TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

The TAG Heuer Monaco is 50 years old and the avant-garde brand is in jubilant form, releasing five limited edition models. In this feature, Angus Davies discusses a visually striking animation of the legendary chronograph, the second model in this anniversary series. This detailed review of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition includes images, specification details and pricing.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

The Heuer Monaco is 50. It’s a milestone which has caused myself and many of my grey-haired peers to shudder. However, in the world of horology it differentiates also-rans from legends and in watchmaking’s annals, there are few greater legends than the Monaco.

In order to mark this landmark in horological history, TAG Heuer has swept aside the notion of baking a birthday cake, preferring to make five limited edition Monaco timepieces. Last month, the first of these watches, the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition, was unveiled against glamorous backdrop of the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix.

The TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition looks notably different from its blue-hued forebears. A period palette of green, yellow and brown evokes memories of flared trousers, floral wallpaper and futuristic globe chairs. And yet, despite its unusual colourway, this limited edition watch remains instantly recognisable as a Monaco, courtesy of its distinctive dial topography and ground-breaking case.

Throughout its life, the Monaco has received subtle modifications as well as spawning radical offspring with differently hued dials, sometimes created exclusively for one regional market. Those readers seeking to heighten their awareness of the Monaco in its various forms could do worse than read my ‘geek’s guide’ to this iconic watch.

This month, TAG Heuer launches its second of the five aforementioned limited edition Monaco timepieces. Once again, the brand’s marketing prowess comes to the fore as it unveils its shiny new watch at the home of the most arduous motor race, Le Mans. Tomorrow, while the LM P1 cars navigate the tortuous track, the Swiss Maison will indulge horophiles by showcasing the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

The Monaco has an indelible association with the famous Le Mans circuit. In 1971, Hollywood legend Steve McQueen sported the iconic timepiece while playing the lead role in the film, ‘Le Mans’. Heuer (TAG Heuer’s former name) dispatched a selection of stopwatches and chronographs to the film set. In addition, the Swiss firm sent six identical Monaco watches to the circuit. On seeing the Monaco, McQueen, sometimes called the ‘King of Cool’, chose to wear the chilled square-cased watch. It is said that this episode in the Monaco’s life led to its commercial success, albeit some may argue the watch’s many attributes could also have been a factor.

The TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition sports an unusual red dial. It seems to me one of the most logical dial hues for a watch associated with motorsport, yet few brands employ this ebullient shade. Red evokes thoughts of danger, legendary racing liveries and glowing brake discs searing the night air. Even at this early stage, I can say unequivocally that this latest watch is suffused with fiery passion and I confess I am seduced by its glowing complexion.

The dial

The surface of the dial is enriched with sunray finishing, creating a variegated canvas incorporating coral shades and vermillion hues. This is a complex dial with a characterful appearance. The hour and minute hands share the same profile as the 1969 original, albeit they are solely white, save for their black triangular tips. The lithe central chronograph seconds hand is narrower than its counterpart on the 1969 original, appearing neater and articulating time with peerless intelligibility.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

While the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition incorporates some new design elements, it does not eschew the iconic model’s DNA. The circular chapter ring of the original watch remains. So too do the horizontally aligned silver-toned batons. Adjacent said batons, two-tone indexes, a combination of white strokes and black dots, augment readability.

The chronograph registers represent a significant departure from previous versions of the Monaco. Historically, the counters were square with rounded corners. In this instance, they suggest squareness but feature gently arcing sides. The deviation from the original design is subtle, but clear to see and grants the dial an agreeable dose of freshness.

The subdials are rhodium-plated and, upholding Heuer Monaco tradition, contrast wonderfully with the main dial epidermis. Both the small seconds display, adjacent 3 o’clock, and the 30-minute chronograph register, located opposite, feature gleaming silver hands and incredibly lucid numerals and markings. Indeed, I would suggest that these subdials confer the best legibility I have seen on a Monaco, a watch famed for its extraordinary readability.

