The 50th anniversary celebration of TAG Heuer’s iconic Monaco watch yields a series of exquisite limited editions that embodies each decade of the octane-fueled timepiece’s winning zeitgeist.

Reportedly, Steve McQueen wore many different watches over his career, but the bold, racing-inspired square-case Monaco, first introduced in 1969 by then Heuer Monaco, is most often associated with the fabled actor and racer. And for good reason. Like the rebellious McQueen, the Monaco was something of a controversy. From the original’s metallic blue dial, red and blue hands, square case and lefthand-side crown opposite the chronograph pushers, it was clear this watch marched to the rhythm of its own drum. In fact, McQueen sported one while shooting Le Mans in 1971 (shown at right), which wove together a racer’s story with docudrama-style shots of the crowd and happenings at the Le Mans race.

“We wanted to create an outstanding and innovative product—something avant-garde,” says TAG Heuer honorary chairman Jack Heuer. “When I saw the square case, I immediately knew it was something special. Until then,” he adds, “square cases were only used for dress watches because it was not possible to make them water-resistant. We went forward with this unconventional design and negotiated the exclusive use of this revolutionary case for the Monaco wrist chronograph.”

Named after the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, the angular disruptor went on to forge a distinct following for decades to come. It was the first water-resistant square case ever made, and its unique Calibre 11 movement, a collaboration between Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton, housed the first true automatic chronograph function.

As for the Monaco’s status today, TAG Heuer Heritage Director Catherine EberleDevaux says, “the Monaco chronograph, thought of as a breakthrough in 1969, reached its icon status more than 30 years after, and today is both a symbol of the avant-garde and a historical milestone—a paradoxical situation that gives it a very special aura. This is definitely the side of the Monaco that I am in love with!”

Here, discover some of the 50th anniversary limited editions, by decade. (At press time, there were no details available on the final 2010-era tribute timepiece.) All cases are rendered in stainless steel at a classic 39 mm size, limited to 169 versions each and carry special-edition engraving on the case backs, as well as commemorative packaging. $6,550 each



Harkening to strong geometric shapes and earth-tone colors appropriate for the decade, this limited-edition watch is rendered in rugged stainless steel on a weathered brown calfskin strap.



Paying homage to the “big ’80s” era, this Monaco sports a big, bold, brilliant red dial. As Formula One racing entered an especially hot period during the decade, the colorway is particularly apt.



A more steel-forward industrial design hallmarks the Monaco special edition for the ’90s. A sandblasted dial and contrast stitching on the strap introduce an element of street style to the minimalist execution.



A new millennium ushers in a return-to-basics nature for this Monaco. A heritage-style execution in traditional black and red communicates legibility and gravitas.