Down The Memory Lane: Why I still love the TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979

Down The Memory Lane: Why I still love the TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979

Editor’s Note: We first published this a year ago. Since then, my own personal collection has had some changes, but the TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition still remains to be my favourite. Here’s why…

The Context

The 2019 TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979 (reference: CAW211V.FC6466) marked the release of the first of the five limited editions that TAG Heuer released a couple of years ago.

It is a direct descendent of the original Monaco from the 1960s, albeit with a few changes. The initial models were introduced in 1969 in blue (Ref: 1133B) and grey (Ref: 1133G) coloured dials and had very different pushers than the new Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979. The overall design language is the same though: square shape, two pushers on the right side, a crown on the left, two contrasting sub-dials, Heuer & Monaco branding at 6’o clock and horizontal indexes.

It is this design language, technically suited for a left-handed person — which I am not by the way — that I as an architect really appreciate.

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

The Architecture

The Monaco watch, even though universally acknowledged as a square watch — 39mmx39mm — is in-fact not a complete square. 

It is the raised sapphire crystal glass that is almost a perfect square (even though it’s got a slight inwards curve at the 6 and 12’o clock sides) and visually lends most of the square look from a distance. But if look carefully, the case that is basically one monolithic chunk of stainless steel that houses the movement is actually an irregular quadrilateral. 

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

We know this is getting to be more of a geometry lesson than a watch review, but it is important to point this out because this irregular geometric shape helps the watch fit better on the wrist. Many a times we have had this conversation with others that the Monaco looks good but is too square or won’t fit properly. That is not the case (pun intended).

The curved sides of the Monaco bring a certain fluidity to the case, instead of a fixed & rigid perfect square.

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

The sub-dials are not a perfect square either. They are in-fact what one would call squircle (according to Wikipedia, the word is a portmanteau of the words square and circle). And the curves of the watch case merge well with the curves of the sub-dials: geometrically it’s a beautiful watch to look at. 

And as if three geometric shapes weren’t enough, TAG Heuer has introduced a fourth one, in the form of an outer circle inside the dial that contains the minutes track. Not stopping there, if you observe the pusher frames, they are raised and octagonal in design. Of-course the pushers themselves are angled like ears on the right side of this watch, but we will not try to decode their design. 

IMG 6036

All this in a watch that is now more than 50 years old.

And while these case design features don’t really stand out these days amongst the likes of Hublot, Franck Muller or Richard Mille, they were pretty revolutionary for the times they were born in.  It was also a watch that uniquely featured the winding crown on the left side of the dial face, an ode to the claim that the watch didn’t really need to be manually wound. 

The History

The original Monaco had come about as a result of the race between three watch brands — Seiko, Zenith and a partnership between Breitling, Heuer and Hamilton-Buren — that wanted to be the first ones to introduce to the world an automatic chronograph. 

Before 1969, chronograph watches existed but had to be hand-wound. Then in 1969, Jack Heuer gave the world the Monaco watch, a unique square-shaped watch with the ‘Chronomatic’ Caliber 11 movement that was designed in conjunction with movement specialist Dubois-Depraz. When this watch was introduced, it was the world’s first waterproof square-shaped chronograph watch.  The TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition still features the same calibre 11 movement that 2020 saw being replaced by an in-house version. Personally, I appreciate the fact that my version still runs on the original engine.

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition
Monaco on the movie Le Mans DVD case

Due to this polarising design, it wasn’t an immediate success. In fact, it was only after 1971 that the watch became a cult icon. It was worn by none other than Steve McQueen, the King of Cool, in the movie Le Mans, and the rest is history.

These days we attribute Monacos with the famous blue colour palette (because of the Le Mans movie), but the 70s were known to have greens, browns, yellows, oranges as their colour palette. 

Hence the new Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979 fits right at home. 

The Dial

This new release can best be described as a study of geometry and colours. The former we have discussed above. Let’s dive into the latter.

The best feature about this release is the dial. It’s got a great chameleon-like feel to it.

Out of all the five versions released in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Monaco, this 1969-1979 version happens to be my favourite. All five designs have slight variations to the dial faces, but they all follow the design architecture of the original Calibre 11 Monaco. And even though the 1969-1979 edition follows those codes as well, it stands out. 

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

The reason, plain and simple: the green Côtes de Genève finished dial. 

First, Monaco doesn’t have a precedence for Côtes de Genève finishing on its dials. TAG Heuer has used this before, like for instance on the Carrera from 1970s, but never on a Monaco (Monaco V4 faceplate is not really a dial so we won’t count that in).

Second, the dial is not really green, at-least not one shade of it.

The Greens

This is a watch that is designed to be worn outside, it’s like a free beast that needs to roam, not be caged inside. It’s an outdoor sports watch, and while there is no rule stating that this can’t be worn indoors, it probably would be stifled inside a boardroom meeting. 

Now depending upon the source of light and how much light falls on this dial, the colour and shading changes. Notice how we say both source and amount of light. 

In direct sunlight, the watch is a florescent bright green, and at certain angles, even develops a rainbow to the dial.

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

In bounced off sunlight, so indirect lighting, it’s a dark, rich green that’s a bit more subtle than the florescent version, but is still loud enough to be noticed from a distance. Not that this watch needs any further attention seeking; Monacos are bulky watches that with their unique case design wear large and are hard to miss in a crowd. 

