Hands-on Review: TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty-Four Gulf

Almost 18 months after it was first shown at Basel 2009, the TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty Four (to give the watch its full title) will be released in the next couple of months. The Monaco 24 is one of the most-anticipated new TAG Heuer models for some time and is the latest effort by TAG Heuer to modernise the iconic Monaco into a true 21st century watch- not just a reminder of the Heuer glory days of the 1970s.

TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty-Four GulfThe magic of the Monaco 24 (Ref. CAL 5110) is the dial- the contrast between the round dial suspended by very cool-looking orange shock-absorbers and the traditional square-Monaco case. While TAG Heuer claim that the shock-absorber system allows the watch to survive a 20 metre fall, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s really just a beautiful excuse to frame the floating dial and movement.

Reinterpreting the Monaco

The success of the Monaco re-edition created the same problem for TAG Heuer that the success of other retro-designs like the Mini has created for car companies- how do you follow a re-edition?

The re-edition Monaco will always appeal to those who appreciate the 1970s style of the square case and the association with Steve McQueen, but the Monaco can’t just live in the past. At some point the design has to be modernised to look forward and create a new interpretation of an iconic design that will hopefully have its own re-edition some time around Basel 2035!

The first modernisation of the Monaco was the Automatic Monaco series released more than five years ago. The non-Chronograph Monaco (above) was notable for its slightly smaller size and the new-look case design. This design is essentially a Monaco in 3-D, with a highly-polished finish and angled planes replacing the classic Monaco flat lines.

This design template was then adopted by the Monaco V4 concept (2004) and the Monaco 360LS concept (2006), before making its way to production via the Monaco LS. The Monaco 24 case draws heavily from that of the Monaco LS, featuring the same wrap-around crystal and double-crown. However, while the Monaco LS can look a little over-done, the Monaco 24 is a simpler design, looking more cohesive and- importantly- more like a Monaco.

Monaco 24 Concept Watch

TAG Heuer have a great track record at delivering production versions of concept watches, so it’s no surprise that the production Monaco 24 (the actual watch shown in this review is a pre-production prototype) is basically the same as the Monaco 24 Concept (left) shown at Basel in 2009.

The differences are limited to:

  • Production watch is Stainless Steel, coated with black titanium-carbide- the Concept 24 was Tungsten (note- in an earlier post, I’ve described the case as Titanium with a PVD coating- this is incorrect)
  • Production 24 loses the “TAG Heuer” script from the bottom edge of the case
  • Although you can’t see it in these photos, the Production 24 has silver bolts along the side rather than black

Design

The first thing that you notice about the Monaco 24 is the bright orange and blue stripe that run from the top to the bottom of the dial, paying tribute to the colours of the Gulf Porsche 917 driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Le Mans . As described before on Calibre 11, the “Monaco-with-stripes” theme has well explored by TAG Heuer- some will love it, some will find it too loud. However, while I think that the striped Monaco theme has gone on too long, there is no denying that its suits the character of the watch- if you’re OK to wear a bold design like this, then a little orange and powder-blue is unlikely to cause you too much concern.

The case itself is black, although it doesn’t look it in some of these photos. Unlike a traditional matte PVD coating, the Monaco 24 has a highly polished case- just like the Monaco LS and V4. The titanium carbide coating should make the watch hold up well to scratches, one of the major down-sides to these highly polished finishes.

TAG Heuer Monaco Twenty-Four GulfThe two sub-dials are recessed from the main dial and seem to be cut in half. Both have double-sided hands, with the orange hand indicating the first “half” of a timing event (e.g. 0-30 seconds on the left-hand sub-dial) and the silver end the second “half” (30-60 seconds). This is an example of form over function, as it’s certainly easier to read a traditional “whole” sub-dial rather than having to work out whether 15 seconds have elapsed, or 45.

The shock-absorber system is designed to protect the movement in its entirety, not just its regulating components as a conventional Incabloc shock protection system does. These are finished in matching orange and without a doubt are the highlight of the watch, as they allow the dial and movement to “float” inside the case.

One aspect that I do find disappointing is the strap- yes, the crocodile leather is well-finished and features an Alcantara-type inner lining, but to me the watch needs a more “technical”/ High tech strap- the Crocodile leather has too much of a dress-watch feel and is at odds with the rest of the design. The clasp is titanium and is well finished, although its lightness is sure to have some confuse it for being plastic.

