TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty Four Calibre 36
What do a Santos 100, a Royal Oak Concept and a Monaco Twenty Four have in common? Fundamentally nothing at all except they represent, each one in its own way, a generational gap! It is always been evident to me that TAG Heuer was, among those brands (Cartier, Audemars Piguet, TAG Heuer), the one that, back in the past, needed it most when Jean-Christophe Babin had just been appointed as CEO.
Since the first day Jean-Christophe worked as CEO at TAG Heuer (he has now been appointed CEO of Bulgari), the Swiss brand has begun to generate fresh new ideas and has been an avantgarde brand; two attributes that have long been part of its hystory and are now written in capital letters in its mission statement. Babin and his team have fully revisited the brand's collections, including the venerable and then “blurry” Monaco and have revamped it, updating the classic model (the Monaco Calibre 12) while creating something totally new.
The first result of such hard work, that is still underway in my opinion, has been unveiled at a press conference in 2009 when TAG Heuer launched the TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty Four Calibre 36 Concept. A new take on the Monaco that is the original Monaco just like Lewis Hamilton as a driver is to Steve McQueen. The only ideal link between past and future was and is about the double stripes on the dial, the same colors of the Gulf logo, the historical cool partner of Ford and Porsche during the 60s and 70s endurance races.
Oversized and elaborated 40,5mm wide case, Allen screws, mechanical automatic movement attached elastically to the case to protect it against shocks, are the main features of a timepiece that is even now quite unknown to the general public in Italy, including those who actually own a TAG Heuer (also because of how it is displayed into some Italian retailers in my opinion).
Four years and four versions later, I've been lucky enough to get my hands on a TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty Four Calibre 36 McQueen Boutique Edition. This being at least the launch name of a version that is now part of the TAG Heuer Monaco collection on their website, as TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty Four Calibre 36 Chronograph. I think, anyway, the coolest of them all has always been the first one or the Black PVD, born as a Concept, as mentioned before, and marketed a year later, in 2010.
TAG Heuer has, in this sense, taken claim to the leadership: its Concept watches turn to production at lightning speed, just take a look at what they did with the Monaco Sixty-Nine for example. They do not make Concept watches just to amaze, but with a step into the mass production process already. The range has widened to include more traditional versions, all featuring a stainless steel case and three versions, included the one pictured here, that was launched as a boutique edition, as mentioned before, along with a matching Monaco Calibre 11, but that I think is now a regular production model.
The “magic” with this watch is all in its case design, its movement positioning and finishing and last, but not least, its dial which resembles, at first glance, a super-complicated timepiece like those made by a small independent watchmaker, while it is all about just a “chrono”. The trick is in having made a frame like case where they've attached, via four tubular "dampers", the caliber 36, a name that in TAG's vocabulary means a reworked El Primero 400. If you just place an El Primero 400 in your hands you see its finishes are all but high-tech, that's why TAG Heuer's designers created a circular three spoke winding rotor with a Tungsten eccentric mass that, alone, is half your purchase driver.
For a 3D design timepiece, depth perception is everything, that's why the dial just reminds a classic Monaco's while it is an assembly: the two unmistakable square counters are covered by a central vertical plate with double grey stripes, with the over sized 24 numeral on it along with the applied TAG Heuer logo. The first level parts (I counted 7 at first sight not taking hands, counters and date window into account) are joined via 6 tiny screws.
On the wrist the TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty Four Calibre 36 Chronograph is bold and...transparent thanks to the see-through sapphire on the back, the case geometry and the suspended movement; it's a love it or hate it watch and, despite its diameter (just 1,5mm over the standard Monaco), it's its thickness that makes the big difference (check the comparison photo from our friends at Calibre 11). It is true this is not the option to the standard Monaco anyway, as they both are at their opposites. If you're looking for a premium Monaco, you're forward looking and have a large wrist this might be your Monaco, as it is a technically superb watch, nicely finished, appealing, bold and for a chosen few. The last one, when the retail price is greater than 10000€, is a relevant choice factor. I like it, have always liked it but if I had to choose one to buy among all, I would go for the first one, released in 2010, with black PVD case and Gulf dial: I saw it on a gentleman's wrist once at a restaurant in Paris and is unrivaled, but it is out of production too, making it quite hard to find. TAG Heuer has perhaps opted, over the years, for a more classic and everyday look, that's why it is made today just in two versions, ref.CAL5111.FC6299 of this article and ref.CAL5113.FC6329 with black dial, both featuring a polished stainless steel case. But it is somehow a choice I do not fully understand for TAG has, viceversa, made a black PVD Monaco Calibre 12 (the TAG Heuer Monaco ACM Edition). I would set again the Twenty Four as the technological flagship of the collection (not considering the high-end V4 collection) and would repropose the 2010 version whit the titanium case.
(Photo credit: courtesy of TAG Heuer; Google; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®