TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition
The story of the Heuer Monaco harks back to 1969. Jack Heuer, at the time the CEO of the Swiss watch brand, sought an idea to differentiate his latest watch from a rival Breitling timepiece. Both companies had collaborated with the development of a new self-winding chronograph movement. However, Jack cleverly paired this movement with the first water-resistant square watch case, creating a notable point of difference. Some 50 years later, the Monaco is revered, receiving widespread plaudits for its distinctive appearance. Indeed, the Monaco’s legendary status shines ever more brightly, manifest with the release of a new limited edition, TAG Heuer Monaco.
This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition includes images and specification details. In addition, this feature includes the history of the Heuer Monaco, arguably one of the most iconic watches in existence.
In 1967, sales of hand-wound chronographs were in decline. The watch buying public sought automatic watches, appreciating the added convenience they conferred. Heuer, a brand synonymous with chronographs, endeavoured to find a solution. Jack was mindful that the cost of Heuer developing its own automatic chronograph would be financially prohibitive.
Ultimately, Jack joined forces with Buren, a movement company, Dubois-Dépraz, a module specialist, and lastly, Breitling. The four companies formed a technical team, tasked with creating the first self-winding chronograph. The project was shrouded in secrecy and was codenamed ‘Project 99’.
Jack was the consummate marketing professional. Despite enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with Breitling, Jack never forgot that the two companies were also competitors. He realised that because both Heuer and Breitling would share the same movement, he needed a point of differentiation.
A case supplier, Piquerez, visited Heuer and showed samples of a patented square watch case which was fully water-resistant. Square dress watches had existed for some time but they weren’t water resistant. Back in 1941, Heuer had made the decision to only sell water-resistant chronographs, precluding the manufacture of dress watches. However, the Piquerez case fulfilled all of Heuer’s requirements. The brand signed a contract with Piquerez, ensuring exclusive use of the innovative case.
On the 3rd March 1969, Heuer unveiled three new models containing the self-winding chronograph movement, the Carrera, Autavia and Monaco. The products were launched simultaneously in both Geneva and New York. The movement, formerly called Project 99, became known as the Calibre 11 (sometimes referred to as the Chronomatic Calibre 11).
Image – Chronomatic Calibre 11
After it was launched, the Heuer Monaco graced the wrist of Swiss racing driver, Jo Siffert. In 1971, the Hollywood legend, Steve McQueen wore the Monaco in the film Le Mans. The iconic chronograph would forever be associated with motorsport.
Jack Heuer named the Monaco following the Monaco Grand Prix. The brand has always enjoyed a close relationship with the race. Indeed, TAG Heuer has been the race’s ‘Official Watch’ since 2011 and its logo can be seen on trackside hoardings, drivers’ overalls and, of course, racing cars negotiating the twisty circuit.
Limited Edition models
This year, the Heuer Monaco is 50 years old. In 1985, Heuer was acquired by TAG Group (Holdings) and renamed TAG Heuer. Thereafter, ownership of the company passed to luxury conglomerate LVMH. However, despite the brand name changing in the mid 80s, for many purists the nomen Heuer continues to endure.
The Swiss brand has announced that it will honour the Monaco’s 50 year anniversary with five ‘creations’, each to be released during 2019. Each of these limited edition watches will be inspired by the decades from 1969 to 2019.
The first of these limited edition watches is the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition, harnessing design elements from the 1970s. The Swiss brand intends to produce only 169 examples of this watch. Inevitably, demand will outstrip supply.
The inaugural Heuer Monaco of 1969 was launched with a metallic blue dial. Thereafter, this dial colour became the preferred choice of most diehard horophiles, albeit some favour the flat blue variant which arrived later (1973). However, TAG Heuer has not failed to indulge the whims of those would-be buyers seeking something different. Over the years, limited numbers of Monaco models have been produced with Gulf stripes, green dials (Japan edition) and matte grey-black dials (France edition).
Image – Heuer Monaco 1133B (1971) as worn by Steve McQueen. Note the flat blue dial.
The dial of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition employs some of the hues prevalent during the 1970s. A retro shade of green graces the dial surface. Baton-style hour and minute hands uphold one of the design codes of the 1969 model. However, where the hands on the original model featured both white and red fill, this new watch incorporates just one colour, white. Consistent with the 1969 original, the tips of the hands are presented in a contrasting shade, albeit in this instance, a shade of brown is employed.
TAG Heuer has embellished the epidermis of the dial with Côtes de Genève motif. This decoration, usually employed on movements, imbues the dial with a wonderful texture.
Image – Heuer Monaco (1969)
A circular chapter ring, once again, doffs it hat to its 1969 forebear, providing a sublime juxtaposition with the square profile of the case. In this instance, the historic white markings are paired with brown dots and yellow batons. Rectangular, silver toned, faceted batons are positioned at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 o’clock. The horizontal batons vary in length, upholding Monaco tradition.
The sunray, black gold plated counters appear grey. They are square with rounded corners. The register’s silver-toned hands collaborate with crisp white markings, clearly imparting meaning. On the inaugural Monaco, the 30-minute register was positioned on the right hand side of the dial with a 12-hour register positioned opposite. However, several years ago the 30-minute counter moved to 9 o’clock, a place where it has since remained and small seconds display assumed residence at 3 o’clock.