Monaco 24- Not your Father’s (or Grandfather’s) Monaco

Vintage Monaco-Reedition Monaco-Modern MonacoThere is no getting around it- the Monaco 24 is a big watch. Not so much in terms of diameter (40.5mm vs 38mm for the Calibre 17 Re-edition below), but in terms of thickness- it’s a good 50% thicker than either the 1533G Heuer Monaco from the 1970s (above left) or the CW2113 TAG Heuer Monaco from 2003 (centre).

Vintage Monaco-Reedition Monaco-Modern MonacoAlthough it looks big, it doesn’t feel as large as I expected on the wrist- that’s not to say it didn’t feel bigger than the other Monaco’s, just not overly so.

Vintage Monaco-Reedition Monaco-Modern MonacoWhat you also note when you compare the three Monaco generations is that the Monaco 24 is very much a Monaco- both the 1533G and the CW2113 have a circular “face” set within the square case- as does the Monaco 24.

1974 Monaco Calibre 15 vs. 2010 Monaco Twenty-Four Calibre 36

2003 Monaco Calibre 17 vs. 2010 Monaco Twenty-Four Calibre 36

Movement

TAG Heuer Calibre 36- Monaco 24The Monaco 24 is powered by the Calibre 36 movement (El Primero), regarded as one of the finest Chronograph movements on the planet. In order to allow maximum visibility of this beautiful movement, TAG Heuer have replaced the standard oscillating weight with an innovative 3-spoke design. TAG Heuer claim that the centrifugal system is another innovation of the design, but how this system differs to the standard Calibre 36 needs to be looked at further.

TAG Heuer Calibre 36- Monaco 24Whatever the answer, a watch movement has never looked so good as it does inside the Monaco 24, with the shock-absorbers perfectly framing the movement and allowing excellent viewing of the movement’s inner-workings.

TAG Heuer Calibre 36- Monaco 24

Price and Availability

The two questions that always get asked about this watch are: when and how much.

The answer- at least in Australia- is November 2010 and A$15,995. That last part is going to cause some heartburn to give you an idea of relativity for the non-Australians, the Australian retail price for the most recent Gulf Monaco Calibre 12 LE was about A$7,500 when it was released. Despite this high price, I expect that TAG Heuer will sell as many as they make- and given that they don’t intend to make many, the high price is unlikely to leave these sitting at the Dealer for long.

So how many will be made? Hard to say. The Monaco 24 is not a limited edition- buts it’s also not a standard production model. TAG Heuer refer to it as a “Special Edition”, meaning that it will only be made for a short period and in “limited numbers” but not limited to a specific number.

Conclusion

The Monaco 24 is the watch that I’ve been waiting for TAG Heuer to make for some time. Yes, I love my vintage Heuer Monaco, but if the re-edition is so similar to the original, then why buy it if you have the original? What I’ve been looking for is a modern Monaco that steps away from being an homage to the past but instead is a highly technical, bold, modern design- just like the original Monaco was in 1969.

And the Monaco 24 is certainly bold. Too bold? Yes, it will be for some, but this is meant to be a watch with the “wow” factor rather than something that appeals to everyone. The only thing that would make me love the watch more is if the dial was blue, with white sub-dials and red-hands…surely, it can’t be too long before TAG Heuer give us the classic “McQueen” colour combination in the Monaco 24 case.

Roll on November….

TAG Heuer Monaco 24 Calibre 36

 

 

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  • Speedmaster

    Great review, fantastic pics! 😉

  • mark rush

    Excellent review on the Monaco 24, Tag has taken the Monaco to a new and modern level with this time piece, I do wish it was a limited edition with a run of around 2000 pieces to make it a nice collectors item.

  • DC

    Thanks Gents,

    Agree Mark will be interesting to try and find out how many end up being made.

    dc

  • Great review, David!

    I'd love to try this 'beast' on because i'm very curious to how it sits on my wrist. Technically and design-wise TAG Heuer absolutely take the Monaco a step further and into this century!

    Thanx for sharing this.

    Frank

  • Out of curiosity, how much thicker is this watch compared to the Monaco LS? IMO the LS is already pushing the limits of thickness for a wristwatch, any thicker and it would start to look a little funny. .

  • DC

    Hi Frank and Shelton,

    The watch sits a lot better on the wrist than you might think. The ends of the strap have a curved rubber section sitting under the leather, which spreads the weight out a bit.

