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Iconic TAG Heuer Monaco watch turns 50

Words by Rob Chilton

A famous and pioneering timepiece celebrates a half-century

Is there a more distinctive watch in the history of horology? We doubt it.

TAG Heuer’s daring Monaco chronograph clocks up 50 years in 2019 with a series of events around the world. A limited edition of it, as well as a new book about its hallowed place in the world of watches.

Race ready

Now a beloved and respected watch, the Monaco endured a rocky start upon its unveiling in 1969 at simultaneous press conferences in New York and Geneva. The metallic blue dial, the red and blue hands, the square case and the crown on the left-hand side (gasp) puzzled watch experts. The fact that the Monaco introduced two innovations – the first water-resistant square case and the Calibre 11, the first automatic-winding chronograph movement – went largely unnoticed as people focused instead on the watch’s bizarre appearance.

TAG relaunched the Monaco in 1998

On the case

“We wanted to create something avant-garde,” says honorary chairman Jack Heuer. “When I saw the square case, I immediately knew it was something special. Until then, square cases were only used for dress watches because it was not possible to make them water-resistant. We went forward with this unconventional design.”

Skeleton version of the Monaco from 2011

Hollywood icon

Named after the glamorous Formula One Grand Prix in the south of France, the Monaco slowly made its mark. The watch’s cool factor was boosted immeasurably by its appearance on the wrist of Steve McQueen in his 1971 movie Le Mans and new versions of the watch were released in the following years.

Steve McQueen wears the Monaco in the movie Le Mans

Book it

All this colourful history has been recorded in a book, Paradoxical Superstar that includes never-before-seen photographs, archive excerpts and sketches of the Monaco’s design and movement – a fitting tribute to a true classic.

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