The chapter ring employs both white and yellow tones, a characteristic not seen on previous Monaco models. The date is displayed at 6 o’clock. The date aperture is framed with a white box. On earlier Monaco models, the shade of this box (white or silver) provided an indication of the movement within the watch e.g. ETA base or Sellita base.
Jack Heuer, by his own admission, obsessed over the readability of his watches. This clearly shows with each timepiece bearing the Heuer, or TAG Heuer, name. Quite simply the company’s name is a byword for readability. The latest TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition perpetuates this reputation.
All modern Heuer Monaco models, including this limited edition, are housed in a 39mm stainless steel case. However, some earlier models featured smaller cases. Furthermore, the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition is equipped with rectangular shaped pushers, a design feature found on Monaco models for a number of years. On the original model of 1969, the pushers were round. In keeping with all Heuer Monaco watches, the pushers project from the caseband at 45°.
Image – Heuer Monaco (2015) with rectangular pushers
Until 2009, the TAG Heuer Monaco featured Plexiglas. Thereafter, models were fitted with robust sapphire crystal. I must confess, I prefer this latter material as it is far more practical, especially if the watch is to be worn daily. Nevertheless, I accept some purists may not share my point of view. Needless to say, the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition features a sapphire crystal above its glorious dial.
When the Chronomatic Calibre 11 was in development, the base movement from Buren necessitated the crown being positioned at 9 o’clock. This idiosyncrasy concerned Jack Heuer, however, it would ultimately be used as a point of differentiation. In 1969, an advert for the Heuer Monaco made reference to the crown being positioned on the left flank of the case with the following statement, ‘we moved the winding crown from the left to remind you that this chronograph never needs winding.’
While the Heuer Monaco of 1969 had slender lugs, later models, such as the 2009 edition, were endowed with sturdier, wider lugs. The TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition incorporates the newer wider lug design.
Exhibition casebacks have become de rigueur on modern watches, including recent versions of the TAG Heuer Monaco. However, early Heuer Monaco models were equipped with solid casebacks. In this instance, the caseback of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition upholds tradition with a solid steel caseback. It is engraved with ‘1969-1979 Special Edition’ and ‘One of 169’.
The motorsport influences have never been limited to the name alone. The Heuer Monaco has always been offered with a perforated leather strap, albeit a bracelet appeared on some early versions. Today’s design team at TAG Heuer have chosen to affix a perforated brown calfskin strap to the eye-catching Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition.
The Chronomatic Calibre 11 was groundbreaking at the time it was launched. As history would show, 1969 was a prolific period for various watch brands. Both Seiko and Zenith released their own self-winding chronograph movements in the same year as Heuer/Breitling. There is much discussion about which brand was first and, being honest, it seems to boil down to mere semantics. The fact remains, all the companies that released an automatic chronograph in 1969 should be applauded.
Image – Chronomatic Calibre 11
Originally, the Buren base movement within the Chronomatic Calibre 11 incorporated a micro-rotor. As stated earlier, its winding stem had to be positioned at 9 o’clock as a consequence of the base movement’s design. The Dubois-Dépraz module, positioned just beneath the dial, allowed the pushers to be positioned in the customary positions of 2 and 4 o’clock.
The Chronomatic Calibre 11 was superseded by the Calibre 12, however, the iconic Calibre 11 name would ultimately return. Newer versions of the Calibre 11 were also modular chronograph movements. In recent years, the base movements have been supplied by ETA or Sellita with Dubois-Dépraz providing the chronograph modules. These latter movements feature a full size oscillating weight.
TAG Heuer has always subscribed to the notion of continuous improvement. The frequency of the Chronomatic Calibre 11 was 19,800 VpH (2.75 Hz), however, the current Calibre 11 movements operate at 28,800 VpH (4Hz). Increasing the frequency of the balance wheel enhances precision.
The movement fitted to the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition, the current specification Calibre 11, incorporates 59 jewels. It has a power reserve of 40 hours. The fitment of a solid caseback precludes any assessment of the finissage, hence I am unable to proffer an opinion.
The Heuer Monaco has always looked different from its contemporaries. The beautiful profile of the square case, the intricately formed sapphire crystal and the eminently legible dial are highly prized attributes which have contributed to this model’s success. However, it is the combination of a groundbreaking movement, water resistant square case and the Monaco’s association with Steve McQueen that has led to this model’s legendary status.
Personally, I think the appeal of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition is that it not only harnesses some of the elements of the inaugural Heuer Monaco of 1969, but also incorporates some of the ingredients found on newer variants, such as the 2015 model. Moreover, and more pertinently, this limited edition Monaco employs colours typical of the 1970s. The resultant aesthetic appearance is spectacular, albeit it may not be to everyone’s liking. However, with only 169 pieces available, I don’t think the Swiss watch brand needs to worry – demand will inevitably outstrip supply.
- Model: TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition
- Reference: CAW211V.FC6466
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 39mm; water resistance 10 ATM (100 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and solid caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph
- Movement: Calibre 11; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 59 jewels; power reserve = 40 hours
- Strap: Perforated brown calfskin strap with polished steel folding clasp
- Price – £5350 (RRP as at 24.5.2019)