Last Updated on September 15, 2020 by Calibre 11
It’s not every day that TAG Heuer updates the Monaco. Yes, each year brings different variants and limited editions, but in the 23 years since the Monaco was brought back into the fold, there have only been three generations of the classic Monaco, the most recent of which was launched in 2019.
Timed to coincide with the Monaco’s 50th Anniversary, the new Heuer 02-powered Monaco replaced the Calibre 12 family that itself was launched a decade earlier when the Monaco series turned the big 4-0.
While the watch is instantly recognisable as a Monaco- how could a square blue watch with white registers be any other watch? – there are several important changes to the case, dial and movement that distinguish the new Monaco from the old.
To see how the “McQueen Monaco” has evolved since the first TAG Heuer edition in 2003, we also brought out our own Monaco CW2113 to line up against the newest McQueen. While you probably already expect the new watch to have grown in dimensions over the years, the extent of the changes may surprise.
The good news is that TAG Heuer will continue to support two blue-dial Monaco models- the new Heuer 02 in this review and the left-hand crown Calibre 11 Monaco CAW211P. This may make marginal sense from an economic point of view, but we love that there will continue to be the choice of McQueen Monacos for collectors.
At a glance, the Monaco case hasn’t changed since the 1997 re-edition case designed by Miodrag Mijatovic. The modern Monaco case is even “more square” than the original square Monaco and has oblong rather than cylindrical pushers. But apart from those changes, the overall shape is true to the original, with its sharp case edges and raised crystal.
Seeing the watch from all angles is a reminder what a good-looking watch the Monaco us. The case has a combination of polished and brushed surfaces, with well-finished pushers and crown.
Speaking of the crown, note that the crown and chronograph pushers are now in a straight line, thanks to the use of an integrated chronograph movement, rather than the modular Calibre 11/ 12.
2020 Monaco vs. 2003 Monaco
Reviewing the newest McQueen Monaco was a good opportunity to bring out the original TAG Heuer McQueen Monaco from 2003, this watch being bought new in 2005. This Calibre 17 Monaco has been regularly worn over the last 15 years and shares the same basic case design as the newcomer. You can see that the major difference is the thickness of the caseback, with the middle case also gaining a little middle-aged spread.
The sapphire crystal is a meaningful step-up over the original 1990s plexi crystal- it does sit more prominently from the case, but looks more upscale and improves legibility.
To see just how much the Monaco has grown over the years, we brought out the callipers and scales for the following unofficial measurements (all watch head only).
- 2003 Monaco Calibre 17 38mm- weight: 82g; thickness 13.1mm
- 2009 Monaco Calibre 11 40th Anniversary 38mm- 93g; 14.1mm
- 2019 Monaco Calibre 11 50th Anniversary 39mm- 105g: 14.4mm
- 2020 Monaco Heuer 02 39mm- 101g; 15.3mm
If there’s one watch that can carry extra millimeters and grams, it’s the Monaco- this has never been a subtle watch. But we do feel that the limit has been reached- extending the Monaco to 40mm would be a mistake. Hopefully, just as the latest Carrera series is slimmer than previous models, we will see a slimmer Monaco over time.
At the rear of the Monaco, little has changed from the Calibre 11/ 12 family offered over the last decade. What has changed is the movement itself- TAG Heuer’s flagship inhouse movement, the Calibre Heuer 02, with it’s 80 hour power reserve.
The dial uses the same starburst metallic blue finish as the Calibre 17 and Calibre 12 McQueen models from the last +20 years. This differs from the two Calibre 11 McQueen Monacos (CAW211A and CAW211P), which have flat, lighter-blue dials.
This follows the evolution of the blue dials of the original vintage Heuer Monaco, the first models of which had a metallic blue dial, before switching to the lighter-blue flat dial. It’s a truly beautiful blue that looks great on the wrist and works very well with the contrasting white registers.
Speaking of those registers, this is where the most significant change on the dial can be found. Firstly, there are now three registers rather than two, with two large white registers at 9 and 3 o’clock, and then a sweeping seconds hand at 6 o’clock than has no register. We are seeing this look from TAG Heuer on several Heuer 02 models, but to us it makes little sense. TAG Heuer has already shown a two-register version of the Heuer 02 movement if it wanted to keep the classic two-register Monaco layout.
But adding a “proper” third register would have evoked the vintage Monaco 73633B, which is one of the better-looking vintage Monacos and has the benefit of providing a real difference to the two-register Monaco Calibre 11.
There’s nothing wrong with the dial on the new Monaco, it’s just that we think it could have been even better.
Still on the two white sub-dials, these have also been redesigned. The older Calibre 12 and 17 Monacos have flat white registers, but the new model has recessed registers with a dished edge. It gives the new sub-dials a squarer look than on previous models.
The hour and minute hands have been slightly updated, now featuring white lume tips, rather than the red tips used on the Calibre 11 Monaco.
And finally, the new Monaco Heuer 02 how features an applied steel marker at 12 o’clock, unlike previous models which simply had double lume-plots. This means that the printed TAG Heuer logo are shifted down towards the centre of the dial.
Irrespective of the changes, the dial is still a straight up classic- starburst blue, crisp white with carefully chosen red highlights is a perfect colour combination and one that is synonymous with the Monaco series.
On the wrist
The Monaco has always had strong presence on the wrist, but if you haven’t worn one before you need to know that it doesn’t wear like a 39mm round watch- it’s a large watch on the wrist.
We’re a big fan of the Monaco and regularly wear the 38mm 40th Anniversary model. While the callipers and scales say that the new model is meaningfully larger than the 2009 version, we didn’t really notice any “real world” difference.
And while we love the pale blue of the 40th Anniversary Monaco, the darker metallic blue looks amazing in these wrist shots.
The Monaco is a really special watch, one of maybe half a dozen iconic designs that still look as good today as they did when they were launched. It’s not a watch for those who like their wrist game in stealth mode- you can’t help but notice the square watch with the bright blue dial. But that doesn’t mean that it’s garish or over the top- to us it’s a classic.
And while the classic is changed in many ways over the last 2009 Calibre 12 series, these are small design changes similar to the way that Porsche update the 911. The biggest change is what’s inside, with the watch having an in-house TAG Heuer movement for the first time since the 1970s, and that alone is enough reason for collectors to get excited about newest Monaco.
Those who love the Monaco will appreciate the improvements, while those who usually choose more conservative options will find more reasons to try the iconic TAG Heuer motor racing chronograph.
TAG Heuer Monaco Blue Dial Heuer 02 Specifications
|Model Name||TAG Heuer Monaco Calibre Heuer 02- Blue Dial|
|Year of Launch||2019|
|Production Type||Standard Production|
|Watch Reference Number||CBL2111|
|Strap Reference Code||FC6453|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Case Diameter||39mm x 39mm|
|Movement||Calibre Heuer 02|