Last Updated on June 26, 2021 by Calibre 11
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
– Black Calibre 12 Monaco: Jeff Stein/ www.onthedash.com
– Valjoux 7750 Montreal: Jeff Stein/ www.onthedash.com
– Blue, Gold, Black, PVD Montreal: TAG Heuer