There are few things more divisive in watches than when TAG Heuer does anything outside of the vintage-inspired box. Case in point: a few weeks ago TAG Heuer announced its new TAG Heuer Monza Flyback Chronometer and while two of our editors found it crazy enough to do a TAG-team (pun intended) introduction in both text and video format, commenters were largely underwhelmed at best.
A 42mm beautifully swirling carbon case with DLC-coated pushers and crown? Yawn. Chronometer-certified in-house flyback chronograph? Wake me up when there’s something interesting. A super cool skeletonized dial with red and blue accents, translucent subdials, and a ton of Super-Luminova? No way, man. Not for me.
I don’t know if there’s a single brand that, in enthusiasts’ eyes, is so deeply tied to the romance of its historical watches that those same enthusiasts would rather see the brand just replay the hits or else burn in a fire. Maybe that’s because the hits were so good and the brand has done a pretty great job over the years with its reissues. But even then, you can’t please everybody. Sure, I’d love to see a closer remake of the Dark Lord (sans rose gold) just as much as a lot of people would love the Carrera ref. 2447 to be remade in 36mm. But even when TAG does bring back the “old faithful” – the Carrera, Autavia, and Monaco specifically – a journey through the comments, like those on the 60th Anniversary Carrera (a phenomenal watch in its own right), will have people saying that 39mm is too small.
That’s why I think it’s worth celebrating the direction that TAG Heuer has gone with its releases, even if they’re not always immediately crowd-pleasers. Remember, not every watch is made for you. Even better, it makes it fun that TAG Heuer almost seems to have one team designing with an eye toward the past and one having fun looking to the future and making wild watches like a Mario Kart Tourbillon. And while it often gets lambasted for doing those wacky designs, not a lot of people have seen these future-forward models in the flesh. So I’m here to tell you this: forget what you think you know, this new Monza is wild and you should give it a chance.
Now I can be the fogy-ist of old fogies – pocket watches and all – and I’ve historically been left unconvinced by carbon-cased watches. I think a lot of us have equated durability and luxury with heft and “wrist presence” and carbon, like titanium, doesn’t give that feeling. Maybe someone used to a Richard Mille that can float on water would equate the lightness of carbon fiber with luxury, but for us normal folks, coming around to that idea can mean breaking deep-seated preconceptions. That’s where I recommend strapping on the new Monza. For many, $13,800 is as much an abstraction as $500,000, so I’ll take a wild leap conflating the two and say that the new Monza has all the hallmarks of a cutting-edge brand charging multiple times the price. Yes, the thickness – around 16mm – is substantial. But I don’t think case thickness is always a black-or-white, right-or-wrong discussion, but a holistic look at the size, weight, and balance as you wear it. In this case the material, as well as the case which is designed so it sits flat on your wrist yet tall in profile, all balances nicely. And if lightness equals luxury, then the watch has luxury in space. Plus if an RM-11 can get away with being 16mm thick, so can this Monza. Measurements aside, as Tony pointed out in the introduction post, the case succeeds most when it comes to finishing. Where a lot of carbon fiber executions come off as fibrous, this Monza is as smooth and sexy as it is light. The skeletonized dial plays into that seductive feel, with the bright blue Super-Luminova indices, translucent subdials, and red, white, and blue hands bringing it back solidly into the sporty category. This Monza is like a car that looks like it’s going fast even when it’s standing still. The only thing that actually takes away from the sportiness is the relatively chunky Calibre 02 COSC-certified flyback chronograph. It’s a workhorse of a movement, one that Logan Baker has always sung the praises of. Here, having it as a flyback chronometer is a real technical treat – one pulled from last year’s more traditional Autavia – but aside from shoring up some of the finishing on the dial side, there was no apparent effort to skeletonize the movement itself to reduce weight and continue the future-forward appeal. In fact, if there’s one quibble I could make with the price point it’s that there are a number of great fully skeletonized watches on the market in a similar range and the Monza feels like it was stopped just a bit too short of its full potential.
But I’m left with a sense of hope for the future, where the past successes of heritage and aggressive experimentation can live and grow together. After all, with young Frédéric Arnault at the helm and a large sponsorship of the Red Bull Formula 1 Team, we shouldn’t expect any less. A TAG Heuer remaking the classics might be fun but it would be like sticking to the 1.5L Formula 1 engines of the 1960s – a massive handicap for the technology of today.
Here’s hoping Arnault and the gang continue to open the throttle on innovation and see how far they can take this new TAG Heuer vibe.