Let’s go back to 1969
It’s a groovy year. The decade had seen the rise of pop art and conceptual art. Many exciting new art works were being released into the public consciousness that year, including Franz Franzetta’s fascinating Egyptian Queen and Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s SoupCans II. In terms of the avant-garde, the art world was, quite literally, the advance guard of the world’s post-war reawakening to aesthetics.
The world of watches, however, was pretty insulated from the zeitgeist that was sweeping up the world of art and design. For decades, there hasn’t been much going on in terms of avant-garde, groundbreaking design. And then, TAG Heuer introduced the TAG Heuer Monaco to the world. There was a collective gasp, for the watch Maison had introduced a design so audacious, some wondered if they had forsaken function in its pursuit of form.
Today, it may sound mundane, almost silly, to consider it avant-garde. But there was the new design: a square face. Yeah, just that. Watches have the propensity to be round for three main reasons. Firstly, the gears and springs of a watch movement are round, so a round face is the most natural shape to accommodate them. A round face also makes for easier reading, giving the minute and hour hands optimal space to indicate a circular index of digits. Finally, because round bodies can be more tightly encased, it ensured at least some water resistance.
And perhaps there was the case of tradition. Serious watchmakers – those whose brands cater specifically to watches and related paraphernalia – have upheld the round-case design since they first strapped timekeepers to wrists. For one among their number to break away from this tradition verged on the absurd. But when you want to be groundbreaking, you first have to take the risk of breaking ground.
TAG Heuer was not the first to introduce a square face, of course, but with the Monaco, it certainly popularised it. Like the city it is named after, the watch is bold and as stylish and elegant as the avenues of Monte Carlo. Fast forward over four decades to 2022. The TAG Heuer Monaco has enjoyed its time in the sun, but, as all things legendary, the time for a rebirth will always come.
What can TAG Heuer do next? It wanted to keep its subtle, restrained approach, but at the same time make a bold statement and rethink its classic Monaco watch. The answer was simple: purple.
The 39-mm stainless steel case, shaped in that iconic TAG Heuer Monaco square, houses a striking, distinctive dial in a rich purple colour. The dial gradient, going from lighter to darker purple from centre outwards, is an especially interesting touch; a clear indicator that TAG Heuer isn’t just trying out a new, bolder colour. Rather, they are looking for a depth and sophistication in line with its brand. This play on colours and contrast continues with the rhodium-plated indexes, the white Super-LumiNova coated hands and the two black opaline sub-counters.
The colour purple makes another appearance in the strap, providing a striking lining for the black alligator leather.
Like we mentioned earlier: audacious. TAG Heuer rightfully markets this as an elegant watch with a rebellious spirit, designed for ‘unruly connoisseurs’. And we agree: there is a sense of mischief as much as creativity here, pushing the envelope. It is fun, and because TAG Heuer’s technical expertise allows it.
All-in-all, the TAG Heuer Monaco Purple Dial Limited Edition is every bit the collector’s item it was designed to be. It is also, from a big picture perspective, a nice addition to the luxury watches market; it normalises taking bold, unthought-of approaches to new designs. When the TAG Heuer Monaco first came out in 1969, it was a great year for art. When the TAG Heuer Monaco Purple Dial Limited Edition comes out in 2022, it’s going to be a great year for watches.