    I'd love to put the Monaco 24 and the LS side-by-side: My guess is that they are the same basic case design and so no difference in thickness.

    dc

  • RT19

    Great writeup and photos. It's a gorgeous watch, and the movement mount is really cool. The movement is gorgeously finished. You wouldn't happen to know how the watch's thickness compares against the Monaco69, would you? I'd love to see a comparison between the new movement isolating mount in the M24 and Bremont's antishock mount, too, someday.

    The dial, though doesn't work at all for me. The Monaco was conceived as a watch meant for race car drivers to wear while racing. Accordingly, the Monaco has traditionally been and should be a very legible watch and easy to read. The M24 fails to live up to this tradition. The triple date window also bows to the nonsensical trend of the day. I fear that this version of the M24 simply won't stand the test of time. Hopefully TH comes out with more tastefully executed versions of this watch – and more watches with this movement mount; the Aquaracer seems like a prime candidate – since it's a very promising.

  • wynonie

    Great post as ever. I have to confess though, I am a little disappointed with the suggested RRP. 17,000 AUS is by reckoning over £10,000 and over $15,000 – i just think this is too much. I totally agree that it looks like TH is building on its heritage and creating something as innovative as the Monaco was back in the day, but its still a whole heap of cash. £6-7,000 and i'd be first in the queue.

  • DC

    Thanks Wynonie,

    Australian prices tend to be a little higher than a straight converted USD/ Euro price (its a small market), so I wouldn't expect this to be USD15,000. That's the reason that I also included the RRP of the Grey Gulf Monaco- double whatever price that was in your home market and you probably have a pretty good idea of price.

    I'd expect a US RRP of closer to USD10,000-12,000…still high, but not quite as much as a converted A$ price

    David

  • wynonie

    Thanks DC, lets hope so – 10kUSD, I can see them doing well with this.

  • Peter

    Great post and great pictures! I had the opportunity to "play" with a Monaco 24 a couple of months ago at a dinner event from my jeweler that was hosted by tag heuer. I was lucky enough to meet Jean-Christophe Babin and after talking with him, I was sold on the 24. I placed my order and was promised delivery in December. He mentioned that the pricing was not determined yet, but should carry a list price just a tad north of $10k. So I figure with the usual discounts with tag watches, we are probably looking realistically at a $7-8k watch. I will know for sure when my watch arrives in December and I get my bill… December can't come soon enough!! Especially after reading this post!

  • Shaun

    I wouldn't mind a thinner version without the stripes… maybe if it was the size of a normal Monaco (which is even pushing the boundary in size for me).

  • DC

    Peter, the latest on price is that I have seen a Swiss price of CHF12,000, which makes your USD10k estimate look about right. I'd be surprised if ADs offered a big discount on these, but I guess the market will determine that.

    Shaun, have you had a look at the non-Chrono Monaco? That one wears a bit smaller that the Chrono version, although like all modern watches they're a lot larger than the vintage ones.

    David

  • Justin

    Brilliant post – had to wipe my drool from the keyboard after staring at the pictures for several minutes! It's a real annoyance living in Australia where all the prices are far higher than most other countries (even after discount). Ironically, a friend actually explained the maths to me that he purchased his Grand Carerra from the US, got his tax back, and got a free flight to and from the US (which equated to same price as buying the same thing locally).

    I almost dived at the opportunity of the current 'Gulf' limited edition as the largest local Tag Heuer stockist had one; now rather thankful I didnt as I'll be waiting for this one to be released. Just wishing November would some sooner!!!

  • DC

    Thanks Justin- its even better in person!

    dc

  • Nick F

    This watch is amazing! The new management team (after being acquired by LVMH) is doing one hell of a job to put the 'Avant Garde' in TAG!

    20 years ago TAG Heuer can hardly differentiate itself from the others. Now the company is definitely moving in the right direction.

    The recent TAG models leaves the rest of the so called luxury watches back in the 18th century! Rolex eat your heart out! 😛

  • DC

    It is a cool watch Nick- and yes, contrary to what many might have thought at the time, losing its independence was a real blessing for TAG Heuer- LVMH have put in the right people and investment.

    dc

  • MINIHORSE

    Ive recently had the pleasure of trying one of these badboys on in the flesh, gorgeous watch thats for sure!

