Once the vintage watch-collecting bug bites, it can bite hard. One minute you’re perfectly happy using your mobile phone to tell the time, and the next you’re scouring the internet and your great-uncles’ spare room to check if he bought a watch 30 years ago, but forgot to take it out of the box and actually wear it. Richard Crosthwaite is one man who has been bitten by a very specific bug- Rich is one of the world’s leading collector of vintage Heuer Monaco watches, and over only a couple of years has built up an amazing collection that features every Monaco variation released. Rich has now written a book dedicated to the Monaco- Heuer Monaco- Design Classic to tell the full story of this iconic watch- and I have a copy of this great book to give away to a lucky Calibre 11 reader. The conditions are below- please read carefully to avoid disappointment! I spoke with Rich to find out more about his love of the Monaco and how the book came about.
Calibre 11: So Rich, when did you start collecting watches- and when did the Monaco obsession start? Richard Crosthwaite: I started collecting watches about three years ago when I was looking to buy a TAG Heuer Monza, but pretty quickly after that started looking at the Monaco- first the re-edition and then the vintage model. I was fascinated by the design of the Monaco and just how different it was. But it wasn’t until I actually tried on my first Monaco, thanks to Nic at Heuerboy, that I knew it was right for me – will it look right on the wrist? It did, and I was hooked… C11: OK, so now that you’re hooked on the Monaco, you start to build up an amazing collection, with one of every vintage Monaco model released. Tell us about how you did you research RC: Well, it was a real challenge to build the collection, because the watches are so rare. I did my homework first and learnt about the Monaco by research, both by scouring the web, especially OnTheDash, and asking questions of fellow collectors – Nic Green, David DeVos, Arno Haslinger and Abel Court were all a big help. You know, the more you ask questions, the more you look at the watches and the more you hold, the more you learn. So each Monaco that I held, I’d study with a loupe or high-res photos. That’s the way you get to know what the finish should look like, what the edges should look like. C11: You say that they’re rare- how many did Heuer make, and of those how many do you think are still in original condition? RC: Hard to know how many for sure, but Jack Heuer suggested around 5000 watches in total- so equivalent to a run of limited edition TAG Heuers today. Of these, I reckon the majority are probably the classic 1133B matte dial- the McQueen model- and maybe 50% of those are in good, original condition. The ones that aren’t original usually have re-painted dials. To me, a polished case is not the end of the world- there just aren’t enough of these watches to get too fussy about the cases- it’s the dial that is the most important part of the watch to get right. Hands is an interesting one, because so many have the original hands replaced by what are called “Service-hands”- in fact, if you took your watch to Heuer for a service in the 1970s, they’d swap the hands over for these service hands. It wasn’t just Heuer that did this- all watch companies did, but the service hands are slightly different to the originals. So, you see a lot of service hands and badly re-lumed dials- so compared that, a polished case is much less of a crime- although only if the case badly battered and you get the right person to do the work.
C11: And what’s your view on movements- should a “proper” Monaco be an automatic, or do Manual-wind models make the grade with you? RC: Tricky, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…I used to not dig the manuals as much…and they get less wear due to my laziness. But I love the simplicity of the 74033 variants, which have less text on the dial and a nice clean look, which is a plus-point for me design wise. Then you have the 73633 lineup (3 register dial) which are also very attractive in a different way..and that’s the great thing about the Monaco range- it’s not just one model, there’s a lot of variety, which is a real Heuer trait when you compare it to vintage Rolexes for example.
C11: OK, so on to the book itself. How did you pull together all the information? RC: Well, the same way that I researched the watches in the first place, although I also read a few interviews with Jack Heuer and asked him some questions myself. I also spoke to Derek Bishop, who serviced these for Heuer UK in the 1960s and 70s, and Mathilde Tournois at TAG Heuer…so the knowledge has been built up over the past 3 years, of constant research. C11: The Book is called Heuer Monaco: Design Classic– what is it about the Monaco that makes it classic? RC: For me it’s about its proportions and details. So many special details for me…the markers on the 1133B, the amazing metallic dials, the square shape…and perhaps most importantly the case…the straight lines meeting curves, the different finishes, how crisp and sharp it is, the star-burst finish on the back…the tool stamping…the way it opens, it still fascinates me every single day and I wear one of my collection every week without fail… C11: I guess like a lot of designs we now think of as being “classic”, it didn’t sell that well at the time.. RC: Yes, it was an avant-garde design and this is why it wasn’t a success back in the ‘70s… it was too far ahead of its time…and would never have the mass appeal of a fairly staid by comparison- but much more classical- Submariner or Daytona…or Carrera for instance C11: What did you managed to find out about the black PVD Monaco- the prototype- there seems to be very little known about this model RC: Well I think it’s possibly a prototype or possibly a watch that came to market very late in the day and did not have a normal “retail” life-cycle. I think it’s likely to have been later than the currently accepted estimate of 1975- my guess is somewhere in between 1978 and 1982, when Heuer ran into financial problems. So, it was too late in the day to be a success. Interestingly, Derek Bishop never saw one in the UK, mine was the first he held when I met him…it never made it to the USA…and most come via Germany. But there is no doubt it’s a proper Heuer though…all the details are correct, even the stamp on the cases, even though its hard to see under the PVD coating.
