As a cornerstone of TAG Heuer‘s identity since 1969, the square-shaped Monaco chronograph is fuelled by associations with the race track. Named after the most glamorous of F1 races, the Monaco soared to fame in 1971 after its cameo in Le Mans on Steve McQueen’s wrist. Following a hiatus in the mid-1970s, the Monaco was reintroduced in the late 1990s and continues to evolve. Accustomed to the more colourful livery of earlier editions, the latest Monaco to roar out of the paddocks is a more toned-down, monochromatic version with a glowing night-time personality known as the Monaco Chronograph Night Driver.
Heuer was one of the three competitors in the race to develop the first automatic chronograph movement. Partnering with Breitling, Hamilton-Buren and Dubois-Depraz, the team produced the Chronomatic calibre 11. Unveiled in 1969, along with Zenith’s El Primero and Seiko’s 6139 automatic chronograph movements, Zentih’s movement was the first to claim the podium. The calibre 11 was fitted inside the bold square-shaped Monaco case, and its configuration led to the unusual position of the crown on the left side of the case. Heralded as the first 100m waterproof chronograph in a square case, Steve McQueen and Jo Siffert consolidated its destiny on the race track. Without retracing its ascent to fame, the Monaco we are looking at today is the modern configuration powered by the integrated Heuer 02 movement introduced in 2019 (replacing the modular ETA-based calibre 12) with the crown on the right side of the case.
Titanium has really made a splash this year at TAG Heuer with the release of several skeletonised Monacos, following on from the black DLC-coated titanium case of the 2022 Monaco Special Edition nicknamed the “Dark Lord”.
The cult square design of the 100m water-resistant case, measuring 39mm x 39mm, is crafted in grade 5 titanium with a contemporary black DLC coating. Combining resilience and lightness, the titanium case has a thickness of 14.7mm, including the stylish domed and bevelled sapphire crystal protecting the dial. It’s not slim, but the thickness is visually attenuated by the sleek dark DLC coating, which is also applied to the rectangular pushers and crown on the right side of the case. Looking closely, you can appreciate the alternating brushed and polished areas of the case that underscore its unconventional, unmistakable design.
Demure by day, extroverted at night
Perhaps the darkest, stealthiest Monaco to date, the Night Driver flaunts a subdued grey monochromatic dial. Using the “circle in the square” two-piece dial construction, the central area is an anthracite colour with a lighter grey tone for the recessed, squared sub-dials and the outer area of the dial. The grainy matte finishing of the outer dial and sub-dials – elapsed hours at 9 o’clock and elapsed minutes at 3 o’clock – has an almost fibrous texture reminiscent of grey felt fabric contrasting with the smoother texture of the circle. Discreet but effective, the small seconds are indicated just above the date window at 6 o’clock with a simple crosshair.
The faceted black lacquered indices are placed on the outer light grey part of the dial, except for the double indices at noon, matching the black hands inside the sub-dials and the central hour and minute hands. So far, there is nothing radically different from other Monacos fitted with the Heuer 02 movement. That is until this watch hits the dark.
It might be demure by day, but when the Night Rider encounters low-light conditions, it literally lights up. And we are not just referring to the luminescent hands and hour dots. No, this is full-on blue luminescence, and the textured chronograph sub-dials and outer dial are fully luminescent for up to three hours if fully charged, something you might like to take into account if you are planning on getting a good night’s sleep.
The black DLC-coated titanium case of the Monaco Chronograph Night Driver takes a lot of the heft out of the equation, giving the watch a sleek, contemporary vibe. Coupled with the muted monochromatic grey dial, the effect is almost refined, a strange word to use in the context of the Monaco but fitting. However, switch off the lights, and the party kicks off, illuminating the night with a cool blue glow. I’m not sure of its practicality as a companion for performing chronograph readings while driving at night, but it will get you noticed.
Visible under the screwed caseback is the in-house calibre Heuer 02. A modern integrated chronograph movement with a column wheel and vertical clutch, it beats at 28,800vph and delivers a solid 80-hour power reserve. Decorated with Geneva stripes and matte surfaces, the column wheel is picked out in an electric blue colour to match the dial, and the openworked rotor is black.
Availability & Price
Fitted with a perforated calfskin strap with light grey stitching and a black DLC titanium folding clasp, the choice of a rally-style strap works very well in this context. The Monaco Chronograph Night Driver is a limited edition of 600 pieces and comes in a travel pouch. It is now available in TAG Heuer boutiques, retailers and online for CHF 9,300, EUR 9,650 or USD 9,550. More details at tagheuer.com.