earned himself a reputation as an innovative watchmaker. One of his first big innovations that he patented in 1882, was a chronograph that could be started, stopped, and reset through the crown. Therefore, the chronograph did not need any more pushers to be operated, since all functions were combined in the crown. 

It’s clear that Edouard Heuer had a passion for chronographs. This might also be the reason why he started to focus on the development of chronographs that could be used in racing. At the beginning of the 19th century, Tag Heuer was the leader in the manufacturing of stop-watches (chronographs), used to make accurate measurements at motorsport events.

His precise chronograph soon became very popular, and from then on to this day, the brand Tag Heuer gets associated with racing sport. 

In 1960, they were even responsible for measuring the times of Formula 1. 

Another thing that Tag Heuer pioneered, was placing their watch movements in the dashboard of racing cars, so that the drivers themselves could measure their times while driving. 

In the following years, they proved to be an innovative watchmaker, therefore establishing the brand Tag Heuer worldwide.  

Today, 160 years after its founding, Tag Heuer is one of the most prestigious Swiss watch brands. They are known for their precision, their unique designs, and especially for their roots in racing. 


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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History of TAG Heuer Monaco

As we've mentioned before, Tag Heuer has a lot to do with racing. Therefore, it's no wonder that they designed the Monaco as a tribute to the 1969 Grand Prix of Monaco. What immediately stands out is the design, which at the time was very innovative, but also the movement was revolutionary, because it was one of the first automatic chronographs.  

But what made this watch a legend, had to do with something else. When the actor Steve McQueen wore the Monaco during the filming of the movie "Le Mans” in 1970, he advertised the watch and passed on some of his personal cult onto the Monaco. This might have been one of the greatest marketing moves in the history of TAG Heuer, making the watch popular around the globe.

Even today, the Monaco is one of the most popular watches of Tag Heuer.

In the second half of the 1970s, they were forced to halt the production of the Monaco, because the company suffered under the quartz crisis.

Luckily, TAG Heuer somehow made it through the crisis, and in 1985, they were able to reintroduce the Monaco, because the whole watch industry experienced a historicist trend where the demand for mechanical watches started to increase again.

In 1998, the Monaco once again became a fixed part of their collection. 

Today, it plays at least a symbolic role in racing. TAG Heuer invests a lot in racing. For example, Max Verstappen, currently the most famous Formula 1 racing driver, is a brand ambassador for Tag Heuer. 


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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Watchmaking and Movements

die Tag Heuer Monaco in ihren Einzelteilen
Source: Tagheuer

It's not a surprise that the Monaco is rectangular. In the late 60s, for the first time, it was possible to make a rectangular shape watertight. TAG Heuer jumped on the opportunity and made one of the first rectangular watches. 

To create the perfect movement, Tag Heuer collaborated with other watch manufacturers such as Büren Watch S.A, Dubois Déparaz as well as Breitling.

The result was the famous Caliber 11, the first-ever chronograph movement with an automatic winding system. With this movement, the group of watchmakers wanted to rival Zenith, which in turn was working on an automatic chronograph movement, the even more famous El-Primero.

In 1969 the Caliber 11 was finally finished. Unfortunately, they didn't manage to finish their movement before Zenith published their el Primero, but still, they had made a very good movement, which would find a place in many watches. Not every manufacturer called it the same way; for example, in the Breitling Navitimer it was called caliber 11, but in most other watches, it got the name Chrono-Matic.

Die Tag Heuer Monaco mit Glasboden
Source: Tag Heuer

The movement in the current generation of Monaco watches is still based on the Chrono-Matic but has been further refined over the years.  

The current caliber, based on the ETA 2894, is therefore also called Caliber 12. 


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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Design

Eine Klassische Version der Tag Heuer Monaco
Source: Tag Heuer

Of course, the design is the first thing that stands out. I’m sure the reason must be the rectangular shape of the watch – or am I wrong?!  

In addition to that, the Monaco usually comes in bold colors with a matching leather strap, fitted with ventilation holes. The colors and the special bracelet give the watch an even more sporty character. 

Another obvious design element are the totalizers that display the elapsed time of the chronograph. They are square with rounded corners, matching the overall design of the watch. Towards 6 o’clock there is a small date window. 

One thing that is very unusual about the design of the watch are the hour markers that don’t point to the center but lie horizontally. They have attracted a lot of criticism, but have still been retained on some models. 

Beyond that, there is one more rather peculiar feature: on most models, the crown is placed on the left side of the watch, the opposite side of the chronograph's pushers. This, of course, is due to the architecture of the caliber. 

Apart from being a technical necessity, this has also become a unique feature that the Monaco is known for. 

After all, the design of the Monaco is a bit odd but also very unique. It’s this combination that makes this watch stand out from a lot of other watches, giving it its very own character.  

Some people love it, others hate it. We personally like it and we think it fits the history of TAG Heuer, which was greatly influenced by motorsports.  


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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Different versions of the Monaco

Since the Monaco is one of TAG Heuer's most famous watches, there are numerous models that come in a variety of styles. 

Most Monaco watches are very colorful and therefore sporty, but there are also certainly some elegant versions. 

Monaco Gulf edition
Source: Tag Heuer

The Monaco is also available with a fabric strap or a metal bracelet, however it is most popular with a leather strap. 

If you're looking for something special, there are also some watches with a skeletonized movement. 

In addition, there are various special and anniversary editions. For example, the Monaco Vintage Calibre 11 Chronograph for the company's one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, the Monaco Gulf Limited Edition 2009, and numerous other special editions.


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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Prices and Value Development

Ein Beispiel der Monaco in deep Purple
Source: Tag Heuer

The least expensive Monaco is available for about 6,900 Euros.  

If you buy a used watch, you can find a Monaco in good condition for about 4,000 Euros. 

The secondhand market for this watch is interesting; some watches are even much cheaper than 4,000 Euros, while some special editions are significantly more expensive. 

One version of the Monaco Riviere, for example, trades for about 40,000 Euros.  

If you're looking for an investment, the Monaco is not the watch that you should buy. If you buy a new watch and wear it once, its value decreases instantly. After all, this is a problem that almost all TAG Heuers grapple with, except for some special and limited editions. Their watches don’t have the potential for an increase in value.


Der Grand Prix der Armbanduhren, die Tag Heuer Monaco

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Conclusion

The TAG Heuer Monaco is one of the most iconic chronographs out there, competing with watches like the Rolex Daytona, the Navitimer from Breitling, or the El Primero from Zenith. 

Meanwhile, it has two unique features: the cult status it has earned due to Steve McQueen wearing the watch, and the never before seen design of the Monaco.  

From a technical standpoint, the watch is excellent, although some might dislike the fact that the movement is based on an ETA movement and not a true in-house caliber. 

However, we have to admit that the Monaco is not a watch everyone's going to like. The design is very extroverted and unusual. But that doesn't mean it has to be for everyone. The Monaco has its own unique group of followers.  

After all, the Monaco will always remain an iconic wristwatch, appreciated and worn for many years to come.  

Source Coverimage: Tag Heuer


About the author

Autor bei Gentleman-watches

Alexander Weinberger

For me, the most fascinating thing about watches is the interplay between precise craftsmanship and artistic development. In a watch movement, hundreds of small parts have to be put together precisely so that they form a large whole.


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