The lead stars for Le Mans are widely known – Steve McQueen, a couple of Ferrari 512s and Porsche 917s but beyond the iconic race cars and an immersive movie experience, a co-star was widely missed by the general populace, unless you were a watch lover, it was likely you would have missed Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco Chronograph.
Indeed, the highly recognisable 1133B Blue-dial Heuer Monaco worn by McQueen in the 1971 Le Mans heralded high awareness for the chronograph but yet did little for the commercial success of the watch. As a result, it was eventually replaced by the Silverstone but Heuer’s most identifiable watch was not to pass silently in the night.
The original Monaco was designed to be avant garde. Jack Heuer sought the bold square design to highlight the brand’s new Chronomatic automatic movement, a technical development which pipped Seiko’s own automatic chronograph debut by a few days.
Before the era of vertically integrated manufactures, watchmakers like Heuer depended on creative case-makers like Piquarez. It must be noted that when it comes to water-proofing as it was known back in the day as opposed to the more technically precise water-resistance, round cases were easier to water proof.
Thus, when Piquarez informed Jack Heuer of their new development, a patented new waterproof square case, Heuer was naturally eager to combine the vaunted new automatic Calibre 11 chronograph movements with a top of the line, but more importantly, boldly designed, rare case shape. After negotiating for exclusivity, the Heuer Monaco was born.
Prototypes developed in 1967, it eventually debuted in Baselworld 1969 with a few firsts under its watch strap – a pioneering automatic chronograph in a funky square, avant garde watch case, celebrating the Monaco Grand Prix.
TAG Heuer has celebrated their most iconic automatic chronograph multiple times since 2005 when they release a tribute Gulf edition Monaco with a colour scheme reminiscent of the racing stripes on McQueen’s own car and racing suit. But you know things have hit legendary status when they start making graphic novels about 50 year old popular culture.
12 years on, the Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition has seen three variations and this iteration is the first to use the calibre 11 with crown on the original left hand side of the case as opposed to its right hand as seen on modern TAG Heuer Monacos.
The distinctive Gulf blue and orange play gorgeously on a bed of navy blue and then, when topped with original vintage Heuer logo, what TAG Heuer has on their hands is a bonafide hit.