Fresh off the introduction of the revolutionary Calibre 11 movement and dominating the increasingly important international motorsports scene through associations with the likes of Steve McQueen and Scuderia Ferrari, the 1970s were a time of rapid growth and experimentation for TAG Heuer (then, simply Heuer). The decade brought with it no shortage of wild and sometimes short-lived new chronograph models for the brand, including the Monza, Silverstone, Camaro, and the confusingly named integrated bracelet Heuer Daytona. Of all the ‘70s Heuer chronographs, however, perhaps none better encapsulated the look of the era than the Montreal. With a hefty brushed barrel case, internal tachymeter ring, and an array of vibrant color options, the Heuer Montreal was emblematic of the dominant ‘70s sports chronograph style. As the second part of its 160th-anniversary celebrations (after the release of the Carrera 160 Years Silver Limited Edition in January), TAG Heuer has breathed new life into the Montreal nameplate for a limited-run new Carrera chronograph. While far from a full reissue of the ‘70s staple, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition adopts the brilliant colors of the Montreal to create one of the most striking and flat-out fun takes in the current Carrera lineup.
A far cry from the beefy rounded cases of the original Montreal, the 39mm stainless steel case of the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition is trim and classically sporty. Sharing the same basic design as the rest of the more vintage-focused Carrera line, the 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition sports a retro fully polished finish along with the Carrera’s signature inward angled lugs. To help maximize this vintage appeal, the brand opts for a suitably evocative tall box sapphire crystal. Along with a solid 100-meter depth rating, this unique model includes a sapphire display back showing off the specially engraved winding rotor within.
While the rest of the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition does little to echo the feel of the original ‘70s Montreal, the dial design takes its cues from one of the rarest and most sought after Montreal references, the white dial reference 110503W from 1972. There is more than a little adaptation work here, reimagining the design as a three register rather than the original two-register Calibre 11 chronograph, but the end result is colorful and dynamic without feeling overdone. The white opaline main dial surface serves as a clean and bright canvas for the rest of the dial design to splash with vibrant red, cool blue, and lemon yellow. While not apparent at first glance, this playfulness with color begins all the way out at the outer chapter ring, where the seconds markings are printed in a mix of cheery red and blue. The main white dial then floats inside a bright blue ring, shot through with electric yellow lume pips. The three chronograph subdials are all handsomely finished with azurage, the aquatic feel of the bright blue finish accentuated by the slightly recessed level below the main white dial. While the blue, white, and red on its own may form a classic combination, it’s the use of vibrant yellow lume for the hands, hour markers, and 3 o’clock chronograph minutes subdial that really set the 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition apart. While the end result nearly verges on the toy-like for its bright, playful colors, as a summer statement piece it’s a surefire conversation starter. One potential drawback, however, is the effectiveness of that yellow lume. Most colored luminous paint tends to lose some of its effectiveness compared to classic white lume, and with such an intense pigment, it would be difficult not to imagine this leading to a dim glow.
TAG Heuer equips the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition with the in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph movement. This recent addition to the TAG Heuer movement stable packs the prized vertical clutch and column wheel, allowing for crisp and accurate chronograph function. In addition, a massive 80-hour power reserve and a stable 28,800 bph frequency ensure impressive performance. Beyond the mechanical statistics, the Heuer 02 used here is nicely decorated with Côtes de Genève across the movement plates along with an ornately etched commemorative rotor celebrating the brand’s 160th anniversary.
Rather than invoking the rally straps or classic NSA bracelets of the original Montreal, the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition takes a left-field approach to strap choice. With such a colorful dial design, one would expect a more casual pairing to emphasize this relaxed feel, but TAG Heuer opts instead for a navy blue alligator leather strap with a signed deployant clasp. The strap on its own is handsome enough, but the dressy conservatism of alligator leather feels at odds with the playful dial. That said, strap changes are easy enough to achieve, and this would be a prime candidate for perforated calf leather in either black or blue.
While vintage Heuer purists may balk at the idea of the Montreal name returning only as a dial inspiration for a limited-edition Carrera, the watch itself is a vibrant and summery take on the new Heuer 02 equipped Carrera line. What’s more, it seems unlikely that the Montreal will see a full revival anytime soon, especially as nothing in the current TAG Heuer lineup even approaches the oversized barrel shape of the original. Only 1,000 examples of the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition will be made and will be available online and through authorized dealers in July 2020 at an MSRP of $6,750. Learn more or order at the TAG Heuer website here.