The Monaco V4 saga

Best Design at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Wallpaper Magazine's "Watch of the Year", Popular Science's "Best of What's New". But as a commercial reality? They said it couldn’t be done…

Monaco V4

For its 150th anniversary, TAG Heuer brings to commercial reality its boldest breakthrough innovation since the 1/100th of a second mechanical chronograph

The Watch Quote™ - December 22nd, 2011



The first advanced integrated mechanical movement of the third millennium — and probably the 21st century’s first major contribution to watchmaking innovation — the TAG Heuer Monaco V4 represents a complete break with tradition and the audacious next step in mechanical movement engineering. This belt-driven wonderment, first unveiled as a Concept Watch at BaselWorld in 2004, is now industrialized and entirely hand manufactured in TAG Heuer La Chaux-de-Fonds workshop in an exclusive luxury edition of only 150 pieces in platinum.




TAG Heuer in History

Pioneer of Swiss watchmaking since 1860


For 150 years, TAG Heuer has challenged traditions, defied rules, and set major Swiss watchmaking milestones. The world leader in luxury sports watches and chronographs since 1860, it maintains this preeminence by ceaselessly reinventing itself, and, in the process, changing the world of watchmaking — revolutionizing what watches and chronographs can do, how they work, and the way they look.



In 2004, the company unveiled the Monaco V4 Concept Watch, the world’s first watch with belt drives, linear mass and ball bearings. In only 5 short years, the dream comes true …On the eve of its 150th anniversary, TAG Heuer has achieved the unbelievable, unveiling to the world what many industry insiders said would never see the light of day: The Monaco V4 in commercial production. Double-patented Monaco V4, 100% TAG Heuer-made, outdoes its own legacy. A bold technical masterwork unlike any watch ever seen or imagined, it both exemplifies luxury Swiss watchmaking tradition at its finest, and completely turns that heritage upside down and inside out.



Once again, with this boldest creation yet, TAG Heuer stakes claim to the leading edge of design innovation and honors its world-famous motto: “Swiss Avant-Garde since 1860.”




TAG Heuer and the Monaco V4 

Revolutionizing the fundamental principles of mechanical watchmaking


Transmission
Until the V4, all modern mechanical movements, regardless of their complications, were generally based on “classic” watchmaking components, most of which date back to the 18th and 19th century. The principal components of this traditional system are: an energy reserve, by means one or several springs; a transmission, using gears; and a regulatory function, usually organized around a recoil escapement.



Gear transmission and automatic rewinding: the V4 team set these aside and started from scratch. The result is a complete paradigm-shift, 2 worldwide patents, and a completely new generation of mechanical movements.



In a world first, TAG Heuer award-winning team of watch masters and engineers replaced the pinions and wheels of the traditional mechanical movement with a belt-driven transmission: a high-yield relay of 5 notched micro drive-belts whose tension is controlled by 2 turnbuckles. The transmission belts in polyether block amide have a 0.07mm section, about the same size as a single human hair, and are 10 times smaller than any belt ever manufactured. Unlike a traditional calibre, this modular synchronous drive belt system requires no extra gears to send motion from one point to another. More efficient — less vibrations, optimizing movement — and much easier to maintain, it allows power to be transmitted wherever it is required, allowing for more complications, with no obstacles.



Energy
The TAG Heuer team then garnered a second worldwide patent by revolutionizing the oscillating mass, which traditionally is superimposed on the movement and moves in a rotational manner. The Monaco V4 is the world’s first wristwatch with a linear mass, which is mounted on the world’s smallest ball bearings (2.2 to 4 mm diameter and a thickness of 0.6 to 1 mm). The 12g tungsten ingot doesn’t move back and forth but up and down on a track between the 2 pairs of v-shaped barrels in series, set in parallel and inclined at +/- 13°. A gear system on the long side of the weight engages a cogwheel and converts the linear motion into a rotating movement. Each barrel series stores 450g of energy for a total strength of 900g.




The Monaco V4

An avant-garde design for an avant-garde movement


Winner in its concept stage of many design prizes and awards, the Monaco V4 is the revolutionary new incarnation of the iconic Monaco — the audacious, square-faced watch first seen on Steve McQueen’s wrist in the 1970 race classic film Le Mans.



