Talks 50 years of the Monaco and the new Autavia range
In the Swiss watch industry, Guy Bove is a familiar face. He has worked for many brands in a design or creative capacity, and is clearly full of ideas. For six years, he served as the creative director of IWC Schaffhausen, then joined Chopard for another six, serving as the creative director for its watches, but splitting his time with sister brand La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, which Chopard launched in 2013.
From there, Bove moved to Breitling, again serving as the creative director, but this time only for a year. Another brand was calling – current employer TAG Heuer, where he started in November 2018. This particular Swiss manufacturer had a busy year ahead, with new collections, important anniversaries and mind-blowing innovations to shout about. Not long into the job, and Bove has hit the ground running. But how is he finding it all?
TAG Heuer is celebrating 50 years of the Monaco watch in 2019. How big a deal is it?
It’s a very big deal. The Monaco is one of our most famous creations, and has remained iconic and absolutely unique throughout its history. To see it survive all these years without ever seeming unfashionable has been really amazing for us.
Why is the Monaco so important to the brand?
The Monaco was the first patented square waterproof case on the market. We developed it in the late 1960s as an antithesis to round watches, which were considered old-school by those setting the fashion in that period, even though there were so many around. It also featured the world’s first automatic chronograph, the Calibre 11, which was launched inside the Monaco at Basel in 1969.
And it hasn’t really changed that much?
The design was slightly modernised in 1997, with trapezoidal pushers and a modern case construction, which has endured until today. And in 2004, it served as the base for the Monaco V4, an innovative design both of the movement and the case – recognisably Monaco, recognisably avant-garde. It has also been highlighted several times by the Monaco 24, a tribute to the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, which uses the Calibre 36 movement, suspended in the case by four arms. The Le Mans association is important, as it was in the movie of the same name where the watch was worn by actor Steve McQueen.
You’re celebrating 50 years with five special edition Monaco watches, and one representing each decade. Why was this the right approach?
We wanted to send the message that the Monaco is a living watch, not a commemorative one. It’s a watch that looks great in every decade, in the past and the future. So far, we’ve unveiled four of the special editions.
Can you talk us through them? How do they differ?
The fonts on the dial, the shape of the subdials, the colours and graphic details change between each to reflect the particular decade they represent, and they are made in limited numbers. The final watch will highlight the remaining decade of the 50 years, so from 2010 onwards. They have all received great interest, and I think that once all five have been revealed, it will be possible to see the evolution of trends both at TAG Heuer and in the worlds of design and racing.
How do the new anniversary editions compare to the original Monaco?
They are very similar. The pushers and case construction changed in 1997, so there are subtle differences, but for the anniversary editions we went back to the 1969 design of the closed back, with the brushed caseback finish and Heuer Monaco engraving, and the hands and applied indexes on the dial side are very similar too.
Like the Monaco, the new Autavia range has links to the past. How so?
Autavia is the combination of ‘automotive’ and ‘aviation’, and was the name given to the dashboard timers found in racing cars and aeroplanes from the 1930s to the 1950s. They became redundant after a while, with Jack Heuer using the name for a chronograph watch in the 1960s, and pilots and sportsmen as his target market. So the heritage is quite diverse, and we’ve taken it into account, from the pushers and dial numerals of the originals, to the case and bezel of the 1960s watch.
So what does the Autavia range have to offer?
At present, we have a stainless steel case with a matching bezel and grey dial; a stainless steel case with blue or black ceramic bezels and dials; and two bronze cases with ceramic bezels, and either brown or green dials. The stainless steel models come with matching bracelets or calf leather straps, while the bronze versions are only on calf leather. All of the bracelets and straps are interchangeable, with thick luminescent dial numerals, which give the classic looks a modern twist. The ceramic bezels on virtually all of the models echo the past, but they are scratchproof, which is another modern touch.
Speaking of modern, the inner workings owe very much to today’s technology, is that right?
Inside beats our brand new Isograph escapement, which consists of a unique carbon compound hairspring made in-house, and an aluminium balance wheel designed in-house, to optimise as much as possible the timing, regularity, resistance to magnetism and shock absorbance – it’s an avant-garde regulating system. The watches may echo the looks of the past, but there is a freshness to them, and they are reliable and resistant to whatever is thrown at them.
This carbon hairspring is being featured in other new models too. Are we going to see a lot of it?
These are early days. This is a unique technology that could only come from TAG Heuer. It approaches the world of traditional timekeeping from a new angle – chemistry and physics, rather than mechanics. It’s a big deal for watchmaking, but also for us, as it allows TAG Heuer to bring advanced science to our watches, adding to their precision and value.
And how are smartwatches? Can they be influenced by the past, or do you have to treat them separately?
Smartwatches are doing great, thank you. They can take cues from the past, but they are also their own thing.
So much is happening in 2019. What will 2020 bring?
I think that 2020 will be a very exciting year. That’s all I can say – apart from watch this space, of course.