Last Updated on June 26, 2021 by Calibre 11
Tracing the lineage of the Monza can be a confusing prospect for new Heuer and TAG Heuer collectors. Most recently, there was the 2011 Heuer Monza Calibre 36, a watch which revived the Heuer/ TAG Heuer Monza that was discontinued in 2006. That model was a “re-edition” of a Heuer design from the 1930s..but that watch was never called Monza.
But there was a Monza in Heuer’s back catalogue- a sporting version of the Carrera from the mid-1970s that looks nothing like any of the watches mentioned above. And in case your head isn’t spinning yet, this Monza was sold in some markets under a different name- the Heuer Modena.As Formula 1 fans will know, Monza is the name of the city that hosts the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix. The origins of the circuit date back to the early 1920s, and while the track has been extensively modified over the years, part of the original banked circuit remains in place today, albeit overgrown by trees and grass.
Monza was home to the dominant Alfa Romeo racing team, which was run in the 1920s by a young man from Modena called Enzo Ferrari. In 1947 Ferrari cut ties with Alfa Romeo and continued with his own cars built in Maranello, a small town close to the City Modena and the place where Ferrari are still based today. In case that’s not enough reason to visit Modena, Lamborghini, Maserati and Pagani are all based in towns around the City of Modena.
And so the names Modena and Monza are synonymous with both Formula 1 and with the Italian team who sit at the heart of the sport- Ferrari.
Heuer and Ferrari
Heuer was one of the pioneers of Formula 1 sponsorship, with its partnership with Ferrari lasting from 1971 through to 1979.
As Jack Heuer (above shaking hand with Enzo Ferrari) noted earlier this year:
“I decided to go to Ferrari on 7 April, 1971. We met Piero Lardi Ferrari [Enzo’s illegitimate son, who was known as Piero Lardi until the death of Enzo’s wife in 1978 when he was acknowledged as part of the official family and allowed to use the Ferrari name– DC] at the Maranello factory and offered to equip Ferrari with our products provided that we be allowed to put the red Heuer logo on all of their Formula 1 vehicles, in the front, just under the windshield.
An agreement was concluded immediately and signed by Enzo Ferrari, using his trademark pen with violet ink.”
By the start of the 1975 season, Ferrari had gone 11 long years without powering one of its drivers to the World Championship. Austrian Niki Lauda had joined the Scuderia in 1974 and won two races. For 1975, Ferrari had a new Mauro Forghieri designed car- the 312T (above). From its début in the third race of the season, the car was an instant success, helping Lauda to five wins and to the 1975 title.
To commemorate Lauda’s victory, Heuer decided to launch a special edition watch- the Monza.
The first thing to understand about the Monza is that it was designed as a low-cost, or economy model- look closely and you see this reflected in the case, dial and movement.
The case shape is shared with the second generation Carrera from the late 1960s- early 1970s. Rather than the stainless steel case of the Carrera, the Monza used a cheaper brass case. Most models were coated with PVD, but others had a chrome-plate finish. The downside of the case is that brass is softer than steel, and so its easier to damage the case. Both coatings have a habit of fading, allowing the brass to show through.
Take a look at the colour scheme of the Monza- it’s the same Black and Red dial in a black case that TAG Heuer still offer today on sports chronographs, such as the Carrera Calibre 36 and Carrera 1887 Racing shown above.
The dial is a simple matte black and features luminous strips and a simple painted date window. Compare that with the contemporary Carrera, which often had premium starburst finished dials, applied hour markers and a metal frame for the date window.
The early Monza watches were powered exclusively by Heuer’s Calibre 15 movement- the economy version of the Calibre 12 that featured running seconds at the 10 o’clock position and a 30-minute register at 3 o’clock. The Monza is one of the few 1970s Heuers to have its model name engraved on the caseback.
The watches were sold in a cool Heuer helmet, which are incredibly hard to find today.
The Heuer Monza Range
The 150.501 is the classic Monza model- the plain black case, Calibre 15 movement and Red highlights. When most people talk about the Monza, this is the watch that they’re talking about.
Less common is the chrome-plated model (150.511), probably because few nice examples survive today. It was quite common for people to try and apply a black PVD coating to the case once the chrome had started to wear away.
Heuer later introduced a Calibre 12 Monza, the 110.501. It’s easy to tell the Calibre 12 model from its Calibre 15 brother by the 12-hour Chronograph counter at 9 o’clock, replacing the running seconds of the Calibre 15.
The non-name Monza
By 1983 the “new” Heuer would abandon the classic racing-inspired model names, instead using reference numbers. Despite being discontinued in 1978, the Monza was brought back in 1981, but without a name, and was part of the Heuer Catalogue until 1985 when TAG arrived on the scene.
These later models use the same stainless steel case as the Carrera, as well as the Calibre 12 movement. Note the red hash marks that sit behind the lume strips- a feature not seen on the early Monza models.
As well as the “nameless Monza”, there is also the Monza with a different name- the Heuer Modena. The origins of the Modena are hazy- it appears as though a batch of early models were sold in Continental Europe with the Modena rather than Monza name.
The watch is exactly the same as the Monza, but is an interesting rarity for collectors. While these typically trade for a premium above the standard Monza, that premium is not as high as you might expect.
The beautiful example above belongs to Paul Gavin, who has more great photos at his site Heuerworld.
Racing Mate Monza
These come on to the market every couple of years, and usually attract strong prices when they do.
The Heuer Monza in Summary
Amazingly, the watch launched in 1976 as a special edition of the Carrera to mark Niki Lauda’s first championship, ended up staying in the Heuer range until 1985. By that time, Lauda had wrapped up his third drivers title, the last coming in 1984 driving… a McLaren-TAG, the same TAG that had just bought Heuer.
The Monza itself was one of the first Heuer models to feature the “Full Black” case and dial, with racing Red highlights, a look that TAG Heuer continue to offer today.
The challenge with Monza as a collectors watch is its economy heritage, and in particular the case. Examples with perfect PVD/ Chrome coatings are rare, despite the wonderful watches that you see in this story. You could buy a worn watch and try and apply modern PVD, but its very challenging to get the same finish as Heuer used in the 1970s- these rarely look as good as the original.
In a way it’s a shame that TAG Heuer chose to use the Monza name for the 2000 cushion-case chronograph– that’s a wonderful watch, but it would have created a loss less confusion if a different name- Modena?- had been used.
That would have allowed the Monza name to be used for the Black case/ Black dial/ Red highlights version of the Carrera that TAG Heuer produce today (e.g. TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 36 Monza). Using the Monza name this way would better reflect the heritage of the original Monza as the sporting member of the Carrera family.
– 150.501 and caseback: dddmmm8
– Monza Helmet: NorthViking:
– Monza Calibre 15 on leather strap: Stewart Morley/ Heuerville
– Racing mate Monza: AMH
– No-name Monza: Jeff Stein/ On the Dash
– All other images courtesy of TAG Heuer