There are certain watches that just go beyond the concept of telling time. Far from being mere mildly functional pieces of jewellery, these timepieces allude to times, places and memories – whether ones that have been made, or are still yet to be.
For me, one of those is the TAG Heuer Monaco. The square-cased chronograph is iconic, having adorned the wrist of Steve McQueen in the 1971 film, Le Mans. It has become synonymous with racing culture, and stands proudly in its own lane.
Now, the brand have unveiled a limited edition finish for the range. It's called the TAG Heuer Monaco Night Driver, and it dresses the classic square chronograph in its finest black tie attire. Let's dive in and take a closer look.
As ever, let's start with some key specs. The Monaco Night Driver features a 39mm case diameter. That's a little misleading, though – particularly when compared to the same spec for a round dial. See, the larger surface area will make this wear larger. 39mm is pretty much my sweet spot for a round dial, but this still felt a little oversized.
It's certainly not oversized though. The lug-to-lug measures at 47.4mm, which is perfectly respectable. It does just come down to that square design. That being said, it is also a thick watch. Measuring 14.7mm thick, this is a proper slab of watch for any wrist.
Fortunately, it doesn't feel like that. The combination of a grade 5 titanium case and a perforated calfskin strap make it effortlessly lightweight. You won't feel it in use, which is both disconcerting and really appealing. That case is coated in a Black DLC material, for that stealthy vibe, too.
The dial itself features a circular middle dial, with a square outer edge. Inside the circular portion, you'll also find a pair of square sub-dials at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions. At the 6 o'clock position, you'll find a running seconds hand, with a date window beneath that, while the 12 o'clock position features the TAG Heuer logo and the Monaco branding.
Interestingly, the square outer dial and the sub-dials are all coated with Super-LumiNova. That makes the whole dial glow a gorgeous bright blue when charged with UV light. TAG says that it will last for around three hours when fully charged, and while I didn't test that extensively, it did stay well lit. I have no trouble believing that figure.
Inside, you'll find the Calibre Heuer 02 movement. That's an automatic column wheel chronograph movement with an 80 hour power reserve. The finishing is absolutely exquisite, with patterned brushwork, blued parts and a hollow black and blue rotor.
It's absolutely excellent in use. Accuracy is brilliant, and the chronograph functions perfectly. Look, I won't pretend to be the kind of person with a million and one uses for a chronograph, but in testing it does absolutely everything you need. The pushers are snappy and responsive, with the reset snapping straight back zero in an instant.
Elsewhere you'll find 100 metres of water resistance – though if you're planning to take this in the water, may I recommend seeking some assistance – and an engraved, numbered caseback. That shows where in the limited run of 600 pieces your watch sits.
What is the TAG Heuer Monaco Night Driver like to wear?
After wearing this for a week as a daily driver, I feel pretty well placed to talk about what it's like. And look, let's get the bad stuff out of the way early – there really is no getting around the sheer size of this watch.
My wrists are definitely on the smaller side, but even so, this felt gargantuan. I think you'd need to be properly comfortable wearing something in the 42-44mm range for round dial watches to be happy with this on your wrist.
But you know what? By the end of the week, it had really grown on me. Sure, it was still big, but it was manageable. I think, if you want a Monaco and have smaller wrists, you need to make sure you get a model that is titanium, like this. The added weight of steel would likely have made this pretty much untenable for me.
Okay, that's enough negativity, though, because there is also an awful lot to love here. Because let's face it – you're sporting a TAG Heuer Monaco. That's a big deal – we've already talked about the history this watch enjoys, and when you strap this on, you take your place in that.
There's something indescribably alluring about wearing a watch like this. It instantly elevates you, in a way I've never experienced with another watch. It's also super versatile. You could definitely get away with it in a black tie setting – while it's unconventional, it's also an icon – but the sporty nature of it also lends itself to a t-shirt and jeans, when required.
I've been really torn over whether or not I could get away with calling this an everyday watch. Because look – it's really not. A square chronograph is about as far removed from an everyday wear as you can really get.
But you know what? For the right person, I definitely think you could daily this. You'd probably need to have a personality as strong as the watch does, but if you're in that position, you're probably not too concerned about a plain everyday piece, anyway.
Is the TAG Heuer Monaco Night Driver worth the money?
Okay, so we need to take this at a few different levels. First, let's talk cash – you'll need £8,300 or $9,550 to get hold of one of these. And look, that's a big chunk of change, but if you're in the market for something like this, you probably already know that.
To add to that, if you're in a position to drop the sharp end of £10,000 on a watch, you've got a lot of options. You're most of the way through the Rolex catalogue for that. You could double up on a couple of Omega watches. Basically, you have your pick of a lot of good timepieces.
One thing is for sure though: nothing you can buy for that money – or in fact, any sum of money – is like the TAG Heuer Monaco. It's a law unto itself; a truly unique timepiece which deserves every last grain of appreciation it receives.
So, if you like the Monaco, you have to be looking here. After that, it all comes down to whether this particular model is worth it for you. Given that you can pick up a base model Monaco on a leather strap for £6,500, is this worth another £1,800 on top?
I think it is. The limited nature of this watch alone should make it worthwhile. It's far more likely to hang onto some of that value in the second hand market, should you decide to part ways with it down the line.
Beyond that, though, the added lightness of the titanium case is worth a lot. The extra lightness afforded to this watch from that case material is a godsend, and makes it so much easier wear.