TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Watch Hands-On

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Watch Hands-On

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Watch Hands On   hands on

It is a bit hard to believe that after all these years this is the first hands-on article we've done with the famous TAG Heuer Monaco V4. It just goes to show that cool watches can fall through the cracks (though the video in this article is from a look we did in 2012). If you don't know, the Monaco V4 was originally a sort of concept watch designed for TAG Heuer by Jean-Francois Ruchonnet back in 2004. Given that we are writing this in 2014, I guess it is the 10th anniversary of the watch. Having said that, TAG Heuer did not come close to releasing the watch (which used many belts instead of gears in the movement) until several years later.

Five years to be exact. Designers in the watch industry such as Ruchonnet are no doubt talented and inspired, but are often known for delivering "incomplete projects." What that means from a technical standpoint is that the Monaco V4 plan he gave to TAG Heuer was not for a working timepiece. Whatever credit is due him must be tempered with the notion that it was TAG Heuer itself that poured resources into the research and development necessary to get the automotive-themed movement to actually work. There was a serious plus side to this though, all the effort required to make the Monaco V4 a reality helped create a new high-end division at TAG Heuer.

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Watch Hands On   hands on

When it was finally released in 2009, the Monaco V4 was probably the most expensive TAG Heuer timepiece ever made. It was limited to just 150 pieces, and an almost forgotten fact is that one of the original Monaco V4 watches was sold at auction in the 2009 edition of Only Watch in Monaco. A 39mm wide square, the first Monaco V4 comes in an all platinum case.

Since then TAG Heuer has produced other limited edition models. And why wouldn't they? According to TAG Heuer, the development time to make the Monaco V4 movement a working reality took 14,200 days of research. That is days, and surely accounts for a range of specialists on the job. Even given the modest nature of Swiss expediency that is a lot of time. So with such a big investment it only made sense for TAG Heuer to offer new versions of the Monaco V4 on a regular basis.

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Watch Hands On   hands on

Even with a concept borne in 2004, the Monaco V4 is still a very cool looking timepiece. The movement was designed to model an automotive engine in a few ways. One of the most ambitious elements was use of transmission style belts versus traditional metal gears for parts of the movement. Transmitting power via belts seemed possible enough, but it proved very difficult for TAG Heuer to ensure reliability and chronometric performance. In the end, TAG Heuer succeeded and the Monaco V4 is actually said to be a rather accurate watch.

The piece has a dial that doesn't get old. The amazing design proves why people wanted to work with Ruchonnet in the first place. Blending traditional mechanical elements with modern design, the Monaco V4 was a "cool" way of showing off your status as a watch nerd. Functionally it only showed the time with the hours and minutes along with a subsidiary seconds dial at 4 o'clock. Things keep getting more interesting on the back of the watch.

TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Carbon Watch Hands On   hands on

14 comments
Abu Rose
Abu Rose

First, I would like to acknowledge the innovation of this TAG's movement; a linear oscillating weight causing drive belts to move the minimalist gears. However, will this technology be the future of mechanical movements? I doubt it for several reasons beyond this brief post. As ffor a price tag of $65-110k, I expect some precious metal casing and not just titanium or carbon. 

On another note, one TAG's strategy that always baffled me is their leap from ETA movements to investing many millions in one sophisticated one. In August 2002, Anton Bally - ETA President at the time- announced "No Ebauches For You" declaration. Not until recently did TAG start R&D into more basic movements like the chronograph caliber 1969. After all, looking at TAG's line up of watches, mechanical complications are not their forte and in my opinion they should have moved in the direction of basic in-house movements much earlier. 

DG Cayse
DG Cayse

When will the design be finished?

MID
MID

It looks like a complicated solution to a problem that has a simple solution.

antjay
antjay

Looks like it's made from the same material as a $20 fishing reel .What is it with the current fascination with over hyped plastic ( charred rayon )? This watch would look much better in just about any other material and be just as practical.

BIGCHRONO
BIGCHRONO

Price/value ratio: horrid. Looks: dreadful. Need/relevance in reality: -infinity.

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

Ariel, doesn't harry Winston have a watch with a linear 'rotor' that works in this fashion? I'm typing this without releasing my Google, but it sounds very familiar. 

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

I always thought a belt drive was possible but it's impressive they've actually gone and made one.  I wonder what happens to those belts after a few years, unless they are completely synthetic and resistant to decay.  The linear "rotor" (a misnomer in this case) is also interesting.  Not as efficient as a regular rotor but still a fascinating talking point.  I don't like the carbon case, i'm afraid.  While i've no doubt it's difficult to make and strong enough to last, it looks like a crumbling piece of coal, with an uneven scuffed finish that looks cheap, like it was spray-painted amateurishly.  In metal, and with better looking hands, this could be a winner.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

Interesting case. Looks like leather from the top, slate from the sides and unfinished all around. The belts are cool. I wonder how long they last though. Cool enough watch. Just the thing to wear while selling cold war surplus arms to God knows who.

"Da, I had to sell a BMP-2 and a Mi-24 Hind to an African warlord pay for the Monaco V4".

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Abu RoseTechnically, a chronograph is a complication. But I know what you mean. TAG Heuer's new Chevenez manufacture will be cranking out a lot of in-house chronographs. So while the LVMH and Richemont brands have taken their own sweet time to get into making their own movements, they did not have that much pressure as COMCO (the Swiss anti-trust authority) did not let Swatch deliver on their threat in 2002. 

I agree that TAG's bread and butter is somewhat affordable chronographs (like the 1969 based watches) and not haute horology and wild technical marvels (like the Mikrogirder). But they are good for image building, so they keep doing it. I see this V4 watch as another showcase piece for TAG and not big profit maker. 

Cheers.

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

A winrar is me: The Harry Winston Glissière tourbillon. 


V4 (or at least the concept) appears to be in front of the HW though. 

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

@Ulysses31  If I remember correctly from first reading about this watch years ago, the belts have steel micro-cables in them, just like automotive belts. Which in both cases would extend the life of the belt, and provide a failsafe from becoming slack over time. 


And, agree on the carbon case. This forged carbon I think was first pioneered by Audemars Piguet? And I still think it is one of the better iterations - Ariel, I think you compared it to the Millennium Falcon, and it maintained a very crystallized look, made no excuses for what it is. These later efforts seem to be visually trying to hide the fact they are composite while then lauding the material makeup in the marketing. Weird. 

IvanGopey
IvanGopey

AFAR you should replace belts every 4 years at TAG Heuer service.

Abu Rose
Abu Rose

@MarkCarson @Abu Rose It is funny you mentioned the Mikrogirder. One drawing of the escapement was titled: "The TAG-Heuer Mikrogirder escapement. No it doesn't make it any clearer."

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@IvanGopey Or every 100,000 miles, ha ha. Thanks for the info. That's what I was afraid of. But at least they do provide service. Cheers.

Trackbacks