We flip back in time a bit to the first of the five commemorative TAG Heuer Monaco 50th Anniversary watches released last year. Here is our hands-on, detailed review of the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition CAW211V, a remake inspired from the first Monaco of the first decade.
TAG Heuer released a total of 5 limited edition watches in 2019 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Monaco. Each designed to represent the philosophy of each of the five decades that have passed since the first Monaco was launched back in 1969. This is the first of the series, from the first decade – 1960 to 1979.
TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition
The Heuer Monaco first saw light of day in 1969 with a blue or grey dial automatic chronograph designed in a blocky, square case with rounded sides. This was a significant chapter in Heuer history, and the history of chronographs, as it was (among two others by Seiko and Zenith) the first automatic chronographs ever made.
The early Monacos, 1133B or 1133G were also technically interesting in that they featured square cases which was water resistant. We know that Omega had made a diving watch as early as 1929 which was in a rectangular case, but the design called for two cases, one sliding over the other to achieve the water resistance. Heuer was able to do it with the help of their supplier Piquerez, who had just patented their square water resistant case. The choice to have the crown at 9 was a bit of marketing brilliance – it suggested that the chronograph was automatic and did not need daily winding.
We understand from the TAG Heuer website site that this watch is already sold out, but please do not berate us for this.
The case, dial and hands
The case of the new Anniversary LE, known as CAW211V is very similar to the original Monaco Chronomatic Ref. 1133. The shape is very close to the original, and the dimensions differing by only 1mm. The original Monaco measured 38mm square (22mm lugs), and CAW211V sports a stainless steel case of 39mm square. The movement layout comprises of a base movement, Sellita SW300, which is rotated 180 degrees to position the crown at 9, to match the design of the original. The Dubuis-Depraz chronograph module is stacked on the dial side and oriented in the normal sense, with pushers remaining at 2 and 4. While the original 70s Monaco had circular pump pushers, the 50th Anniversary edition has square pushers.
The 1133s had the (now) signature blue or grey dials (though there were at least 2 variants each in blue and grey, with a fifth transitional dial in blue). We find it interesting that TAG Heuer did not choose to mimic the 1133’s blue or grey dials, but in the Ref CAW211V, chose came with a new colour scheme, not seen before on Heuers.
The new CAW211V has a dial which TAG Heuer calls green, but to our eyes, it is a kind of brown tone, with olive, khaki green undertones. TAG Heuer also chose to rule the dial with Côtes de Genève, giving the dial a textured finish which plays with the light rather beautifully. The two registers have a starburst black gold-plated finish. The minute and hour hands are large rectangular affairs with luminous in-filling. And the centrally mounted chronograph hand is a brown needle. The 5 minute markers are yellow bars, with half of the markers on the chronograph counter at 3 also in yellow. The hour markers are polished appliqués with a chamfered edge, and arranged horizontally in classical Monaco style.
The sapphire crystal protecting the dial is raised, boxed-shaped, which is faithful to the original, though Heuer used plexiglass in the 70s Monaco.
Of collector interest is that the “Monaco” text on the dial now sports a serif font used in the original, instead of the san-serif used in the current Caliber 11 regular edition models.
We find the dial aesthetics to be perhaps polarizing. One of our senior writers thought it was quite ugly, but others seem to love the look of the dial, especially the attention to detail.
The movement: Heuer Caliber 11
The movement in the CAW211V is the current generation of TAG Heuer Caliber 11. The case back is sealed, with engravings which take cognisance of the Anniversary status and is engraved with the limited edition moniker “ONE OF 169”, and the whole spiel of the long name, with “MONACO” and “HEUER” on the center.
The original Monaco Chronomatic used the Caliber 11 movement. This movement is one of the three claimants to the first automatic chronograph title, the other two being Zenith (El Primero) and Seiko. The Caliber 11, or Project 99 as it was called then, was a consortium of initiated by Heuer who approached Dubuis-Depraz to develop a chronograph module to go on top of the thin automatic movement made by Bruen. Breitling was roped into the consortium as a partner. All 3 claimants introduced their automatic chronograph in the same year, and there is still great debate as to who was really the first.
The original Heuer Caliber 11 had a Dubuis-Depraz chronograph module over the Bruen thin automatic movement. As the Bruen base movement became increasingly unavailable in the 2000s, TAG Heuer changed the base movement to the ETA 2892 and then later in 2011, to the Selitta SW300. The chronograph module remained the same Dubuis-Depraz.
The module is clearly visible in the naked movement photograph above, being attached to the dial side. Typically movements like this is not exceptionally finished, but we expect a competently executed engineering level finish on this movement. And while we have not opened the case to examine the movement, we have no reason to believe otherwise. The movement is already time tested, and should prove to be robust and will work well.
The Competitive Landscape
The competitive landscape will depend on how we chose the criteria to compare with. At approximately S$9,000, the CAW211V is not the cheapest chronograph on the market, neither is it the most expensive. We judge it to sit perhaps on the lower end of enthusiast chronographs. But one which with an illustrious history and pedigree.
In the field of automatic chronographs, there are plenty of choices. Picking only from the the team which debuted in 1969, we have former rivals Zenith’s El Primero, and new challengers from the old partners Breitling’s Premier B01 Chronograph, which though more expensive at S$11, 900 offers a well built, fully integrated column wheel chronograph movement which is constructed in-house. Seiko offers the Presage Automatic Chronograph which is rather inexpensive at only €2,800. The value is even more apparent when the Presage sports an enamel dial and is a limited edition of 1000 pieces.
In the field of square cased chronographs, perhaps the candidates are fewer. And the obvious competitor may be other TAG Heuer Monacos. Many to choose from ranging from S$5,900 to S$8,100.
Overall, we think the TAG Heuer Monaco 1969-1979 Limited Edition CAW211V is certainly aimed at the niche market of Heuer collectors. For those, this new addition is a must, which probably explains why all 169 pieces were snapped up even before Baselworld 2019 was wrapped up.
But for the non-crazy Heuer enthusiast, the Monaco CAW211V still has plenty to offer. The aesthetics is unusual and eye catching. From the square case, to the raised sapphire glass. From the “green” dial with Geneva Stripes which gives rise to an intrinsic beauty. To the way it sits nicely on the wrist. All making a good case to acquire one. Plus there is always the “novelty” factor of the very limited production of only 169 pieces.
MOVEMENT TAG Heuer Automatic Calibre 11, diameter 30 mm, 59 jewels, balance oscillating at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz), 40-hour power reserve
FUNCTIONS Chronograph with seconds and minutes; date, hours, minutes and small seconds at 3 o’clock
CASE Diameter 39 mm, case in stainless steel, fixed bezel in stainless steel, sapphire crystal, polished steel crown at 9 o’clock and push buttons at 2 and 4 o’clock, water resistant to 100 metres (10 bar), steel caseback with “19691979 Special Edition” and “One of 169” engravings
DIAL Green dial with Côtes de Genève finishing, sunray black gold plated small counters, polished, facetted indexes, brown and yellow touches on hands and indexes
STRAP Brown calfskin leather strap, polished folding clasp in stainless steel
Limited to 169 watches
SPECIAL PACKAGING Like the watch itself, the watch box is also inspired by the original. Each of the special-edition models comes in a box with colours that match the watch and the decade it represents. The 1970s-inspired model is packaged in a dark blue box decorated with the Heuer logo and a horizontal chequer-pattern stripe. The watch is placed on a yellow cushion and surrounded by a green interior – the same colour found on the dial.