C11: So during all this research, what was the biggest surprise? RC : I think it was the level of sales of original, and then you compare that to the modern re-editions- it really makes you understand how rare the watch is. Rolex collectors think the Double Red SeaDweller and Paul Newman Daytona’s are rare but they are available to buy any day of the week…a Monaco is much harder to come by…and then again think of a PVD or a Chronomatic Monaco- these must be among THE rarest of vintage watches full stop. C11: Right, so you love the vintage Heuer, but what about the TAG Heuer Monaco- are you a fan of the re-edition or the more modern versions like the V4? RC: So far I haven’t found the perfect modern Monaco, but I must admit that I haven’t seen that many in the flesh. For me, the re-edition models have a pusher design that doesn’t appeal. I do think that the Gulf Monaco Twenty-Four is interesting, but at that price I’d probably go for another vintage Monaco. C11: So you don’t like the modern pusher design, but if you could get TAG Heuer to design a 2012 Monaco to your specification, what would it look like?RC: Tricky. I’d start with the Black Monaco Twenty-Four case, but try and make it a bit shallower, with a simple dial, with the full sub-dial, either with black or metallic grey dial.
If it was a re-edition style Monaco, I’d go with today’s Monaco case with the “Chronomatic style” metallic blue dial, Heuer logo, classic pushers…but it’s hard, because I haven’t spent as much time with the new Monaco’s. C11: So what advice do you have for people who aren’t used to buying vintage- many people are concerned about parts or things going wrong with a 40-year old watch… RC: Parts for most movements are available from the best service masters and TAG Heuer, but I’d suggest a good service with current modern oils means they don’t need servicing much more than every 5-7 years, indeed I have bought one owner watches not serviced for 30+ years that “tick-tock” very well. If you go for a model with the Valjoux 7740, life is harder, because parts for that movement are hard to come by, but the rest are not too bad. The problem is that dials, cases and original hands are almost non-existent now. You have to check carefully for “Seal failure”- basically there is a square rubber seal that sits on-top of the edges of the dial, and that used to have a bad habit of melting and leaving you with a real mess when you open up the watch…that’s a hard one, because often you can only tell once you open the watch or get a loupe to view the edges/corners… C11: And where can people find a good vintage Monaco- are you going to let us in on your secrets? RC: Hah, well, there is no substitute for hard work and searching all avenues. I send e-mails to people weekly chasing leads, and most come to nothing- but 1 in 20 might reveal something. eBay is sometimes good, and there is also the sales forum at OnTheDash which is always worth checking out. C11: OK- final question- and its a cliched one- which is your favourite Monaco and why? RC: This is such a tricky situation…and I can’t give just one answer… I could narrow it down to 2 perhaps. The first is the Chronomatic model- a beautiful watch and I actually much prefer the metallic blue dial to the standard production matte dial, as it reacts to light in different ways revealing several watches in one. I also prefer the early plain steel hands as they match the markers…and of course, the unusual blue lume! Part of me also loves the rarity of this watch- there are only about 10 of these that we know of today. It gives me a real buzz every time I look at it and wear it, I feel very privileged to own such a historically important watch and how it leads us back to “Project 99”. The most wearable one and the one that gets most wrist time is the 1533G, I love the unusual colours- the dial goes from Silver to Grey to pale Gold- and the perpetual “target” seconds hand. But I love all of them truth be told, and sometimes wear a Grey 1133G with black sub-dials for weeks at a time, it also goes very well with jeans and t-shirt….so a Monaco for every occasion…
All of the photos that you see above come from the book, which over more than 100 pages provides an overview of every vintage Monaco model. The Book is priced at GBP50.00 via bankwire, plus postage and handling and can be ordered direct from the author either via e-mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org) or via this link to Rich’s Monaco website It really is a beautiful book that will look great on the coffee table, with simply superb photos of the Monaco from every possible angle. Whether you’re a vintage Heuer fan, or a collector of the TAG Heuer Monaco, this is a great way of knowing everything there is to know about Heuer and TAG Heuer’s most iconic model.
Win a Copy of Heuer Monaco- Design Classic
Thanks to Rich, I have one copy of Heuer Monaco- Design Classic to give away..and it’s simple. All you have to do is: 1) Be a Calibre 11 Subscriber. If you’re not already getting e-mail notification of new Calibre 11 posts, you can enter your e-mail address in the subscription box in the right-hand menu-bar under the “Recent Comments” section. To win the book, you must be a subscriber. 2) Leave a comment at the end of this post with your name and e-mail address- one entry per person 3)That’s it- a winner will be selected at random by 15 August 2011