Although the story goes that Steve McQueen immediately returned his Heuer Monaco timepiece as soon as the cameras stopped rolling for the 1971 movie classic ‘Le Mans’, MotoringExposure still has a lot of love for this cult watch. Despite the preference of Steve McQueen for his Rolex watch, he did put the square shaped Heuer Monaco on the map for the big public in 1971.
The Heuer Monaco was introduced in 1969, being one of the first automatic chronograph movements available. Together with Breitling, Heuer developed these automatic chronographs in the late 1960s and introduced the final version in March 1969. The Monaco featured a caliber 11 movement, with a metallic blue dial and two white registers for a 12-hour totalizer and the small seconds hand. The race for the first automatic chronograph was therefore won by Heuer, leaving Zenith (famous for its El Primero movement) and Seiko behind in this competition.
Heuer had a few other model series like the Kentucky, Daytona, Monza, Silverstone, Carrera and so on, but only the Heuer Monaco and Carrera were considered to be collectible for a long time. Since a few years, the other models became sought-after as well and only recently, TAG Heuer announced the resurrection of their Silverstone model as well.
In 1985, Heuer became TAG Heuer after Techniques d’Avant Garde acquired them. All recent Monacos (except for a time limited series in 1999 or 2000) have therefore TAG Heuer on the dial instead of Heuer. Also, caliber 11 has been replaced by an ETA movement for the regular TAG Heuer Monaco, with the exception of the limited edition (1000 pieces) re-edition of the original Monaco. This re-edition has – again – caliber 11 ticking inside. It was introduced last year during BaselWorld 2009 and comes with a very steep price tag of 6000 Euro / 8155 USD. For this kind of money you will be able to buy an original Heuer Monaco from the early 1970s in superb condition.
If you are really into this cult watch but do not want to spend over 4000 Euro / 5438 USD for a vintage ref.1133B (this is the reference of the one worn in ‘Le Mans’), we suggest you will settle for the Heuer Monaco from 1999/2000. There is one for sale at Chrono24 for 1650 Euro / 2242 USD. Also, coming from our own experience with this watch, try one before you buy one. The rectangular shape might not suite everyone.
So, we hear you ask, why exactly is this a cult watch? Well, it doesn’t have the diversity of the Rolex Submariner (for example) models and it wasn’t used NASA as well, like the Omega Speedmaster Professional. TAG Heuer also doesn’t have the name for being very haute horlogerie, although the brand sells very well in the UK and large parts of the USA.
However, it does have the myth of being Steve McQueen’s watch in “Le Mans” and is therefore forever linked to car racing. Furthermore, it was one of the first watches of Heuer with an automatic chronograph movement instead of all the handwound movements that were available back then from other brands.
Heuer Monaco Gallery
Pictures courtesy of TAG Heuer and On The Dash.