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Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

The Heuer Monaco broke boundaries when it was released 50 years ago in 1969. The Caliber 11 movement was made jointly by Heuer, Breitling, and Dubois-Deprazis and is among the first automatic chronographs movements made. Some will say it’s indeed the first, but most watch enthusiasts and historians have split the honor with the Zenith El Primero and Seiko 6139 movement.
Of course, the TAG Heuer Monaco is perhaps known for its iconic square design, which has always teetered on beloved and divisive. Designs well-received across the board upon release may well be popular in the short term, but rarely do they generate the kind of emotional response necessary for an enduring legacy to be established. That might be why the first run of the Monaco lasted until 1975, initially discontinued due to low sales.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

Interestingly, Jack Heuer, himself, was not a fan of the original. He was less than convinced by its aesthetic but had the vision (and the cajones) to back disruption over digestibility. It was the first-ever water-resistant square watch. Because of the technological limitations of the time, sports watches (which, themselves, were in their nascence) were always round. Heuer took risks with this model, and they paid off.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

The case and dial design were so bold, it’s almost possible to forget that the crown was originally on the lefthand side. The crown position has flipped multiple times during the model’s stop/start history, but for true authenticity, the 9 o’clock winder is hard to beat.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

The Caliber 11 powered the Heuer Monaco. Notable is its highly unusual 19,800vph (2.75Hz) operating speed. The modern-day iteration of the Caliber 11 has upped this to the much more widespread 28,800vph.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

The Heuer brand was acquired by TAG – Luxembourgish manufacturers of high-tech items – in 1985. The name was changed to include the new parent company, but the watches remained connected to motor sports. And then, in 1999, TAG Heuer became part of luxury conglomerate LVMH. Nowadays, the brand is one of the more accessible watchmakers within the group, and enjoys huge popularity worldwide. The TAG Heuer Monaco has always been the model ambassador for a brand that liked to think differently.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

The automatic chronograph movement and the water resistant square sports watch were triumphs for the Heuer Research & Development department. That legacy continues today. Behind the scenes, the brand’s R&D team is still one of the most active within the LVMH family. Interestingly, TAG Heuer doesn’t just work on new technologies for its own watches, but also for those of other LVMH brands.


Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

Thus the spirit of ingenuity that defined the Jack Heuer-led era is still alive and well. The DNA of the Monaco and the boldness that brought it to life can be seen in watches within this brand and others. To celebrate that, and the birthday of TAG Heuer’s most arresting model, a new Monaco will soon hit the shelves.

The newest model will join a raft of editions over the years, and no doubt become a collectors item immediately. The vast array of different Monacos released since 1969 has made their appreciation a hobby almost independent of watchmaking.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

Tales of rare Monacos from the past are bound to excite avid fans. The mere mention of the seldom-seen ‘Dark Lord’ issue (featuring an anodised black case) can send Monaco-lovers into a frenzy. Although the more modern iterations of the model are perhaps not quite as alluring, there are plenty to choose from. There have been updated reissues of classic models, amazing concept creations that shows TAG Heuer’s extant desire to push boundaries, and even a handful of special editions for particularly passionate markets (inlacing my favourite ever Monaco, created for the Men’s Club Japan). There’s even been a quartz version. Now that’s true love…

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

To celebrate this milestone, TAG Heuer will be holding a series of events around the world and releasing a new book to accompany the newest iteration of the TAG Heuer Monaco. The book, Paradoxical Superstar, explains the complex history of the Monaco. It will include archive excerpts, previously unreleased pictures, and sketches of the designs and movements.

Celebrating 50 Years Of The TAG Heuer Monaco Watch Watch Industry News

Well-known British journalist Nicholas Foulkes has contributed a chapter dedicated to the period since the Monaco’s 1969 release. Writer and watch expert Gisbert Brunner has chimed in with a chapter covering the various technical innovations that gave rise to the Monaco, while American author Michael Clerizo digs into the relationship between the iconic watch and the most famous wrist it ever adorned: Steve McQueen’s. H. S. H. Prince Albert II of Monaco put pen to paper for the foreword. To learn more, visit




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  • Independent_George

    Ah. The Monaco. The only Heuer (TAG Heuer) I have ever loved.

    • SuperStrapper

      The Monaco has never really been the TAG for me, I can just never seem to get in line with square watches. That said, there was a black dialled one with a very cool multi-link bracelet at an AD in my ‘hood, and as it was disco’s every time I went in they threw a better offer out at me. One day I was like, ok I’ll buy it. I went in and they had sold it not 6 hours previously. Such is life. This was it:

      • Raymond Wilkie

        A narrow escape. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

        • SuperStrapper

          I’d just stick to speaking for yourself.

        • DanW94

          That’s true, but I once made a silk ear out of a sows purse. Weird, huh?

        • Gokart Mozart

          But you can make a leather wallet.

          Well Superstrapper probably can

  • Aditya

    The modern Monaco is poorly built and over priced. Twice I’ve seen it in person in ADs, the pushers haven’t worked.

  • Chaz

    Ya know, I’d actually consider buying one of these if they’d EVER replace that POS 2894 modular chrono with perhaps their Autavia movement. But then again, that would jack the price up another couple grand, I’m sure.

    C’est la vie

  • What fresh hell is this?

    TAG — a Chinese shopping conglomerate


  • Raymond Wilkie

    My feelings on this model are quite clear. It’s my worst watch ever.
    Unlike most watches on this blog I have tried one of these on.

  • SuperStrapper

    While I understand that the TH R&D is usually applied with other brands people are more comfortable spending more with (I dont necessarily disagree with this strategy), least we forget that TAG did put out some zany and unreasonable Monaco’s. The V4, which on release I though was pretty cool but never went anywhere is shown here, and lest we forget that bizarre mikrograph monaco:

    • David Bredan

      Definitely one of my favorite Monacos ever — I miss this direction of the Monaco (and TAG) dearly.

  • danowat

    Again, people blinded by Tag hate.

    “Twice I’ve seen it in person in ADs, the pushers haven’t worked.” Lol, what a crock!

  • If it was good enough for Steve McQueen it is good enough for me. The thing that bugs me however is not the shape, I actually like the design, but the manufacturing which was, at least the last time I tried one, pretty meh bordering on the sub-meh.

  • These watches were popular around the SCCA circuit (at least in the mid-west) during the early 70’s. I remember buying one off a fellow amateur driver in 73 or 74 season. Probably paid no more than twenty bucks for it. Certainly was not a “collectible” at the time. Wish I would have hung on to it……

    • Torben Kragelund

      Yes that decisions has got to hurt a bit 🙂

      • No not really. But thanks for the sympathy. In those days, we were not “watch collectors.” There was no internet. There was no “aftermarket.” Well, if there was an aftermarket, it was just some guy a a pawn shop somewhere. And (fortunately) I never needed the services of the latter.

  • NaJo

    I love the design; its like no other n hence iconic and on my buying list. The only reason am not going ahead is due to calibre 11 which in reality is not the calib 11. Am awaiting an in house heuer 01 / autavia movement replacement. Hopefully heuer knows that well and new itiration rectify that ! Also cut the new tag monaco quartz crap which nullifies the monaco brand image.. it made me so angry when tjey introduced $2k quartz monaco… unbelievable

  • Very enjoyable article, would love to see similar ones for different watches.

  • Russell DeJulio

    I have always liked the Monaco and hope to get one before year end however I wish the chronograh recorded time longer than only 30 minutes

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