Tag Heuer Monaco Chronograph Review & 5 Things To Know Before Buying

Discover why the Tag Heuer Monaco is one of the most popular racing watches and how it has earned its iconic status among watch collectors.

Tag Heuer Monaco Review

The Monaco is the most iconic and recognizable Tag Heuer collection since their inception in 1860. Its square case shape, special editions, and its close ties to racing have kept the Monaco relevant over many decades that have left the core design relatively untouched. For our review of the Tag Heuer Monaco we were fortunate enough to get hands on with the Steve Mcqueen chronograph reference CAW211P.FC6356.

At first glance and feel I was taken aback by just how cool this watch is. The Monaco is undoubtedly different and unique but in such a good way. In-fact it’s hard to believe that other watchmakers often don’t duplicate the design. What stands out the most is the case shape and the unusual use of a circular time display in a rounded case.

Let’s begin with the case. When I first put the watch on my wrist I was surprised how natural and comfortable it felt. I instantly felt assured that the case construction was solid and enjoyed all the different layers and finishing the Tag Heuer Monaco case provides. The chronograph button pushers are strategically tilted to improve functionality, which was a wonderful surprise that you would only notice if you were to get hands on with a Monaco.

Reading this dial might take some time getting used to because of the contrasting shapes between the dial and the case. It’s simply not what we are used to. Round cases have round time displays and square cases have square time displays. Well….this watch is a little different but in a good way. After you get used to the different shapes, you’ll notice that the Monaco does an excellent job at incorporating color to enhance legibility. The Steve Mcqueen Monaco reference I got hands on with had red accents on the hands and indices that contrasted very well with the navy blue dial to make it quick and easy to tell the time.

The reference I handled was fitted with the Calibre 11 movement, which is an outsourced movement, but many of the newer references are fitted with the HEUER 02 in-house calibre. It is refreshing to see a watch manufacturer continue to invest in their products.

Overall it was a pleasure to experience the Tag Heuer Monaco first hand and it was obvious after handling it why this watch is a favorite among many watch collectors.

For more on Tag Heuer and their history, check out this article.

Movements: Calibre HEUER 02 & The Calibre 11

Depending on the chronograph reference, two different movements are used to power the Tag Heuer Monaco. Legacy & more vintage models are fitted with the Calibre 11 and the newer models are fitted with the recently released in-house Calibre HEUER 02.

When comparing the two calibres it becomes obvious that the HEUER 02 is the superior of the two. The HEUER 02 is COSC certified, which means it meets or exceeds high accuracy standards, and has a power reserve double that of the Calibre 11.

Case Design

The 39mm square case design of the Tag Heuer Monaco is unique and the first of its kind that was water resistant. Six layers make up the case construction of the Monaco, making it one of the most decorated and integrated designs engineered by the brand.

One might assume that the Monaco case is jagged and sharp but it’s the opposite. Even though there are clean lines, the watch is smooth to the touch and beautiful at every angle.

At 39mm, the case is very comfortable to wear and seems almost perfect on the wrist. Although the case may be a bit thick (14.3mm) it was designed to fit well on wrists of all sizes.

Dial

Not including the case, the dial on the Tag Heuer Monaco is the most inspiring feature. The dials on the Monaco range from a wide selection of colors with vibrant color combinations. There are also select references that point the indices in different directions signifying special editions.

On the chronograph Monaco references, the two sub dials are located at the 9 & 3 o’clock position. These sub dials color usually contrasts with the dial color for enhanced legibility.

The most iconic and popular dial of all the Monacos is the Gulf Edition. This reference has blue and orange stripes aligned vertically.

Special Additions

Steve Mcqueen

I was fortunate to be able to use the Steve Mcqueen Monaco Chronograph for this hands-on review. To some collectors, this is the pinnacle of all the Monacos. This special edition is obviously important because it was worn by Mcqueen but it is also the only one to feature the crown opposite the chronograph pushers.