The original Monaco's big, squared-off case captured the imagination of a generation and signaled a complete break with conventional watchmaking aesthetics. It thus made sense to borrow from this iconic heritage to showcase TAG Heuer’s newest breakthrough in high-end luxury design. Like the original Monaco, the world's first automatic chronograph with a micro-rotor (launched in 1969 by Jack Heuer, today TAG Heuer’s Honorary Chairman), the powerful new movement housed in the Monaco V4 is a tribute to the high-tech, high-performance world of motor racing.



The name derives from the V-shaped platinum main plate on which the movement's four spring barrels are mounted. The 2-by-2 belt series on ball bearings are angled at +/- 13 degrees, and look like the cylinders in a high-end motor-racing engine.



The Monaco V4’s avant-garde look outside matches the revolutionary movement inside. Every complex surface and dihedral angle is fine polished to the highest haute-horlogerie standards. The beveled and arched sapphire crystal, manufactured in 3-D, curves down to join the sides. The case is in platinum 950, as is the caseback, which is trisected with 3 glass apertures. There is no reading dial per se — the polished beveled indexes are fixed directly to the bridges, with the small second hand distinctively off-centered at 4 o’clock. The ball bearing systems are visible on both sides, while the movement’s unique escapement and 3 transmission belts can be seen from the front, and the 2 barrel drives from the back. The stylish strap is in large-scale alligator, hand-stitched with a titanium insert. The overall design is breathtakingly new, unlike anything ever seen, yet the influence of Steve McQueen’s square-faced Monaco is apparent at a glance, as is the spirit and DNA. This is what truly drives TAG Heuer and the Monaco V4: audacity, performance, and a passionate devotion to the avant-garde.




TAG Heuer and the MONACO V4

Pioneering new forms of human and technological innovation


Above all, creating an entirely new paradigm for mechanical movement dynamics requires men and women of vision and passion, committed to pushing beyond limits.



TAG Heuer’s best engineers and watchmakers, working with the inventor Jean-François Ruchonnet, begun delving into the fundamental concepts of mechanical watch movement, under the strictest terms of confidentiality. Then the Monaco V4 story became a real human saga involving an extraordinary team of dedicated thinkers, watch masters, engineers and craftsmen working in Switzerland but also collaborating with a unique international network drawn from renowned high-tech companies, universities and research institutes.



The techniques used in the design, prototyping and production of the V4 are the same as those used to develop complex aerospace systems. Tools, techniques and expertise were drawn from an eclectic fusion of disciplines, such as the automobile and IT industries, applied mathematics, chemistry, climatology, computer engineering and micro-mechanical sciences. New TAG Heuer-designed machines and methods were specially created, including proprietary software (TAG Heuer is a pioneer in 3D modeling and digital synthesis), automated micro-couplers and rheologically controlled high-pressure injectors.



Today, the Monaco V4 are hand-assembled at TAG Heuer by “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” watch master Denis Badin, thus bringing the timepiece full circle: from the most cutting-edge techniques of the present era to the most time-honored traditions of artisanal craftsmanship.



This exclusive luxury edition of only 150 pieces in platinum 950, launched at the occasion of the 150th anniversary, will be sold at 100,000 CHF.




TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer, the leader in prestigious sports watches and chronographs since 1860, is one of the largest and fastest growing luxury Swiss watch brands. The Swiss watchmaking legend draws upon its active engagement in the world of sports to create the most accurate measuring instruments and sports watches in the world. TAG Heuer is the first watchmaker ever to master luxurious chronographs with an unsurpassed precision of 1/10th, 1/100th and 1/1000th of a second. From the Olympic Games in the 1920s to its role as official timekeeper to within 1/10,000th of a second for the legendary Indy 500, TAG Heuer, in a constant quest for innovation, excellence, performance and prestige, continues to aim ever higher, as reflected by its 6-year partnership with 2008 Formula 1 World Champion, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and its 25-year partnership with team McLaren and its drivers Lewis and his teammate Heikki Kovalainen. TAG Heuer, more than ever, epitomizes prestige and performance through partnerships with 2007 F1 World Champion & Scuderia Ferrari F1 driver Kimi Räikkönen, world number 1 golfer Tiger Woods and WTA tennis star Maria Sharapova, as well as Hollywood icon Leonardo DiCaprio and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. TAG Heuer is a privileged member of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), the most exclusive club in the Swiss watchmaking industry.

