Tag Heuer’s Monaco Chronograph watch was always going to be an icon of speed. It was after all, named after one of the two most famous races on the planet: the Monaco Grand Prix. But it wasn’t the name or its ground-breaking technology that has cemented its place in history. No, that honour belongs to a place 600 miles north and a man born 4000 miles east of this watch’s namesake province.
And, really it happened by accident. The place is Le Mans: host of the other of the two most famous races on earth, the Le Mans 24hr. The man, of course, is Steve McQueen: star of the cult 1971 film Le Mans.
McQueen went to friend and race driver Jo Siffert for advice on his ‘look’ for the film and he offered to lend the actor his overalls to ensure Delaney’s had a believable race-worn patina on screen. Siffert was sponsored by Tag Heuer and Gulf Oil, and his race suit was suitably adorned with the companies’ logos so, to add further realism, McQueen chose to wear the latest and greatest Tag watch: the Monaco 1133B.
Through the years until its discontinuation in the mid-seventies and its reintroduction in the late-nineties, the Monaco has been through several incarnations and versions but with the notable exception of the oddly controversial 74033, the original is by far and away the most desirable and sort after of the lot. It’s certainly the most iconic.
It would be fair to say that Tag Heuer has done rather well from this association with Steve McQueen. There have been several re-issues of the ‘McQueen Monaco’ (the 1133B) and the brand still uses his image in advertising. In 2009 it created this rather clever film that placed him alongside another of its ‘brand ambassadors’: the then newly-crowned Formula One world champion, Lewis Hamilton.