Tag Heuer Monaco Steve Mcqueen

Gulf

The most recognizable reference to this collection is the Tag Heuer Monaco is the Gulf edition. The Gulf edition is a co-branded venture between Tag and at the time the 8th largest US oil company, Gulf. This watch sported the gulf colors and to this day one of the best executed co-branded watches ever made.

Tag Heuer Monaco Gulf

Dark Lord

Sporting an all black look, the Tag Heuer Dark Lord is a stealthy special edition Monaco that features a titanium DLC case and elegant gold hands/indices. This one definitely looks different than the rest of the Monacos and gives off that kinda “bad boy” vibe. Overall its an amazing special edition and adds strength to the collection.

Tag Heuer Monaco Dark Lord

Limited Edition Color

Recently Tag Heuer has been releasing full limited editions featuring a single color. So far we have seen a blood red, forest green, and at the moment a deep purple. These are made in very limited production numbers, 500 to be exact, and are considered collectables by many Tag Heuer enthusiasts.

Tag Heuer Monaco Purple Dial

How To Buy

Tag Heuer Monaco watches can still be purchased at authorized dealers but with the growth of Tag’s online store, less Monaco watches are being sent to dealers. We recently chatted with a Tag Heuer authorized dealer and it took them over 8 months to receive another Monaco. Alternatively if you check Tag’s website, there are plenty available for purchase today and ready to ship.

If the Monaco is a watch you truly desire, it may be best to buy it straight from the brand rather than waiting to purchase it at the dealer level. This isn’t the best buying experience but it appears to be working well for the brand.

Tag Heuer Monaco Caseback

Does The Tag Heuer Monaco Retains It’s Value

Tag Heuer Monaco watches do retain most of their value and are the best at doing so of all the Tag Heuer collections. Although you won’t see an appreciation in value like we experience with Rolex, have comfort in knowing that if you purchase a Monaco you won’t have a hard time finding a buyer.

Tag Heuer Monaco Specs

Case MaterialStainless Steel
Case Size39mm
Case Height15.21mm
Lug Distance22mm
Water Resistance100m
CasebackSapphire
CalibreHEUER 02 or Calibre 11
Power Reserve80hrs or 40hrs
FunctionsHours/Minutes/Seconds/Date/Chronograph

Pricing & Availability

Tag Heuer Monaco watches cost between $6,750 MSRP – $7,050 MSRP. Occasionally special or limited editions are released that will extend the price up to $8,200. Monaco watches can be purchased both online and at authorized dealers. For fastest delivery, purchasing directly from the Tag Heuer online store will be best. If you want to make sure the Monaco is for you, we recommend going through the traditional dealer network.

Overall Summary

During the time I spent with this watch I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The Monaco is always a watch that I knew of but never spent much time around or attention to. It wasn’t until a close friend advised me to take a deep dive that I gained an ample appreciation for the aesthetics of the Monaco and everything it stands for. Overall I am very pleased with this watch and am seriously considering adding to my collection.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Tag Heuer Monaco

How much is a TAG Heuer Monaco watch worth?

TAG Heuer Monaco watches are priced between $6k-$8k new at authorized dealers and depending on the collectability and condition can retain about 75% of their value (or more).

Is TAG Heuer Monaco battery operated?

None of the current Monaco watches sold by TAG are powered by quartz (battery) movements but in the past there were previous Monaco watches released that had quartz movements.

Why is TAG Heuer Monaco famous?

The Monaco collection became famous when Steve McQueen was seen wearing one. This association with McQueen really gave the Monaco collection clout and bravado within the watch community.

Which Monaco watch did Steve McQueen wear?

Steve McQueen wore an older reference of the current model CAW211P.FC6356. What makes this reference special is not only that Steve McQueen wore it but the crown is opposite of the chronograph pushers.

Is buying a TAG Heuer worth it?

TAG Heuer is quality entry level Swiss watch manufacture. With that being said, the Monaco collection really goes above and beyond the standard TAG quality control and competes against chronographs from some of the more prestigious brands.

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