Tag Heuer Monaco V4
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TAG Heuer Monaco V4

Platinum Limited Edition 150 pieces




Reference:WAW2170.FC6261
Movement:Automatic Belt-driven transmission watch
Tungstene ingot linear mass
2 pairs of barrels in series, set in parallel and linked by belts
Dial:7 silver fine-brushed bridges with “haute horlogerie” hand-finishings
Escapement and belt-driven transmission visible from the front
Hand-applied faceted indexes
Faceted polished
hodium plated blue minute and hour hands with luminescent markers
Blue small second hand at 4 o’clock
Blue “V4” engraving
Monochrome blue engraved TAG Heuer logo
Case:Polished Platinum 950 case
Case diameter:40.5 mm
Glass:Beveled sapphire crystal glass with double-sided anti-reflective treatment to ensure the best readability
Case back:Sapphire case back in 3 sections
Crown:Polished white gold crown at 3 o’clock
Water resistance:50 meters
Strap:Blue alligator strap with hand-sewn blue stitching
Buckle:Folding buckle with safety pushbuttons in Platinum 950
Availability:1st batch (75 pieces): November 2009 (ex La Chaux-de-Fonds)
2nd batch (75 pieces): June 2010 (ex La Chaux-de-Fonds)
Estimated price:CHF 100’000

Questions & Answers to Jean-Christophe Babin

President and CEO of TAG Heuer

1 - What is the role of the Monaco V4 in the TAG Heuer universe, what were the sources of its inspiration, and where does the name V4 come from?
We have enjoyed a privileged position in the avant-garde sports watches and chronographs market since 1860, mainly because we innovate more than any other watch brand. We are the only brand that can offer electronic and mechanical chronograph accuracy to 1/10th, 1/100th and 1/1,000th of a second. Technology, design and innovation are the three major components of our brand’s DNA, and it is through these that we push Swiss watchmaking traditions ever forward.

The inspiration for the Monaco V4 is the high-end super sports car — a territory that TAG Heuer has historically occupied since 1911, when it created the "Time of Trip," the world’s first dashboard chronograph, followed by the "Autavia" dashboard stopwatch in 1933, and carrying on right through to today, with our official partnership with Mercedes-Benz in GT with the SLR and with McLaren in Formula 1. With its century and a half history at the avant-garde of Swiss watch design and engineering, the brand TAG Heuer is also in itself a source of inspiration.

The name V4 is derived from the four spring barrels of the movement, which are mounted on a V-shaped platinum main plate angled at +/-13 degrees, like the cylinders of a high-performance racing engine. The principle of a 5 notched micro-belt transmission has its roots in automotive design, where for example, in the combustion cycle, the distributor belt synchronizes the movement of the engine’s valves and pistons

2 - Why did you choose the Monaco series for the V4? Does it fit?
It seemed quite logical to follow the Monaco’s resolutely innovative heritage, which exemplifies TAG Heuer’s desire to always push beyond the limits of traditional watchmaking. The original Monaco of 1969 had a unique shape that completely broke with conventional watchmaking aesthetics. Equipped with the Chronomatic Caliber 11, the first automatic chronograph movement with micro-rotor, the Monaco embodied our motto: "TAG Heuer Swiss Avant-Garde Since 1860".

I love the Monaco! It is mythical, a true icon, and that is why we have not dared to touch it for years. It reflects the aesthetic and pioneering instincts of our brand, which continues to generate revolutionary ideas and then transform them into products. With the Monaco V4, TAG Heuer seeks to rethink, redesign and reinvent the mechanical movement. It is a perfect example of our commitment to innovation. As for the future of the brand, my motto is: take the best of the past, add to it the best of today, and see where it leads!

3 - You presented the Monaco V4 at BaselWorld 2004, and you’re only now launching it, 5 years later, in 2009. Why did it take so long?
The Monaco V4 in 2004 was presented as a Concept Watch, which means that, as in the automotive industry, it was designed to outline the future development of TAG Heuer. In the world of watchmaking, the average time needed to develop a new movement from first draft to final product is 3 to 5 years, so with the V4 – which represents a genuine revolution in terms of mechanical watch movement — we are in the same timeframe. We did not want to compromise the quality and reliability of the product by bringing it into the market too quickly. The future customers of the Monaco V4 demands the best, and we must always go beyond their expectations.

4 - At a time when all other companies are investing in the mass production of their own movements, why adopt a different strategy by launching a movement such as V4, which will only be produced at low volumes? Will you use this new movement in other watches in the future?
We never intended to make a mass-produced movement. This is a very complicated watch — an innovative and prestigious movement that showcases our expertise in high-end watchmaking and engineering. The V4 movement is not intended to replace other movements we use in "commercial" watches. Our single driving goal has been to manufacture this unique series of 150 luxury pieces.

