Racing Principality – The TAG Heuer Special Edition MonacoBy Ross Povey
There is a very definite dichotomy afoot in Monaco. The beautiful Mediterranean haven is regarded as one of the safest places on earth. In fact, my friend Andrea Parmegiani of auction house Monaco Legend Group believes it to be the safest place to wear special watches and states that it is one of a handful of locations where he would wear a Rainbow Daytona. Juxtaposed with this is the fact that once a year, it becomes one of the most dangerous places to drive, as the roads are turned into one of the most thrilling Formula 1 circuits on the planet. It makes absolute sense then that at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, TAG Heuer is launching a new special edition inspired by an iconic matte black model of the Monaco from the ’70s…
Back when the Monaco was launched in 1969, TAG Heuer was one of the first brands to unveil an automatic chronograph against a sea of manual-winding watches. The late 1960s and ’70s was an era of experimentation and bold designs, as seen from the of-the-era bright colored dials with strong accents of oranges, red and blues used on the original Monaco and other racing chronos of the time. Another area of boundary-pushing design of the time was case shapes, and no one watch did more to challenge that particular status quo than the Monaco with its square dial. It was also the first waterproof square chronograph, which made it particularly useful for a dip in the refreshing azure Mediterranean Sea after a grueling few laps of the circuit.
Around the mid-1970s, a version of the Monaco was released with a black PVD-coated case and came to be known as the ‘Dark Lord’. This was way before blacked-out watches were a dime a dozen and it was a pioneering move by Jack Heuer and his team. Jack Heuer has been quoted as saying that between 100 to 200 pieces of the original Dark Lord were made, and what is for sure is that very few of these remain in outstanding condition as the PVD coating was prone to scratches and wore off quite easily. Internationally renowned watch collector and dealer Eric Ku owns one in perfect condition and I’ll bet it’s one of a very few in such intact condition. Another interesting quirk of the Dark Lord was that where most Monacos had the crown on the left-hand side of the case, the opposite side of the pushers, the PVD-coated Monaco had the winder on the right side, between the pushers, thanks to its Valjoux caliber 7740 movement.
The new Monaco for 2022 utilizes titanium for the case and the much more 21st-century DLC coating (diamond-like carbon), which is incredibly durable yet has the same dark good looks of its predecessor PVD. Titanium, very much appropriate for a car associated with motor racing, is both lightweight and durable, and is now widely used for sports watches such as this. The DLC coating has been sandblasted and this new technology also allows for high-touch areas such as the crown and pushers to be coated too. Vintage lovers will be aware that the steel pushers and crown on the original Dark Lord were uncoated.
The two-piece dial has contrasting finishes and shapes. The inner circle has a circular-brushed finish, whilst the outer square section has a rough texture that evokes the grip of tires on the track. The bright red chronograph hands are as legible as they are cool and the lume is bright white, giving the watch a very modern aesthetic. However, in my mind at least, the use of rose gold for the hands and applied hour markers lend the watch a subtle patinated look that is vintage-esque without trying too hard.
Under the bonnet purrs the in-house automatic caliber Heuer 02, with column-wheel construction and an impressive 80-hour power reserve. The gold accents from the dial and hands are picked up on the rotor, which is rose-gold plated and can be admired through the sapphire caseback. So gentlemen, start your engines. The race to the front of the queue has begun!
TAG Heuer Monaco Special Edition, Ref: CBL2180.FC6497
Movement: Self-winding Heuer 02 caliber; 80 hours of power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph
Case: 39mm; DLC-coated titanium; water resistant to 100m
Bracelet: Black alligator strap with black DLC-coated titanium folding clasp
Price: CHF 8000
Availability: May 2022