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Under the shade, the colour turns towards brown, and complements the brown strap colour. 

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

Indoors under bright light it’s dull green (almost towards yellow) and if placed on a table indoors away from direct sunlight, it’s almost black, merging well with the black sub-dials. And in this positioning, the yellow in the sub-dials and the deep orange of the chronograph seconds hand really pops out. 

MG 5850

This range of effects happen courtesy Côtes de Genève and the sun-ray burst pattern of the chronograph counters.

No matter what the lighting situation is, if you move your wrist slowly sideways, or if you hold the watch in your hand and rotate it, the Côtes de Genève bring out a wave effect to the dial, which in slow-motion looks like silk being draped over an object. The finishing to these Côtes de Genève is very silky which helps the light bounce off even more. 

IMG 5895

What further enhances this wavy look is that besides the Côtes de Genève being present in 11 — yes we counted them — vertical stripes pattern, they have a ‘thumbprint’ grain finishing.

The Sub-dials

The sapphire crystal compliments this dial too. TAG Heuer has coated the thick sapphire crystal with anti-reflecting material, yet the thickness of the crystal almost acts as a magnifying glass. Plus despite the coating the crystal is so shiny indoors that you can see the refection of everything behind you. This might prove to be a slight legibility issue though for those who expect crystal clear readability from their watches.

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

Another aspect of this dial we admire is the design of the chronograph counter sub-dials that are sun-ray black gold plated and shimmer under sunlight. Given they are small in size, one would think that they wouldn’t reflect much light. But that is not the case here. There is a fair amount of light play, ranging from light grey to dark grey to black. The white Arabic numerals for seconds and minutes contrast well with the dark background, and as we said earlier, the yellow detailing at the 3’o clock counter brings about a quirky element to the dial. 

If you look carefully you will see that the sub-dials are recessed, sunken into the dial face and the Côtes de Genève layering provides a shadow on the sub-dials, thereby creating a great three-dimensional effect. The date window at 6’o clock is more recessed than the sub-dials, and again, provides for a good 3D effect to the watch. 

The Yellows, Oranges and Whites

We have mentioned above the use of the colour yellow on the sub-dials. Yellow is also used in hour markers except at 6 and 12’o clock. These yellow hour markers in-fact have an orange circular edge, that integrates well with the orange pointed tip of the hours/minutes hands and the entirety of the seconds hand. An additional plus point of the seconds hand is that it extends all the way through to the indexes. In true iconic Monaco style, the dial also features additional indexes that are polished & facetted and laid down horizontally on the dial. 

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

Contrasting with this polished and brushed steel case, the yellows and oranges of the dial, and the green shades, is the use of the colour white. 

The ‘Monaco’ and ‘Heuer’ branding at 12’o clock, the Arabic numerals of sub-dials, the ‘Automatic Chronograph’ & ‘Swiss Made’ lettering at 6’o clock, the date window framing, the date background ring itself, and the luminescent material of the hour/minute hands, they are all in white.

Architecturally and aesthetically, this TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979 is a beauty of a watch.

The Suggestions

There are a couple of things I don’t like about this Monaco though:

  1. ‘ONE of 169’ is engraved on the case-back instead of a specific number;
  2. The pushers are not circular like the original;
  3. And even though it’s a limited edition, the case-back says ‘Special Edition’
TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition
Reading ‘The Life Steve McQueen’ by Dwight John Zimmerman wearing my Monaco

The Movement

In terms of the heart beating inside this stunner of a dial, it’s the good, old trusty Calibre 11 derived from the original that we talked about earlier. It is an automatic chronograph movement based on a Sellita SW300-1 with a Dubois-Depraz (the original movement partners on this watch) module on top. Like the original 1133B, the modern Heuer Calibre 11 rotates the base movement 180-degrees to achieve that unique look of the pushers being on right and the crown on the left. 

The Calibre 11 movement comprises of 59 jewels, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’000 A/h), and boasts of an average 40-hour power reserve.

The watch is 39 mm in diameter, cased in stainless steel, with a fixed bezel also in stainless steel. There is a polished steel crown at 9 o’clock and push buttons at 2 and 4 o’clock and is water-resistant to 100 metres (10 ATM).

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

#WatchYaGonnaDoABoutIt Assessment 

The TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979 is a beautiful looking sports watch. It’s got a relatively unique style of dial display (green Côtes de Genève) that is retro in mood and gives out a very strong 1970s vibe. It is classically built in the now-iconic Monaco architectural code.

The size of 39x39mm might come off as a bit big especially for anyone under 16.5cm wrist size, but I would recommend first trying out any Monaco watch in person before saying no to it. The steel casing makes this a much more affordable watch though the limited edition part makes it hard to get. It pairs well with just jeans and a t-shirt, and also feels at home even at the races.

TAG Heuer Monaco

It’s a multi-purpose watch and hence features on our Fusion Friday list.

Overall, it’s a great looking watch from TAG Heuer, and is certainly one of the better looking Monacos out there. 

The TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition 1969-1979 was released in a special presentation box with a special book for the collectors called the ‘Paradoxical Superstar’.

Rate-a-Mate: 1100

Fusion Friday: Yes

His+Her: No

Grail-o-meter: Worthy

TAG Heuer Monaco Limited Edition

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