While it is de rigueur for some watch brands to align themselves with motorsport now, no one does it better than TAG Heuer. From the launch of its celebrated Carrera line in 1963 to the iconic Monaco in the Seventies, to its continued involvement in Formula One over the last five decades, TAG Heuer’s chronographs are synonymous with automobile racing.
As sponsor and official timekeeper of Ferrari from 1971 to 1979, TAG Heuer was associated with all of its legendary drivers: Niki Lauda, Jacky Ickx, Clay Regazzoni, Mario Andretti, Carlos Reutemann and Jody Scheckter. Niki Lauda won the drivers’ championships world title in 1975 and 1977 in a Ferrari. Lauda and Regazzoni also helped Ferrari clinch the team championship in 1975 and to mark this event, TAG Heuer launched a new chronograph designed by Jack Heuer. The Heuer Monza featured a 39-mm brass cushion case inspired by a 1925 model. The brass case had a black PVD coating (Ref. 150.501) but some were produced with chrome plating as well (Ref 150.511). This chronograph had a matte black dial with a pulsometer and a tachymeter scale, and red hands and counters to reflect its racing heritage. The original Monza was produced till the early Eighties and TAG Heuer has since produced re-editions over the years. The original Monza was powered by the Calibre 15 movement, which featured a running seconds at the 10 o’clock position and a 30-minute register at 3 o’clock.
To mark the 40th anniversary of this model, TAG Heuer reissued a numbered edition of the Monza chronograph this year. Clearly inspired by the 1976 original, the new Monza uses a Grade 5 titanium case with a black titanium carbide coating. The case is an upsized (42 mm) version of the 2000 Monza and just like in the original, the crown and chronograph pushers are in steel, but now they sit on the same side. The 42 mm case, which features a mix of brushed and polished surfaces is a modern size and as much as I would have preferred 40 mm or 41 mm here, the watch sits comfortably even on slender wrists. The caseback has an etched vintage Heuer logo and the number of the watch, this being a numbered edition.
There are subtle changes on the dial as well, the running seconds counter sits at 3 o’ clock on the new Monza instead of the 9 o’ clock perch on the original. The 30-minute counter with red accents now sits at 9 o’ clock. The date window remains at 6, but the markings just above the date window on the original read “Automatic Chronograph” while the new one simply says “Automatic” and “Calibre 17” in two decks. The matte black dial features a faux vintage lume and slender elegant fonts on the numerals that mark the pulsometer and tachymeter scales.
The new Monza is paired with a fabulous black, calf-skin rally strap with a black titanium folding clasp with safety push-button and Heuer logo. The strap is supple and easy to adjust, and is again inspired by the tropical rubber strap seen on the original. We spent the better part of a month with the new Monza and found it a comfortable sports watch that has all the trappings of a modern timepiece (that lightweight titanium case) with oodles of vintage style. PVD watches can be tricky and as much as they look cool in the beginning, it’s not much fun once the coating starts wearing off. When I received the sample piece there was already a speck on the bezel, possibly the result of a knock against a door. But despite wearing it continuously for more than two weeks, I didn’t see anything to suggest that the coating would wear off easily. Incidentally, titanium carbide is also used as a heat shield coating for atmospheric re-entry of spacecraft.
It runs the Calibre 17, which is what the brand calls the ETA 2894-2 movement, fitted with a TAG Heuer rotor. A 4 Hz movement, it has a power reserve of about 42 hours.Calibre 17 is TAG Heuer’s go-to movement for two-register chronographs.
It’s easy to like the Monza chronograph, it’s got the style and that vintage-inspired styling that is all the rage now. The only jarring bit on the watch is the price tag. At $5,400 it may be beyond the reach of many emerging enthusiasts. The competition for chronographs heats up past the $5,000-mark, but with the watch winning the best revival watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, this is a now a real contender.