  • Peter

    December came and gone… I was promised Feb… That did not happen… For sure it will come April!! Well, its actually here! My 24 has finally arrived!!! And YES, it was worth the wait!!!

  • DC

    Thanks for the update Peter- that was quite a wait!

    dc

  • Alec

    I've just bought it in Hong Kong. 10 pieces only for HK market.

    Price tag: HKD97,142

    Love it!

  • DC

    Only 10 for HK? Thought it would be more given its the largest watch market in world. I wonder how many made their way to China?

  • Alec

    None for China. HK is the biggest watch market in Asia. 10 all sold now. Not sure if there are more coming.

  • DC

    Thanks Alec- were they sold only through the boutiques in HK, or did the dealers also have them?

  • Alec

    They was mostly sold through dealers. I just know one or two pieces sold by a Tag Shop.

  • DC

    Thanks Alec

  • Cowboy Bebop

    Just been told only 500 of these were made…

  • Paul

    The Monaco 24 is a distinctively well designed must have watch. Tag have really made this watch beyond most people's standards. A definite must have.

  • Jason

    I wish someone, anyone with a large wallet and a beautiful soul would realise how much I adored TAG HEUER and hell I have worked my fingers to the bone over the years and I have never and will never make enough to purchase my dream, I have helped so many others reach their dreams as that is what I do best, make others shine, but sadly I am fast coming to the conclusion the good guy never wins an I am destined to only dream of a "24 CALIBRE 36 LIMITED EDITION AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH 40.5 MM CAL5110.FC6265" it is a small request but such a massive dream.

    I hate to beg but,if you don't try how can one know.

    PLEASE

    • DC

      Jason, I''m with you. Anyone wanting to buy Jason a watch, please get in touch and I'll pass on his details.

      dc

  • Jas

    Hell-O DC,

    and thanks for printing,

    Where is my fan base?

    surely by now somebody has had a big enough heart to get in touch with you about supplying me with that BEAUTIFUL

    “24 CALIBRE 36 LIMITED EDITION AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH 40.5 MM CAL5110.FC6265″ … it has been over a week … I am willing to settle for less … as long as it is still a TAG !

    I hate to quote K.D.Lang but:

    where have all the cowboys gone?

    xx

  • DC

    Jason, I'm not going to sugarcoat things: So far, no offers of a free watch. Lets hope its just a matter of time.

    dc

  • Fern

    Like

  • Nate

    Hi DC and fellow watch lovers,

    I recently went on a family holiday to Hawaii and whilst over there I feel in love. Walked into a watch store and there it was – a Monaco 24! I wanted one but before I committed I also wanted to do some research on this piece and other Monacos as I know virtually NOTHING about watches. I googled it an stumbled across Calibre 11 and now I am hooked on watches!! Every night I am on the net reading forums and reviews. The best being this one.

    Anyway, I bought it two weeks and I absolutely love it!

    I was hoping someone may be able to help me find out how many we're made? I beleive production has stopped?

    Thanks DC for your expertise, it certainly helped a complete novice feel a whole lot more comfortable committing to such a big purchase I knew nothing about.

    • Congratulations Nate..sounds like you're as hooked as the rest of us. The best way to learn is to read as much as possible, as you'll get a lot of different opinions and you can work out for yourself what matters and what doesn't.

      Thanks for the kind words- always pleased to help

      dc

  • Nate

    Thanks David, I'm very happy with the choice I made however I am just curious to know how many pieces of this PVD Monaco 24 have been made. I've searched high and low to no avail.

    Also there are a few hair line scuff marks on the case, any advice in how I can get rid of them? They were on there when I bought it (brand new).

    Thanks Again

    Nate

  • Not sure Nate- as you probably know, they're not numbered…but they were only produced for one year.

    Good question on the case- and a shame that it was scuffed from new. Best to take it back to TAG Heuer and see what they can do- I wouldn't trust the watch with a non-official dealer given that the watch has a coating that you'd need to be careful with.

    Cheers

    David

  • Nate

    I visited the Tag Heuer Boutique last week at Westfields Pitt St and talk about a kid in a candy shop, if you live near Sydney or are visiting I highly recommend dropping in to check it out…AMAZING!! So whilst I was in there I thought I would ask some one who I expect should know, and the sales consultant told me 1000 pieces were made.

    Thanks

    Nate

  • glennsmooth

    I’m late to this party. Where can I find this watch???