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When it comes to wearing special watches, collectors tend to fall into two camps. In the red corner we have the Safe Queens- collectors who keep the plastic sticker on the back of the watch, keep every sales receipt, bag and booklet and wear the watch once a month, but only inside on temperate days. The aim here is to keep the watch as good as new, maintaining originality and value. Enjoyment comes from owning and observing the l watch from a safe distance.
Then in the blue corner, we have the pragmatists, who believe that any watch is bought to be worn and worn often in all conditions. They may even throw the box out on the way home if it’s going to take up too much space. This watch lives on the wrist, not in a box.
Today we bring you a story from the blue corner: a platinum Monaco V4 that has been worn daily in hot and humid conditions; worn in the office; and worn on the golf course. That’s not to say that the watch has been poorly cared for- it’s just been enjoyed as TAG Heuer intended.
Given that most of us only see a Monaco V4 in photos, or maybe behind a shop window, we wanted to bring you this story about what it’s like to use a Monaco V4 as your daily watch, including the inevitable battle scars that come with the watch being a daily wearer.
The Story of the TAG Heuer Monaco V4
Before we get to life with the Monaco V4, let’s first take a look back at the history of what is TAG Heuer’s most ambitious engineering project. The idea for the Monaco V4 begun in 2004 when the concept was unveiled as the Baselworld show. While the project was admired for its boldness, the common view was that the watch would never work and that the concept had no chance to make it to production.
But TAG Heuer persisted, and in 2009 the production model was launched- a limited edition of 150 watches made in platinum, with several other variants to follow over the next 6 years.
While the last production model of the V4 was the 2015 V4 Phantom, TAG Heuer continued to make bespoke watches for high-value clients, such as the Sapphire crystal case Monaco V4 in the photo below.
I remember trying on the Platinum V4 back in 2010 at TAG Heuer HQ. It was easily the heaviest watch that I had ever worn, and still is. And the original V4 is the “baby” of the family at 40.5mm, with the later models each sharing the larger 41mm “New Generation” case.
The Monaco V4 As a Daily Watch
The watch that you see here in owned by David Wright, the founder of Adelphus Law in Brisbane, Australia. he’s owned the watch for three years, having purchased the watch second-hand (but in mint condition) in 2017. David’s an avid watch collector having owned Pateks and Rolexes, but the Monaco V4 is his favourite piece and the watch that he wears daily. In fact, David had to modify his golf swing to take into account the additional platinum weight that now sits on his left wrist.
The first thing you notice about the watch are the scratches on the case. None of these are deep scars that wouldn’t polish out, but as anyone with a platinum wedding ring will know, picking up scratches is an inevitability with the metal.
TAG Heuer uses what is called Platinum 950, meaning that it is 95% pure platinum with 5% alloys. Platinum is stronger and more durable than 18kt White Gold, but is 20% denser, which is why it is often used for Jewelry. The downside to this is that 950 platinum scratches more easily than white gold- with stainless steel being meaningfully harder (and therefore more scratch resistant) than both.
The large polished surfaces of the V4- especially at the front of the case- make it especially vulnerable to scratches, as this watch shows.
Caseback and Movement
As radical as the “dial” of the Monaco V4 is, it’s the rear of the watch that shows off the V4’s claim to fame: the four angled barrels that give the watch its name. Instead of a rotor, the V4 is powered by the Tungsten ingot in the centre of the movement that slides up and down.
Harder to see in these photos are the micro-belts that drive the movement instead of the conventional wheel and pinion. These belts are incredibly thin, yet strong as you can see below.
This particular watch has not yet been in for a service, and still keeps good time. When it does need an overhaul, the watch will need to go back to TAG Heuer Switzerland, given the highly specialist nature of the V4’s movement.
Strap and Clasp
The alligator leather strap (Ref. FC6261) is a thicker leather than you’d find on a standard Calibre 17 Monaco from the same era, with the base of the strap that meets the case being reinforced to ensure that the watch doesn’t flop around on the wrist.
The strap here has worn quite a bit over three years of daily use, not uncommon in Brisbane which are typically 31-33C (88-91) in summer at 70% humidity. If there is one thing that leather hates, it’s humidity.
The Monaco V4 has a bespoke clasp with the V4 logo and is also made from platinum.
Living with the TAG Heuer Monaco V4
The TAG Heuer Monaco V4 is the technical showcase of TAG Heuer’s haute horlogerie capability, and it’s amazing to look at this watch as already being 10 years old. Nothing in the last decade has matched the innovation and boldness of the Monaco V4 which sought to power a mechanical watch in an entirely different way.
Yet despite the watch’s technological chops, it’s fantastic to see one that is being used and enjoyed on a daily basis. When David does come to send the watch in for a service, it may be a good opportunity to replace the strap and polish the case, bringing the watch back to its best and ready for another decade of service.