TAG Heuer this year celebrated its fifth annual partnership with Goodwood Festival of Speed, acting as official timekeeper for the event. As host of the Driver’s Club, the watch brand also took the opportunity to showcase a collection of Formula 1 cars on the club concourse, as well as showing a selection of Steve McQueen’s famed personal collection of classic cars, including a Porsche 356 Cabriolet, a Mini Cooper 1275, a Jaguar E-Type and a few Ferraris for balance.
It was a fitting way for TAG Heuer to celebrate its timeless links to the iconic American actor, who famously wore one of the first Heuer Monaco pieces for his role as a racing driver in the 1971 film Le Mans, skyrocketing the unique square-dial watch to horological legend.
‘In many ways the Monaco is the "heart and soul" of TAG Heuer's code-cracking heritage,’ explains Rob Diver, the watchmakers' European MD. ‘It was the world's first water-resistant square case, and the first wristwatch to achieve global fame through "product placement".’
The Monaco has gone on to become one of TAG’s best selling watches, and vintage pieces are still attractive to collectors. ‘The Monaco was very much of its time, but also timeless in a way,’ says Jonathan Darracott, newly-appointed head of watches at London’s Bonhams, and a keen Monaco fan.
As Goodwood gears up for its Revival event next month, the auction house will present a rare piece from the collection of Arturo Merzario – one of 100 models engraved with the racer’s autograph – on the insistence of its designer, keen racing enthusiast Jack Heuer. ‘What makes this watch special,’ explains Darracott, ‘is that it was an innovative movement: an automatic, self-winding chronograph with a mini rotor in it. Then Jack Heuer decided to put it into a square case, which WAS a first time for a chronograph and a feat of horological engineering, due to the challenges of waterproofing. It’s still recognised as one of the great innovative watch designs, it broke the mould, and so has continued to have a special place in collectors’ hearts.’
The Monaco also continues to be a focus for new TAG Heuer innovation, as Diver points out: ‘When it came to moving the TAG Heuer story on again, it was the Monaco case-shape that was chosen to highlight the design prowess of the brand.’ A radical 'belt-driven' Monaco V4 was launched in 2004 (it’s also considered one of the most technologically impressive watches created in the modern era).
As the Monaco once again passes the test of time, its history, present and future continue to fascinate watch collectors, car fanatics and the brand’s customers – possessing the same energy now as with its first appearance on the silver screen.