Hands on Review: TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Silver Dial

Here are the first live photos of  the TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Heritage Chronograph- the latest in the line of Heuer- branded Monaco chronographs featuring the modern Calibre 11 movement and the distinctive left-sided crown.

TAG Heuer continue to explore both sides of the Monaco- the futuristic models, through watches like the Monaco V4, Monaco Mikrograph and Monaco Twenty-Four, and the heritage models, through Heuer branded watches that evoke the original spirit of the 1970s.

Heritage

The Monaco story stretches back to 1969, when the original 1133B Monaco (above, left) was released, powered by the in-house “Chronomatic” Calibre 11 movement. History shows that the original watch was a bit of a failure, being a little ahead of its time. But thanks to the evocative image of Steve McQueen and the renewed interest in TAG Heuer’s heritage by the late 1990s, the watch was resurrected in 1997 and stands today as the most iconic model in the range.

The first of the modern Calibre 11 Monaco’s was the Blue 40th Anniversary Monaco released in 2009- a tribute that original 1133B. While the shape of the case differed a little, the design of the dial, hour-markers and hands was almost identical to the 1969 original. The watch was fitted with the modern “Calibre 11” movement, first developed for the  Autavia re-edition in 2003.

Last year saw the theme extended to a Grey re-edition of the Heuer 1133G Monaco, but this time with a 39mm case (Blue 40th anniversary has a 38mm case) and initially shown in a light PVD coating. By the time the watch made it into production the PVD finish was gone, replaced by a standard stainless steel finish. Both watches used the “Heuer” logo as a tribute to the original Monaco series.

The 2011 Monaco Calibre 11 Chronograph follows these two successful Limited Editions, but with one important difference: this is no re-edition.

Heuer never made a Silver dial/ Orange highlight Monaco, although the colour scheme was used on several Autavia models, such as this one.

Below you can see the new Silver Calibre 11 Monaco (Centre) with the Calibre 17 Blue “McQueen” re-edition from 2005 (Left) and the 2010 prototype Grey Monaco Vintage re-edition

Officially, TAG Heuer insist that the new model has a Grey dial, just like the 2010 version- but as you can see below, they are very different colours. At best, the new watch is Silver-Grey, as against the “Brown-Grey” of last year’s watch.

The 2011 version uses the same circular lume markers as the standard Calibre 12 Monaco and misses out on the large hour-marker at 12 o’clock that was a feature of the GreyVintage Monaco. This means the Monaco script and Heuer shield are positioned further up the dial than last year’s model- in the same position as the standard Calibre 12 model.

Notice that the Hour markers have reverted to the style of the modern  Monaco, rather than the horizontal markers of the previous two Calibre 11 Monaco models.

Heuer or TAG Heuer?

One question that the purists will have is this: why does the watch have a Heuer logo? Let’s take a look back at the history of TAG Heuer’s use of its former name.

The first Carrera and Monaco re-edition series of 1996/ 7  both used the Heuer shield. This branding strategy continued on the original Monza re-edition of 2000, before changing when LVMH took over later that year.

From 2000 through to 2009, TH released several “heritage” watches (such as the Autavia, Targa Florio), all of which used the TAG Heuer shield. It wasn’t until the 2009 40th Anniversary Monaco that we saw the Heuer logo used again.

Since then, the logo has been used on the Silverstone re-edition (fair enough) and the 300SLR- a watch that while vintage in style, is not a historical Heuer model. And now we have the 2011 Monaco Calibre 11- again using the Heuer logo, but not being a true re-edition. So what makes a watch a “Heuer” rather than a “TAG Heuer”?

I suspect that the answer is that TH will use the Heuer logo on short-run watches that pay tribute to the past, even if they are not true re-editions of historical models. For years collectors have wanted the original logo back, and now they have what they’ve asked for. Personally, I love seeing the use of the original logo, although there does need to be some consistency in the way that it’s used, otherwise it will simply confuse people.

So while I am happy to see the Heuer logo on this watch, I suspect some will argue that this watch should be a TAG Heuer. Splitting hairs? Of course..but, hey, splitting hairs is the point of a website like Calibre 11!

Design

As mentioned in the introduction, my first impression of the computer-generated image wasn’t all that positive- the watch seemed a little drab and I wasn’t sure that the colour combination worked that well. But in reality, the watch is incredibly striking. I love the Silver dial and the dark charcoal sub-dials- they give the watch a totally different character to any existing Monaco model.

OK, but what about the Orange? Again, It looks a lot better than I’d expected, although I don’t think its the perfect combination.I can understand wanting to move away from the Red highlights of most Monaco models, so why not go for “Siffert Blue” to try something different?

Below is a close-up of that beautiful grained dial- the orange lume circles will need to be cleaned up for the production version of the watch, as they’re a little un-tidy on the prototype below.

The other great detail is the hands- The hour and minute hands both have a black insert and tip, which contrasts well against the Orange Lume insert.

Moving away from the dial, lets take a look at the case. Pre-2010  Monaco’s had the traditional plexi crystal and a 38mm case- I always regarded the 2010 change as a subtle one that didn’t really change the look or feel of the watch.

But when photographed next to a 2005 Calibre 17 Monaco (below right), you can see that not only is the case larger, but the lugs on the case are considerably thicker on the new model

While both feel about the same size on the wrist, you can see that the new case design is significantly larger- not just wider, but also thicker. I still say that on the wrist you notice very little- if any- difference, but the photos don’t lie.

However one change that does make a real difference is the move from the plastic plexiglass crystal to a Sapphire crystal. In the past, I always preferred the plexi, as it was in keeping with the original. But i have to say that I have come around to the view that the new sapphire crystal is actually quite superior. It’s a little taller than the plexi, but gives a much classier feel, even if it’s not in keeping with the traditional material of the original.

