The TAG Heuer Monaco (originally Heuer Monaco) is a series of automatic chronograph wristwatch originally introduced by Heuer in 1969 in honor of the Monaco Grand Prix. The Monaco was revolutionary for being the first automatic as well as the first square cased chronograph. The Hollywood film star Steve McQueen used the watch to accessorize his character in the 1971 film Le Mans. In the decades after his death the use of film stills has made the watch synonymous with McQueen. Although it was discontinued in the mid-1970s, the Monaco was reissued with a new design in 1998 and was reintroduced again with an entirely new mechanisms in 2003 in response to McQueen's increasing popularity.
The watch typically features a pair of pushbuttons at the 2 and 4 o’clock position. The dials for the minute and hour counters are at 9 and 3 o'clock respectively. There is a hand-applied date window at 6 o’clock. The watch also features diamond-tipped horizontal hours indexes. In the original version, the crown is located at the 9 o'clock position on a square casing. The shape was revolutionary at the time for a chronograph watch.
Early versions came with two different colour schemes. The first (represented by the letter B at the end of the reference code) had a metallic blue dial with white registers. The other (represented by the letter G) had a metallic gray dial and registers. The G model is less popular with collectors
Named in honor of the Formula One race, the original Jack Heuer designed Monaco was introduced simultaneously in Geneva and New York in 1969. The watch used the mechanism of the Calibre 11 (also known as the Chronomatic) and was the first automatic micro-winding chronograph. The Monaco was the first square-cased and water resistant chronograph.
The original model came with a Chronomatic lettering at top of dial and Monaco at the bottom. In later models, the Monaco lettering can be seen on top with Automatic Chronograph at the bottom. The lettering appears on all Calibre variants. It was removed after the Valjoux movement was introduced in later production life.
Soon after the watch was in production, a version was released with a improved Calibre 12 mechanism. As rare as the original, it is believed that 800 were made before it was discontinued.
The Monaco 1133 became synonymous with Steve McQueen when he wore it in his 1971 film, Le Mans. His association with this model began when McQueen sought the advice of his friend Jo Siffert to increase the accuracy of his race car driver role. Siffert, in addition to being a racing driver, was also spokesperson for both Heuer and Gulf Oil. At McQueen’s request, Siffert lent him his racing suit which was adorned with Gulf Oil's colors and an embroidered "Chronograph HEUER" crest over the right breast.In order to complete the look, McQueen opted for the newly introduced B model Calibre 12 Monaco.
After McQueen arrived home following filming, he gave his watch to his financial advisor as a token of appreciation. The advisor was credited with returning McQueen and his company, Solar Productions Inc., into the black after they encountered financial problems during filming. Because of his association, the 1133 is commonly nicknamed "McQueen Monaco".
Even after his death in 1980, McQueen's name continued to be associated with the watch. TAG Heuer capitalized on his continuing popularity by using films stills of McQueen wearing his Monaco watch in advertising campaigns. In 1998, TAG Heuer reissued the model as a limited edition with a production run of 5,000 watches.
The McQueen Monaco has become one of the most sought after pieces in the international vintage markets. As only a handful of the original are believed to be still in existence, demand far exceeds supply.