“It was such a surprising watch then and still such a surprising watch today that I wanted to show how it could have looked going through time. Think of it as Back to the Future, going back and bringing it progressively more towards at least 2019.”
The words of Guy Bove, TAG Heuer’s product director, as he describes the latest chapter in his five-piece capsule collection to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic square-cased Monaco. With each piece representing a different decade, it has been something of a theoretical exercise - and given that the model disappeared from Heuer’s catalogue around 1975, not to reappear for another 23 years, perhaps has more in common with the alternate timelines of Back to the Future II.
For each ‘what if’ edition, Bove has lifted one graphical element from the dial of an existing Heuer or TAG Heuer watch of the era (not necessarily a Monaco) and introduced a colour associated with the era.
“The first one was playing on the racing car colours of the 60s; racing green with the mustard yellow,” explains Bove. “Very much the colours of that time period. With this second piece, look at the cars of the 80s, it was all red. I wanted there to be a red Monaco. In terms of motoring it was a super strong colour for the decade, even Coca-Cola was huge. It was a weird period of time, in some ways dark, but in some ways very vibrant. Quite exciting but not yet in a super sophisticated way.”
Of the five pieces to be released over the course of the year, each in limited runs of 169 pieces, the red Monaco with silver sub dials representing 1979-1989 is the least rooted in history, the Monaco being completely dormant during this period, having succumbed to poor sales. While the Monaco might now be seen as iconic, at the time of its release it was too 'far out' for the majority of the watch buying public.
Of the three watches carrying Heuer’s new Calibre 11 automatic chronograph it was the Autavia and Carrera that sold, not the Monaco. In a new video recorded for the launch of this latest model, Jack Heuer admits that the reason Monacos were sent to the set of Steve McQueen’s 1971 film Le Mans was because they were the only watches Heuer had in stock.
More than two decades later the Monaco would relaunch but steeped in the glamour of Steve McQueen’s fly-on-the-wall race film. The model became impossible to think of in contemporary terms so rooted to the past was it. Attempts have been made to modernise it in recent years with the high tech V4 and suspended movement Monaco Twenty-Four, both relatively niche propositions. Today the collection is split between vintage-leaning designs with left-hand crowns and contemporary pieces with right-hand crowns. Bove hopes to use this current series of five watches as a springboard to launch a forward-looking Monaco.
“We’re still pinning that down, if and how we’ll differentiate them. Today it’s quite simply with two different movements, one with the crown on the left, one with the crown on the right, similar watches. Tomorrow I think we’ll differentiate them more again using movements, but TAG Heuer is today’s brand and Heuer is yesterday’s so the idea with these five decades is to bridge that gap and take TAG Heuer forward from there.”
The TAG Heuer Monaco 1979-1989 Edition is limited to 169 pieces, and priced at £5,390.
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