Ask any vintage Heuer collector for a ranking of the “grails”, and you can be sure that the black-coated Monaco, reference 74033 N (often called the “Dark Lord”) will be toward the top of the list. Produced by Heuer in the late 1970s, the community of collectors has tracked approximately 30 of these watches.
As described in my posting on Hodinkee, The Heuer Black-Coated Monaco Captures the Darkness and Mystery of the 1970s, this chronograph captures many elements that make vintage watches so appealing. As one of Heuer’s first black-coated watches, the watch was on trend with the military / tactical style of the late 1970s, while its styling evoked the look of instruments on the dashboard of a racecar. There have been many mysteries about the “Dark Lord” – Why was it sold in so few markets? How many were produced? Why did it never appear in a catalog? The watches often appeared in unlikely places, sometimes as bags of parts.
Through it all, collectors have aggressively pursued these watches, as evidenced by the three most recent public sales achieving prices in the range between $60,000 (Phillips, November 2017) and $116,000 (Phillips, May 2022). (The watch sold by Phillips in May 2022 is shown below.)
When a brand creates a re-issue of one of its icons — or for that matter, a “homage” or a “tribute” watch – it must walk a fine line. If the brand creates a one-to-one copy of the vintage predecessor, it will be accused of lacking creativity. If it strays too far from the look and feel of the original watch, it will be accused of misappropriating a legendary design or even diluting the name of the predecessor.
Today, TAG Heuer has introduced a Black-Coated Monaco (Ref CBL2180) that pays tribute to the “Dark Lord”. We offer a simple introduction of the newest Monaco, describing the key features of the watch and offering some initial impressions. Having spent only a few minutes with the newest Monaco (in the Atlanta TAG Heuer Boutique), my initial impressions are very favorable and I look forward to adding one to my collection. I expect to provide an in depth review after spending more “quality time” with the watch.
The Special Edition Black-Coated Monaco (Tribute to “Dark Lord”)
The Dial. The defining features of the Dark Lord were its black-coated case and all-black dial, and the newest Monaco incorporates these features. But rather than the flat, matte black dial of the original watch, the new Monaco features a two-piece dial, which accentuates the “circle in the square” style of the Monaco chronograph.
The center of the dial is a circle with a circular, satin-brushed finish and the outer area of the dial (between the circle and the edge of the case) has been sandblasted to create a deeply grained finish. The contrast between these two finishes is dramatic. To my eye, the inner circle evokes the speed and smoothness of a race car circling a track. The light bounces off the satin finish, creating a sense of movement, as your wrist moves through different angles.
The outer area of the dial evokes the “run-off” of the track. The deeply grained finish evokes the grip of tires and asphalt, offering a contrast with the fast line taken by the racer on the smooth track.
The registers have a flat black opaline finish, adding a third texture to the dial.
Markers and Hands.
The original “Dark Lord” from the 1970s used painted markers for the hours and the main time-of-day hands were painted white, with luminous material in the centers. Over the years, the markers and hands were subject to degradation, with it being almost impossible to find a dial with all 12 markers in place.
The new Black-Coated Monaco offers considerably more durability, using rose-gold plating for the markers, with adjacent Super-LumiNova dots, and rose gold plated hands. While the rose gold appears to be prominent in some of the studio photos published by TAG Heuer, on the wrist, the gold of the markers and hands is subdued. The incorporation of gold into the watch also evokes the 18 karat gold Carrera chronographs that Heuer presented to leading Formula One racers in the 1970s.
Lift the new Black-Coated Monaco out of the box, and the first thing you will notice is the lightness of the watch. The case is Grade 2 titanium, coated with DLC (diamond-like carbon), with the case sandblasted to produce a soft, grained finish. Last year, TAG Heuer offered its first titanium-cased Monaco, the “Titan” model favored by Max Verstappen. The new model goes a step further with the black DLC coating. The “Dark Lord” from the 1970s used a steel case which was coated with a black material and was prone to wear over the years. The DLC coating of the new Monaco should prove to be very durable.
The crown, pushers and case-back of the new Monaco are all black-coated, to match the case. The vintage model used uncoated steel for these components, as coating technologies of the day would not have produced durable finishes on these high-use components.
The sapphire crystal on case-back displays the movement, with the rotor (oscillating mass) plated in rose-gold. The case-back is held in place by screws at each if its corners.
The new Black-Coated Monaco uses the Heuer 02 movement, TAG Heuer’s in-house movement which offers 80 hours power reserve. While the movement provides running seconds at 6 o’clock, the new Monaco incorporates a simple needle, rather than a fully-marked register. This approach provides the look of a two-register chronograph, as on the original “Dark Lord.” The new Black-Coated Monaco has a date window at 6 o’clock, again consistent with the vintage predecessor.
Availability and Pricing.
The new Black-Coated Monaco is offered as a Special Edition, which means that while TAG Heuer is not indicating the number of watches that will be produced, production will be of limited duration (i.e., the watch is not a long-term part of the Monaco collection). The watch is available currently, with the price set at $8,200 (7,750 euro).
“1” Special Monaco for Max Verstappen
In addition to the production of the Special Edition Black-Coated Monaco, TAG Heuer will present a unique version of the watch to 2021 Formula One champion Max Verstappen.
As the reigning Formula One Champion, Verstappen’s Oracle Red Bull Racing RB-18 car carries the number “1” for the 2022 season, and TAG Heuer has printed the numeral “1” printed on the dial of this unique watch. The style of the red numeral on the dial matches the style of numeral on the car.
Throughout the 2020 season, Verstappen wore a “Titan” Monaco, which became recognized as his “lucky charm” for the season. All eyes will be on Verstappen’s new Black-Coated Monaco to see whether this watch will provide the same magic.