Heuer Montreal

Ultimate Guide to the Heuer Montreal

It’s no surprise that the vintage Heuer models best-known today are the ones that have been re-issued in the last 15 years by TAG Heuer. Yes, names like Carrera, Autavia, Monaco and Silverstone were high-profile models to begin with when they were released in the 1960s/ 70s, but making modern re-editions helps bring these classic designs into the modern consciousness and to the attention of TAG Heuer collectors.

The converse of this is that there are still many Heuer models from the 1970s that run under the radar, one of my favorites of these being the Heuer Montreal.

The Montreal was launched in 1972, during a period where Heuer began to significantly expand its range of watches. There were “economy” versions of the existing automatic Chronograph range- Monaco, Carrera and Autavia- launched with the Calibre 15 movement, while new series were launched to try to increase sales, such as the Calculator and Montreal.

The new Chronograph series was probably colourful ever launched by Heuer, and combined with its distinctive over-sized case, made for a watch that was quite different to the rest of the Heuer range.

The Calibre 12 Montreal was in the Heuer catalogue for only four years before it was replaced by a second-series Montreal, which lost much of the originality of the first series and swapped out Heuer’s own movement for the latest movement from Valjoux.

While the Montreal name would continue until 1983, those first four years saw the launch of the most interesting watches and the ones that are most collectible today.

Case

The case is what makes the Montreal so special. It’s an over-sized 42mm case with a combination of a star-burst, brushed stainless steel top part of the case and polished surfaces along the side of the case.

Like all Calibre 11/ 12/ 14/ 15 models the watch uses fluted pushers and has the Crown on the left-hand side of the case.

Also notice the polished ring around the outside of the crystal- a striking contrast with the brushed steel surfaces.

The case is a similar shape and finish to other watches of the era, including the Omega “Pilot line” of watches, such as the Flightmaster- it’s a shape that could only have come from the 1970s.

While a large case by 1970’s standards, it feels about right by modern standards- certainly no thicker/ larger than a current-model Carrera.

Dial

The Montreal dial uses the traditional bi-compax layout, with Chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock and Chronograph hours at 9 o’clock. There is no sweeping seconds hand on the watch, so if the Chronograph is not running, there is no movement on the dial.

There are two scales offered on the internal bezel- a “Pulsations” scale and a traditional tachymetre, both of which you can read more about here.

Montreal Calibre 12 Series

Reference 110.503W

The White-dial Montreal is the most colourful of the range- Orange, Yellow, Red, Black and Blue all feature on the dial and somehow despite the mass of colour, still manages to work well.

Reference 110.503B

This is the first of the Blue-dial models, and is distinguished by the Yellow/ Orange 5-minute markers on the 30-minute register, the applied metal markers (filled with lume) and the white minute-marker ring.

Reference 110.505CH

Perhaps the most outrageous model in the Montreal range is the Gold-plated version, with matching “Champagne” dial. These were available with a gold-plated NSA “brick” bracelet- the same as the MK1 Monaco.

Having owned one of these for a while, it is a striking watch…but not one that you can wear everyday!

Reference 110.503N

Also part of the original 1972 collection is this striking black dial, which shares its design with the White, Gold and Blue versions.

Reference 110.503BC

An additional two designs were launched in 1974 that differ slightly from the initial collection- both of which carry the “C” suffix in their reference numbers.

The second Blue Montreal has an all-blue dial with lume-strips marking out the hours. Now, the 5-minute markers are Red, rather than Yellow/ Orange.

Reference 110.503NC

The second of the black-dial models, and the more common version, has a more subdued design, with its all-black dial broken up only by the white hands and the Red Pulsations scale.

This watch and its PVD-cousin are the only two models that have a White- rather than Red- central Chronograph hand.

Reference 110.501

The final version of the Montreal is this PVD version. While great-looking watches, they share the problem of all 1970s PVD watches- a finish that is vulnerable to scratching or cracking.

Like this watch, the crown and pushers should not be PVD, but a contrasting stainless steel.

Buying a Vintage Montreal

While it’s not that hard to find a vintage Montreal, it is very challenging to find a good one. The main problem, as you might expect, is the quality of the case finishing. Sadly, many people have dealt with scratches and wear by polishing the case  to a shiny, polished finish. While its possible to add back the original star-burst pattern, it’s best to avoid these watches.

The other point to look for is fake dials- you see quite a few bright-blue Montreal dials with matching blue sub-dials- these are not correct. All Blue Montreals- both 503B and 503BC should have contrasting White sub-dials.

If you do find a Montreal with an original, mint case- buy it, irrespective of the dial. That’s not to say that the dials are plentiful and easy to replace, but I’d rather look for a dial than a decent original case.

The face of the watch is made up of two parts- the dial (which in the photo above finishes with the black minute ring) and a large, angled inner-bezel. It’s common to see that these are mis-matched.

