Any watch brand would love to claim a truly “iconic” chronograph in their lineup, but TAG Heuer arguably has a couple, among which is the famous square-cased Monaco. When (pre-TAG) Heuer launched the Monaco back in 1969, it was the first Swiss-made automatic chronograph that was square and water-resistant. Now, they have revealed the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition that specifically recalls Steve McQueen’s role in making the Monaco famous.
The Heuer Monaco found fame after Steve McQueen sported it on his wrist during his appearance in the 1971 film, Le Mans. In that same movie, McQueen’s character is sponsored by Gulf Oil, and you’ll see that his white livery also sported the blue and orange stripes, as in the famous picture above. So the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is inspired not only by the original Heuer Monaco, but also by Steve McQueen and his character in Le Mans. TAG Heuer says it is also a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Gulf racing stripes and its role in motor racing.
At its essence, the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition has remained true to the original. For example, the crown is still on the left of the watch case, there is a highly domed sapphire crystal, and the dial is blue with a sunray-brushed finish. It is powered by the TAG Heuer Calibre 11 which is very similar to the movement found in the original Monaco with the benefit of modern production methods and tolerances. The Calibre 11 provides 40 hours of power reserve and beats at 4Hz. It is a time-tested and reliable movement and, much like the Calibre 1861 is to the Speedmaster, it is indelibly linked to the Heuer Monaco.
The steel case is 39mm in diameter but being square in shape means it wears much larger than you might think. The bezel and case both have alternating brushed and polished finishing to give the case some visual interest. Unlike the original Monaco, the pushers in the Gulf Special are square, which I think fits the aesthetic of the watch much better. As mentioned earlier, the watch has a highly domed and beveled sapphire crystal. This was one of the hallmarks of the original Monaco from 1969 and one of the features that helped it to be water-resistant. Speaking of water-resistance, the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is rated to 100m, even with its display caseback (which TAG Heuer has not provided an image of at the moment).
While the movement and case are similar to many Monaco re-issues and special editions we’ve seen before, the dial is where this version stands out. The base of the dial is the original dark blue with a sunray brush as one would find on the original Heuer Monaco. The gulf stripes are then applied to the right half of the dial. While the decision to have the stripes off-centre makes sense given that’s how the Gulf stripes are applied on cars and livery, I suspect this may prove to be a love-hate design element with collectors who demand symmetry.
Thee two subdials for running seconds at 3:00 and the chronograph minutes at 9:00 are again square in shape with a silver opaline finish. The silver opaline gives the sub-dials a nice sharp contrast and with the black baton hands, makes legibility a breeze. The primary hands and the hour markers are rhodium plated and filled with Super-LumiNova. The chrono seconds hand has no luminous material but is lacquered red which suits it well. Finally, there is the date wheel at 6:00 and the Gulf logo right above it. The brand logo, and usual complement of text is found in the usual spots as the other TAG Heuer Monaco watches. My least favorite element of the dial is perhaps the rhodium markers that are applied outside the chapter ring. These are the silver horizontal indices that start off long at the top and bottom of dial and shorten as they reach the middle. However, this is consistent with the original design and collectors may appreciate that the watch has stayed true to its roots.
The TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is likely to appeal to an avid Monaco collector, a fan of motorsport racing or the Gulf team, or Steve McQueen fans sentimental for the ’70s. The TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is not limited by the number of watches produced but it is a US-only edition. From now until September 15, 2017, it is available online on TAG’s website. After that date, the watch will be presented at Watch Time‘s exhibition in New York and will be available at retailers in the US. The TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition ships on a blue leather racing strap with orange contrast stitching for a price of $5,900. tagheuer.com