Lastly, beneath the intricately shaped sapphire crystal, positioned at 6 o’clock is the model’s date aperture, a prerequisite for any Monaco. Black numerals, applied to a white date disc, are proclaimed via a faceted aperture. A white border frames the aperture, delineating the indication from the rest of the dial. Incidentally, on some past models the border colour often provided an indication of the movement within the watch.

The case

The Monaco’s stainless steel case has always stood out from the crowd. In the beginning, the square case provided a point of difference, owing to its water resistant specification. While square cases existed prior to 1969, they were unable to prevent water ingress. The exclusive arrangement with Piquerez, a case supplier to the Swiss firm, ensured Heuer were the first firm to use a water-resistant square case.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

Today, it is probably the distinctive torso of the Monaco which is the primary reason for selection. The positioning of the crown on the left flank of the case, is a consequence of the original model’s movement architecture (Chronomatic Calibre 11). While the crown could now be sited on the right, its repositioning would erode some of the Monaco’s charm.

The pushpieces found on the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition are rectangular in form, a design the Maison adopted a number of years ago. They continue to look contemporary and are noticeably different from the round, capstan-like items found on the 1969 model.

From its inception, the Heuer Monaco has been endowed with an intricately formed case. The lugs and central case section are milled from one block of steel. The numerous facets and edges necessitate prolonged periods of machining. The upper surface of the case, the middle section of the caseband and the caseback are all satin-brushed. The other surfaces are highly polished and confer an alluring contrast with their muted neighbours.

The sapphire crystal is intricately formed, featuring raised sides and faceted edges. The resultant glazing cajoles light into flooding the dial plane, flirting with the sunray motif and aiding read-off. The TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition is presented on a black, perforated calfskin strap, lined in a vibrant shade of red.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

The dorsal flank of the case, juxtaposes vertical and circular satin brushed surfaces. The central area of the caseback is engraved with period branding, ‘1979-1989 Special Edition’ and ‘One of 169’. By incorporating smatterings of becoming detail throughout, TAG Heuer has elevated the ownership experience. Quite simply, this watch looks special.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

The movement

The original movement of 1969, the iconic Chronomatic Calibre 11 was equipped with a micro-rotor. It is frequently described at ‘the world’s first automatic-winding chronograph movement’. In my last feature about the Monaco, I discussed the background to the movement’s development and subsequent release.

Today, the Calibre 11 is of modern design, incorporating a fullsize oscillating weight. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 59 jewels. The power reserve confers 40 hours of autonomous operation. Owing to the solid caseback, I was unable to critique the finishing of the movement.

Closing remarks

TAG Heuer has shrewdly retained most of the prerequisites needed to call this watch a Monaco. The style of the case, perforated leather strap, dial layout and unusually positioned crown all imbue this watch with a welcome familiarity. For many horophiles with a fetish for Monacos, I suspect they will find much to love.

Conversely, some traditionalists may be affronted that the Swiss watch company has released a Monaco with a non-blue dial. Personally, I don’t share this viewpoint. While an avant-garde company should respect its heritage, it should also be courageous, exploring new ideas.

TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition

To date, the TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition is my favourite iteration of the legendary watch. Its bold dial tones seem consistent with the octane-rich air of motorsport. Walking along the pits of a race track, the sense of excitement and anticipation is palpable. Indeed, motorsport brims with hot-blooded moments and elevated heart rates. On reflection, shouldn’t every Monaco be red?

The dial is highly legible, a trait found on every Monaco model. The rhodium-plated subdials, with curved edges, further augment readability. 

TAG Heuer should be applauded for its use of unprecedented aesthetic elements. Its design team has pushed the limits while respecting the legacy, making this another fitting model in honour of the Monaco’s 50th anniversary.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Limited Edition
  • Reference: CAW211W.FC6467
  • 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 11automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 59 jewels; power reserve = 40 hours
  • Strap: Perforated black calfskin strap with polished steel folding clasp
  • Price – £5350 (RRP as at 14.6.2019)
  • Limited Edition: 169 pieces

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