The TAG Heuer Monaco (at the time, called the Heuer Monaco) made its debut in 1969 but really ascended to pop cultural icon status two years later, when legendary actor and “King of Cool” Steve McQueen wore the racing-inspired wrist chronograph in the 1971 movie Le Mans. In the film, McQueen played a driver named Michael Delaney, partly inspired by real-life Swiss motorsport legend Jo Siffert (McQueen’s driving coach for his role), and drove a Porsche 917 racecar with the livery of Gulf Oil, a longtime racing team sponsor. In 2017, for the 50th anniversary of the blue-and-orange Gulf racing stripes, TAG Heuer released a special edition of the Monaco bearing the Gulf logo and the distinctive color scheme seen on Gulf-sponsored cars and outfitted with the Sellia-based, Dubois-Dépraz-enhanced Caliber 11. This week, at Watches and Wonders in Geneva, the Swiss watchmaker has unveiled another Monaco Gulf Special Edition, this one containing its own modern in-house movement, Caliber Heuer 02.
This latest edition of the TAG Heuer Monaco follows in a grand tradition of technical and aesthetic boldness that goes back to its origins in the closing days of the 1960s. The Monaco, named for the Monaco Grand Prix by its legendary creator, founding family scion and motorsport enthusiast Jack Heuer, was the first wristwatch with a square case that was also water-resistant, as well as one of the first chronograph watches to be equipped with a self-winding mechanical movement, namely the Caliber 11 that was jointly developed by watch companies Heuer (TAG wouldn’t become part of the name until a corporate takeover in the ‘80s), Breitling, and Büren, and movement manufacturer Dubois Dépraz. (With Zenith releasing the El Primero and Seiko releasing its Caliber 6139 in that same year, 1969 was a big year for self-winding chronograph calibers.) Its chronograph pushers were placed on the right side of the case while the crown was positioned unconventionally on the left.
In the new watch’s case, which measures 39mm like its historical predecessor (and 15.2mm thick) and features an array of brushed and polished finishes on its various edges and curves, the fluted crown with relief TAG Heuer shield emblem joins the pushers on the right side. The screwed exhibition caseback aids in the water resistance of 100 meters, and the sapphire crystal is domed and beveled.
Under that crystal is the famous geometrically oriented dial of the Monaco, a design relatively unchanged since its origins, here enhanced with colorful references to Gulf Racing. For the first time in a Monaco Gulf Edition, the Gulf logo that intersects the small seconds counter at 6 o’clock is rendered totally in white. The dark blue, turquoise and orange colors of the Gulf livery appear not only in the racing stripe that runs down the left of the dial but also along the borders of the softly rectangular chronograph minutes subdial at 3 o’clock, which is parallel to the hours-counter sundial at 9 o’clock. The main dial is in opaline sunburst blue and all the chronograph hands — the central seconds counter as well as the two sundial hands — are in vibrant Gulf orange. As a final nod to the Gulf Racing Team’s heyday, the index at 12 o’clock is an applied, rhodium-plated numeral “60,”
Beating behind that dial, framed by the sapphire caseback crystal, and providing the 2022 Edition’s major technical talking points is the Heuer Caliber 02, an in-house-developed automatic movement that can currently be found throughout many iterations of TAG Heuer’s other iconic racing-inspired chronograph, the Carrera, and which here makes its first appearance in a Monaco Gulf model. The movement beats at 28,800 vph, amasses a lengthy 80-hour power reserve, and incorporates a chronograph function driven by a column wheel. Its blackened, steering-wheel-shaped rotor boasts an additional splash of Gulf orange in the script that appears on its oscillating weight. Through that rotor, you can catch a glimpse of the côtes de Genève finishing on the plates and bridges.
The blue calfskin leather strap with orange lining brings the classical auto racing theme full circle, with perforations echoing those on driving gloves. For the purist, said perforations are differently sized than those of previous Monaca Gulf versions, more aligned with those of the historical models of the 1970s, like the one McQueen wore in Le Mans. The TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition will be available in May 2022, packaged in a special box with a travel pouch, both bearing the familiar Gulf colors, and priced at $7,050.