The new TAG Heuer Monaco Skeleton sends the racing classic accelerating toward the futureD.C. Hannay
There’s no questioning the icon status of Heuer among racing chronographs, and one of the main reasons is the Monaco. Boldfaced imitators aside, there really isn’t another watch like it, and for good reason: it was a tough nut to crack. Putting a then-new automatic chronograph movement in a square case (and then making the whole thing waterproof) was quite the coup in 1969. And the legend was cemented forever when the Monaco appeared on the wrist of Steve McQueen in Le Mans. Heuer’s fortunes waned by the dawn of the ‘80s, but after the formation of TAG Heuer, things were looking up, and the new company began to reach back into the archives for inspiration. Fans were absolutely thrilled upon the revival of the Monaco in 1997, and the brand has uncorked some real lookers in the ensuing years. And now, the new Monaco Skeleton is here, with surprising design touches that make it one of TAG Heuer’s most audacious yet. So let’s take a look at the retro-futuristic stylings of the new Skeleton series, available in three variants.
If you’re at all familiar with the Monaco, the unique 39mm square case keeps with tradition as far as its contours and dimensions. But instead of stainless steel, the new Skeleton models are rendered in Grade 2 titanium, and the light weight might throw you at first. Personally, I think titanium is a logical choice, given the Monaco’s racing heritage, and we all know that high performance materials are coveted for their strength-to-weight ratios. The case has been sandblasted, too, for a look that’s more tech than bling, and you can have your titanium raw, or DLC-blackened, depending on your aesthetic proclivities. Although the diameter is a reasonable 39mm (with a height of 14.7mm and lug-to-lug of 47.4mm), remember, this is a square case, so it’s going to wear larger than more traditional rounded ones. Modern Monacos come in two flavours, retro, with the vintage left hand crown placement, and modern, with both the crown and pushers on the right side of the case, and the Skeleton is the latter. Unless you’re a vintage purist, it becomes largely a matter of taste, and the techy aesthetic skews heavily toward the modern side of things. The front of the case is capped off with a nicely boxed square sapphire crystal.
This is not a watch to shy away from the spotlight, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the details of the skeletonised dial. It’s not the first time the Monaco has gotten the openworked treatment, if you count the carbon version for Only Watch and the Monte Carlo boutique edition, but since those were both extremely limited, this is probably the first time you’ve seen the Monaco deconstructed like this. The Skeleton is available in three colourways: blue or black dial with a titanium case, or the Tiffany-by-way-of-Tron Riviera blue and black in black DLC titanium. Despite the open dial, everything stays legible thanks to the highly contrasted dial elements, including the hands, markers, and subdials. The date wheel is fully visible, but pops the current date against a white background at six, another thoughtful design touch. The whole effect of the dial is high-tech and futuristic, yet it avoids the visual traffic jam that renders some skeletonised dials nearly illegible.
The hint of the movement on the dial side can be fully appreciated through the sapphire of the visible caseback. It’s the Caliber Heuer 02, an automatic column wheel chronograph with 33 jewels, a beat rate of 4 Hertz, and an impressive 80-hour power reserve. It’s got some attractive Geneva striping, and my favourite detail, the black rotor that resembles a racing alloy wheel, engraved in complementary colours.
In keeping with the contemporary vibe of the watch, the strap choice isn’t the more traditional leather typically found on the Monaco. Instead, a hybrid black or blue rubber and leather version is included, and it feels right at home. It features coordinated stitching and a matching sandblasted deployant buckle, in either raw or black DLC titanium, depending on the model.
The Monaco was a futuristic timepiece when it was first introduced more than 50 years ago, and although it’s a well-established classic now, the new skeletonised versions feel like a continuation of that theme. It feels new, yet reassuringly familiar, and the blue and black colourways are a nice callback to the original. The black and Riviera blue version, however, is a fast-forward shot across the bow of tradition, and I find it the most striking of the three.
TAG Heuer Monaco Skeleton pricing and availability:
The TAG Heuer Monaco Skeleton is available now. The Original Blue and Racing Red versions are AUD$15,550 and the Turquoise piece is AUD$16,300
|Case Dimensions||39mm (D) x 14.7mm (T) x 47.4 (L-to-L)|
|Case Material||Sandblasted Grade 2 titanium|
|Bracelet/Strap||Black or blue calfskin/rubber|
|Movement||Calibre HEUER 02 automatic chronograph|
|Power Reserve||80 hours|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph|
|Price||AUD$15,500 (Original Blue, Racing Red), AUD$16,300 (Turquoise)|