Lastly, original bracelets to complete the look of your Montreal are also a challenge. NSA made three bracelets for the Montreal:

  • Gold plated “Brick” bracelet
  • Flat link bracelet, also used on the Calculator
  • “Peaked” link bracelet that you see above
Like many things relating to vintage Heuers, supply is limited causing high prices for these parts.

Valjoux Montreal

While the first-Generation Montreal was phased out in 1976, a second Gen. model appeared in 1977…sort of. The “new’ Montreal used a similar case design and a new movement- the Valjoux 7750, a Calibre still used today as TAG Heuer’s Calibre 16. The wild dials of the 1970s changed to subdued dark-blues and blacks.

The hands, and dial are all-new, and given the change of movement, the Series 2 Montreal has its crown back on the right-hand side of the case. While I don’t dislike these watches, they do lack the spark and character of the original. A nice watch, but not one that stands out as a classic.

The Valjoux-powered Montreal stayed as a niche model in the Heuer range until 1982.

Summary

As you can probably tell, the Montreal Calibre 12 is a personal favourite from Heuer’s 1970s collection- I’ve owned three of them, including the white-dial watch featured in these photos.

Still cheaper than a similar vintage Carrera, Autavia or Monaco, the Montreal offers genuine vintage-style at reasonable- if ever increasing- prices. Will TAG Heuer make a Montreal re-edition? Almost certainly not, and that’s fine. Just means that the Montreal will be our little secret.

 

***

Photos

– Black Calibre 12 Monaco: Jeff Stein/ www.onthedash.com

– Valjoux 7750 Montreal: Jeff Stein/ www.onthedash.com

– Blue, Gold, Black, PVD Montreal: TAG Heuer

  • Speedmaster

    Beautiful!

  • Steve

    Looks like I have the Stefan Bellof model and I bought it new in Swiss. Should I send it to Heuer in New York for service? My O-ring had a meltdown, I need a new crystal, will they grind and polish the case? Thanks, Steve

  • DC

    Steve, best to call TAG Heuer NA first top see what they do with vintage watches. Certainly here in Australia and in Asia, they will not work on an old watch- it has to go back to Switzerland.

    I'm not sure on their approach to the case- my guess is that they would replace the case if they had one in stock…grinding this case is a tough job..not sure they'd want to do it.

    David

  • Erik Engström

    Hello from Sweden

    I have a TAG Heuer Montreol from about 74-75. I had it serviced by a pupil at a clock school nearby. Its a fantastic watch with its original leather band. They had to change glass on it but I think it have improved it. I do recomend sending your watch to a good school. The pupils need quality watches to work with.

    Erik

  • Jim

    Wish I still had mine. It was my graduation gift in 1974, and stolen in 1998.

  • DC

    Sorry to hear that Jim- a White one? Have you ever tried to track down a replacement?

  • bob

    I have the black face Montreal I bought in '74 after getting out of university.

    It needs to be cleaned and new stems for the chrono. Price here is too high. Wife says to buy another watch. Where are the watch schools?

    Thanks

  • DC

    Hi Bob- you mean you're looking for someone to help with the repairs? Where are you?

    David

  • DC

    This post has been re-written and updated with new photos on 6 July 2012- please note that older comments relate to the previous version of this post.

    David

  • DB10

    I love that white dial!

    I am looking to enter the vintage market soon, and was going to start with one of the models that I don't have modern day editions of – especially a Montreal or Autavia.

    I particulary like the fact that the Montreal is so colourful – not an everyday watch, but something to bring out on a sunny day.

  • DC

    Thanks Adrian. Yes, the dial is the magic part…my favourite. Heuer didn't really do a lot of White-dial models in the 1970s, but the ones that they did make were pretty special.

    Cheers

  • Szabolcs

    The first Hungarian astronaut Bertalan Farkas wore a Montreal Day-date during his fly in the space in 1980.

    Pics:
    http://forum.index.hu/Article/viewArticle?a=11109

    BR,

    Szabolcs

  • mike

    i like the dial montreal… where can i buy it?

  • Rick

    I have the gold and the PVD. Love them both.

  • Hi Rick, I had a Gold one once…Gold strap too…very low key!

  • Paul

    Hello, I have the 1st release blue face great looking watch it was a gift kind of. But anyway I was wondering if anyone had a value range on the Montreal. I know condition and working condition etc effect the value.

    Thx Paul

    • Values are modest Paul- maybe US3500-4500 for an absolute top end piece. As you say, where it sits depends on the condition, whether there are box + papers, etc.

      dc

  • Robert Rames

    I believe the 110.505CH was also supplied with a black rally band.

  • Guest

    Catalog picture:

  • Robert Rames

    Catalog pic:

  • Alessio Codromaz

    Hello, I received from my father this watch black version. I brought it to a repairer that was heuer licensed. He said that unfortunately he’s not able to find the red seconds hand original, does anyone where to look? I also need a bracelet because original was broken.
    Let me know please

    • calibre11

      Hi Alessio. Try posting a “wanted to buy” message here:

      You’ll need to know if you have the Calibre 12 model or the 7750.

      dc