5 – Where are the components manufactured? The V4 belts, for example?
In addition to our new manufacturing unit in Cornol, which is dedicated to our new Calibre 1887 movement, TAG Heuer has a manufacturing and assembly facility there for its major complications, and for the manufacture of many V4 components. However, the workshop does not have the machinery and processes needed to manufacture belts or ball bearings. The belts are manufactured externally, as are other Calibre V4 components. The names and location of our sub-contractors are confidential, but what I will tell you is that the belts are not made by anyone in the watch industry!

6 - Is the movement assembled in your facilities?
Yes, the entire Calibre V4 is assembled and tested by us, i.e., T1 and T2. Our master watchmaker was awarded the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2004. The platinum cases are manufactured in our Cornol facility.

7 - Who will buy the Monaco V4?
The Monaco V4 will be produced in platinum in a limited edition of 150 pieces. It’s more a collector’s piece that a watch for keeping time — in fact, when you look at it, you sometimes even forget to pay attention to what the time is!

This world premiere will draw collectors and watch enthusiasts who enjoy strong and innovative designs as well as watches with major complications. TAG Heuer is turning towards more demanding customers, those accustomed to the quality of finish only found at the most prestigious levels of Swiss watchmaking. These customers are primarily attracted to TAG Heuer because of its breakthrough innovations in mechanical movement design and engineering. TAG Heuer already has many followers, as evidenced by the brand’s fan blogs and Facebook friends.


8 - Which distribution policy do you envisage for this limited series?
These 150 luxury platinum models are truly exceptional. Given the limited quantity, the Monaco V4 will only be made available at select points of sale in our global sales network.

Questions & responses of Guy Semon

TAG Heuer V.P. Sciences & Engineering

1 - What makes the Monaco V4 so unique? What are its features? What makes this watch different from other complication watches?
Like a car engine, the fundamental mechanical factors in a watch are: transmission, friction and power. It is from this premise that the team of engineers and watchmakers at TAG Heuer created new principles that genuinely break with conventional watchmaking. In the Calibre V4 movement, the gear and pinion part of a traditional mechanical movement’s transmission is replaced by three belts. In addition, two fitted belts carry out the barrel coupling, on a 13° incline. And finally, the spring barrels have a linear tungsten mass that oscillates on a plane between the two pairs of cylinders.

2 - The Monaco V4 involved a great effort in terms of research and development and has revolutionized the watchmaking industry. What are the impacts for TAG Heuer?
To create a movement like the Monaco V4, you have to entirely rethink mechanical watch architecture — above and beyond the technical process required to manufacture a very high complication that will meet TAG Heuer’s very stringent quality criteria. This process has helped make the Monaco V4 the first watch with major complications that can be worn in all sports, including extreme sports. The entire study, from prototype to experimentation, was performed by an R&D team dedicated to the project. This team is now the Movement Research department, and is already working on revolutionary new developments and innovations. TAG Heuer is currently the only manufacturer capable, at very short notice, of developing any complication and innovative architecture it wishes. To achieve this, TAG Heuer has developed its own calculation, modeling and simulation tools.

3 – You took charge of R&D at TAG Heuer in 2004. The development of the V4 was a real technical challenge, but what about the human challenge?
The design of the V4 has nothing to do with existing principles of watchmaking. We started with a blank slate and had to invent a completely new architecture, overcome the problem of 13° angles, discover a way of winding 4 barrels with a linear mass... We also had to develop manufacturing processes for belts, some with metal strands. Making a V4 required conceptual data models based on complex physics and mathematical models. The design and implementation of the V4 involved a variety of fields related to engineering and metallurgy in particular, as well as mechanics, digital and formal programming constraints...

4 - Are there significant differences between the Concept Watch and this year’s series launch?
There is a huge difference between the prototype and the commercial version, particularly in terms of the reliability and quality control standards required by TAG Heuer. How the Monaco V4 was designed in 2004 was not compatible with large-scale production. We had to rethink it entirely, and completely rebuild it. In a little over 2 years, the construction of the new V4 movement was finalized. We also presented several operating prototypes at Baselworld 2007.

Fundamentally, the construction of the new movement is different from the Concept Watch in that the wheels have been replaced by belts, and the energy produced by the linear oscillating mass is stored in 4 barrels in 2 by 2 series. However, the aesthetics is totally faithful to the Concept Watch.

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