Of the hundreds of thousands of wristwatches that have been created over the last century, how many are truly iconic? The answer: honestly, not many … not many at all.
Candidly, there are probably fewer than 50 timepieces of the last 100 years that can claim to have had an impact on the zeitgeist of the horological industry.
TAG Heuer’s Monaco is one of those watches – it captured a time and place in history so resolutely (think Steve McQueen and Le Mans) that it continues to be lauded to this day.
However, this icon is in the midst of a pivotal transition.
You see, it’s the Monaco’s 50 birthday this year, and just like you and I will experience a mid-life crisis, it too is going through some serious changes.
It hasn’t gone out and bought itself a Porsche and eloped with its secretary for pastures new, but it has acquired something shiny and expensive, and it’s causing quite the stir.
Housed inside its familiar square case that we all know and love, the Monaco is, for the first time since 1969, being powered by an in-house movement, the Calibre 02.
First released in TAG’s storied Autavia back in 2017, the Calibre 02 is the result of years of development at the Swiss marque’s watchmaking headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
There are some big talking points with this new movement, and chief among them is that the chronograph complication features both a column wheel and vertical clutch.
That’s a fair amount of tech in a watch that will set you back less than $9000 AUD, but the movement’s features don’t end there. It also benefits from no less than 80 hours of power reserve, 33 jewels and a traditional operating frequency of 28,800 (4Hz) vibrations per hour.
Now, while all this sounds impressive on paper, what you really want to know is what this watch is like on the wrist, right?
Well, for a start, let me say that the watch’s dial is a complete success, honouring and capturing the essence of its 50-year legacy while forging a new path that blends old world with new.
The signature sunburst blue dial, which TAG now calls “petroleum blue”, is beautiful, radially brushed and dripping with character.
And the two sub-dials, located at three o’clock and nine o’clock and displaying a 30-minute counter and a 12-hour counter respectively, are finished in a contrasting white with red accents, which harkens back to the original timepiece.
Located at six o’clock you’ll find a small, sectoring cross-hairs that display the running sub-seconds, and slotted just below that is the narrow and unassuming date aperture.
The overriding aesthetic of the dial is well judged and evenly proportioned. It isn’t overly cluttered or illegible, it deals with its timekeeping complications with grace.
Capping the dial is a protruding, ever-so-slightly domed sapphire crystal which is treated with an anti-reflective coating, ensuring maximum levels of clarity and offering a good amount of vintage flair, reminiscent of the early Monacos and their acrylic crystal.
Speaking of sapphire crystal, TAG has decided to bestow the Calibre Heuer 02’s case-back with the same material, so you get a great opportunity to check out the new movement, replete with its skeletonised rotor, Geneva stripes and bright red column wheel.
Thanks to the aforementioned column wheel and vertical clutch, interacting with the chronograph complication is a joy, with both pushers offering good tactility and an assured ‘click’ when being used.
The signature stainless steel case, which features both brushed and polished elements, maintains its traditional 39x39mm dimensions. However, as a result of the powerful new movement, the case thickness has swelled somewhat, now close to being 16mm thick.
So, unless your shirt and jacket both hang looser than a wizard’s sleeve, there’s no way this new timepiece is tucking underneath a cuff.
That may be an issue for some, but thankfully, the remit of the Monaco isn’t that of a dress watch – it’s meant for more dynamic and less formal contexts.
Attached to the iconic timepiece is a harmonising blue alligator leather band with stainless steel deployant clasp. These wrist accoutrements complement the watch nicely; however, there is one small gripe, and it’s to do with the steel deployant clasp. It’s quite sharp is places — all the edges haven’t been rounded off. It’s actually so much of an issue that I scratched myself rather badly a couple of times on it.
Now I know, most of you are probably reading this and thinking, “drink some cement and harden up” … and you might have a point. But, for a watch that carries with it an $8200 price tag, this really shouldn’t happen; it’s an unfortunate oversight that TAG needs to address.
It’s not a deal-breaker, however; far from it. The new TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre Heuer 02 is compelling and, as far as iconic timepieces go, the cost of admission is not only reasonable, it’s enticing.
Made in partnership with TAG Heuer. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.