Ever since appearing on the wrist of Steve McQueen in the 1971 racing film “Le Mans,” the TAG Heuer Monaco has been closely associated with the world of classic motorsports. There’s always been a whiff of the glamour of ‘60s and ‘70s racing about the model, and when the brand announced its partnership as the official sponsor and timekeeper of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, held in conjunction with the world-famous Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the namesake model line was an obvious choice to lead the charge. Although the 2020 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique is one of countless events canceled in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the brand has pressed on with its release of the commemorative model, the TAG Heuer Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. Limited to only 1000 pieces, this unique version adds a racy new color palette and a subtle Monegasque touch to the modern Monaco formula.

What you see is what you get with the case of the TAG Heuer Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. For the most part, this is the same 39mm square stainless steel case used for nearly every current Monaco, with its iconic rounded square case lines and wide-angled chronograph pushers. This is the “modern” variant in contrast to the strict reissue style of Calibre 11 models, indicated by the 3 o’clock crown, but the only major distinguishing factor here is the sapphire display caseback. The Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique adds special printed text to the crystal itself, along with a serial number engraving around the edge.

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While the case is subtle about its changes to the standard model, there’s no mistaking the dial of the TAG Heuer Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique for a run-of-the-mill example. The striking silver-on-red color scheme is immediately eye-catching, but it’s on closer inspection that this combination really sets itself apart. The fiery red of the outer dial is finished with a dynamic sunburst, as is the inner silver dial, while the rest of the dial elements strictly follow the white and red pattern here. With most Monaco designs opting for a three-tone (sunburst blue, with white and red accents) layout, the Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique feels a bit more cohesive and focused than the norm. Rather than a lengthy bit of special edition dial text, this watch handles the problem of announcing its partnership in a far defter and more interesting way. Between 1 and 2 o’clock on the edge of the silver inner dial is a stylized retro Grand Prix car, the symbol of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique event. It’s a playful added detail to an already flamboyant design, but it’s difficult not to wish that this piece had been placed perhaps where the “Automatic” dial text sits at 6 o’clock to avoid spoiling the dial symmetry.

TAG Heuer powers the Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique with the in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement. This has become TAG Heuer’s flagship stablemate to the venerable Calibre 11 in recent years, with a massive 80-hour power reserve and the prized combination of column wheel and vertical clutch chronograph components.

The Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique is paired with a classic black leather small hole rally strap with a deployant clasp. This is a signature pairing for the Monaco line, and the simplicity here allows the special dial to take center stage.

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While the 2020 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique itself may have fallen victim to COVID-19-related cancellation, TAG Heuer’s celebratory model remains an eye-catching addition to the current lineup. The unusual circumstances surrounding its debut do beg the question of how this limited-edition model will be remembered by future collectors, however. Will the association with an event that never happened make the watch a fascination in the future? Time will tell, but the striking color combination will likely be remembered by fans of the brand for a long while. Only 1,000 examples of the TAG Heuer Monaco Grand Prix de Monaco Historique will be made and will be available through authorized dealers in August 2020 for an MSRP of 6,700 CHF. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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