Movement

As I’ve pointed out before, the “modern” Calibre 11 has nothing to do with the 1970’s original. The movement is an ETA 2892/2 base with a Dubois Depraz Chronograph module- a similar combination to the standard Calibre 12 Monaco, but with an up-graded Chronograph module.

The other difference to the Calibre 12 is the placement of the crown. The Monaco- and all Chronomatic Heuers of the 1970s- had its crown on the left hand side of the watch, due to the challenges of packing the original movement. Those challenges don’t exist today and so the move of the crown is purely cosmetic, but still is a nice touch.

As with last year’s Monaco Vintage, the movement is very nicely finished with a decorated rotor and bold Heuer logo.

Monaco Calibre 11 Chronograph- Price and Availability

The TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre 11 Chronograph is not a Limited Edition, but will have limited availability- a bit like the situation with the Monaco Twenty-Four.

The watch is due for release in Q3 2011 and in Australia will be priced around AUD8,000 (although overseas readers shouldn’t simply convert that price into local currency- there are a range of factors why Australian prices- not just watches- are high).

So putting aside the question of which logo this watch should have, the Monaco Calibre 11 Silver is a worthy addition to the Monaco range, and has a unique look that makes it stand out. Rumours suggest that there will be other “Heuer” Monaco models released this year, as well as the Silver Monaco Twenty-Four racing that I’ll review in the next couple of weeks.

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  • I really like this, I liked the Vintage Grey dialled but this new version comes alive in my opinion. Very nice and as said reminiscent of Autavia colours.

  • Id really like to get one of these on my wrist to compare…i wonder if that might make me change my mind on modern Monacos, at least to some degree?

    Im hoping to pop in to the Swiss museum soon, maybe i could ask for a try?!

    Keep up the great work old chap.

    Rich http://www.heuermonaco.co.uk

  • Justin

    I'd be one of the parties concerned about the use of the Heuer logo on a TAG styled dial. The dial looks splendid but still not fully sold on the orange loom dots and hands…

    However, after seeing the prototype pictures (& the ones from the local AD's after TAG's show & tell night), I may have to retract my previous statement…

    The AD has pointed out that despite not being a limited edition watch, no more than 40 are suppose to hit Australian shore (as they already have dibs on 10 of them; with 6 already reserved by collectors – not sure how truthful this is).

    I too would like to try this on, but might hold off on pre-ordering it as I'm hoping for another Monaco surprise from TAG later this year (any hints DC)? Keep up the good work!

  • Mark

    I like the textured dial, but the shield and Monaco text are way too high up the dial, making it look unbalanced. Or like a Franken.

    The shots against the 2010 "vintage" model really show this off, as would any shot showing a true vintage Heuer. This silver watch looks like the Monaco text is that high to allow for the significantly deeper "TAG Heuer" shield. If they are going to release it with just the Heuer shield, then in my opinion it needs to move quite a way further down the dial to look correct.

  • Jon Hughes

    My understanding from speaking to a Tag Heuer dealer is that it IS going to be a limited edition and NOT limited avaiability. I have been told that, like the 2010 "grey" model, it will be limited to 1860 pieces worldwide. If anyone has any further info I would be really pleased to hear it as I have a deposit down for this model already. As always, a great and informing article,

    Jon

  • DC

    Thanks for the info Jon. I have seen the Product Information Sheet from TAG Heuer, which would normally say is something was Limited Edition- it was silent on this one. In addition, the LE watches normally have this engraved on the caseback, even on the prototypes- which this one doesn't.

    Despite this, I agree that it would make more sense for this watch to be an LE, so would think that you AD is more up to speed than me.

    David

  • Cowboy Bebop

    It's an interesting watch, David, especially now that they've went from the computer generated model to a real one.

  • Cowboy Bebop

    Hey, David, I also realized something, you're still showing pictures of the grey monaco in how it would have looked like if TAG had not made it the clear stainless steel edition… even though the finished version looks fine, you might be giving a few of us a feeling of sadness…lol

  • LostInTime

    Yeah, the photos of the grey Monaco and how it should have looked, indeed, make me sad.

    When I saw this new silver and orange version, I threw up in my own mouth a little. I am agnostic on the colours, rather it is the style I take issue with. I am unsure why they are half-@$$ing the vintage design with completely different hands and a circular dial exactly like the new models have. It seems they should have kept it one way or another for the sake of both consistency and purity.

    BTW David, any hint on what colour the other LE Monaco you eluded to might be? I am guessing a blue one will be in the works again soon as this would be another huge hit for TAG. Although it would have the unfortunate side effect of driving down CAW211A prices.

  • DC

    Yes, I wanted to borrow a Gray Monaco for a comparison, and TAG Heuer Australia still had last year's prototype.

    LostInTime, sounds like a violent reaction! Yes, no sure why they have gone down this path. I can't tell you what colour it will be, but it will have stripes…quite different to CAW211A.

    David

  • carryondentist

    I have to say I like the orange lume and highlights. Reminds me of the racing / exotic dial Omegas of the 60 & 70s.

    However, as you mention in the article 'Siffert' blue detailing would be very nice. You never know eh?

  • DC

    An interesting split of views on this one. As I said in the post, I like it a lot more when I got my hands on it. Funny how that works- other watches (The black Titanium Grand Carrera Calibre 36) I loved in the photos, but less in the flesh.

    dc

  • Benny

    When you see just the Heuer on the face not only means that it is a re-edition, it means that it is limited edition and is numbered.

  • Benny

    also its not always 1860 of them made (the year TAG was established) The new 2011 Monza is limted to 1911, 1887 SLR is limited to 5000, Etc