If there is a truly iconic chronograph ever released, it would be the new TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition watch. Before TAG, the original Monaco was released by Heuer in 1969 becoming the first square and water-resistant Swiss-made automatic chronograph. It ultimately gained huge fame when Steve McQueen used it in his appearance in the 1971 film, Le Mans. For all the fans of Steve McQueen or the Monaco, the new TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is certainly going to take you down the memory lane.
The watch pretty much tells a story on its dial. It’s lovely and vintage but if you’re not really into Monaco or hadn’t heard of Gulf Oil, the watch may appear almost advertorial. However, for the fans, everything on the watch, all the design elements, point to a history and this is its main selling point. In Le Mans film, McQueen’s character was sponsored by Gulf Oil and the popular image of him with the watch sees him with his white livery in blue and orange stripes. These elements can all be seen on the watch and honestly, it’s the pure form of an iconic watch making the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Gulf racing stripes and its role in motor racing.
For the most part, the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition watch sticks to its original qualities. We still find the crown on the left side and the highly domed sapphire crystal. The dial remains blue with a sunray-brushed finish giving the watch an authentic vintage feel. McQueen is right handed so this specific crown placement is quite perfect for him but to the regular crowd, there is going to be a bit of adjustment. The watch uses TAG Heuer Calibre 11 similar to the movement powering the original Monaco. The new movement benefits from modern machining techniques giving it more advantage over the old one. It sports 40 hours of power reserve at a 4Hz frequency. On reliability, Caliber 11 reigns supreme and is comparable to the Calibre 1861 powering the Speedmaster.
The 39 mm steel square case looks awfully small but this is the best way to make it comfortable to wear plus square watches always appear big anyways. The design is neat featuring alternating brushed and polished finishing as seen on the bezel and lugs. A key design change are the pushers which are now square giving the watch a more cohesive look. The highly domed and beveled sapphire crystal makes the watch true to its origins and it also has superior advantages such as allowing the watch to have a staggering water resistance rating of 100 meters even if the caseback is transparent.
Moving to the dial, it tells a story, that we repeated many times above. Let’s go the technical story this time. The dial sports the original dark blue face with a sunray brush found on the original Heuer Monaco. We can also see the gulf stripes on the right half of the dial making it off-centre. Usually, we see decals like this centered on a car’s hood but perfect symmetry is quite boring so the way it’s presented on this watch is quite nice. The chronograph minutes subdial is at 9 o’clock while the running seconds subdial is at 3 o’clock. The combination of silver opaline square subdial and black baton hands looks amazing yielding that perfect vintage look. The primary hands (in white and red highlights) including the hour markers are rhodium plated and filled with Super-LumiNova. The chrono seconds hand sports lacquered red which perfectly denotes that racing DNA. We can also see the date wheel at 6 o’clock just below the Gulf logo.
Note that the TAG Heuer Monaco Gulf Special Edition is a US-only edition. The watch wears on a handsome a blue leather racing strap with orange contrast stitching and it comes with a 5,900 USD price tag.