By the 1971 release of Le Mans Steve Mcqueen was already considered the “King of Cool”. His on-screen anti-hero persona, with a penchant for bravery and high-speed motorized stunts, was a cavalier maverick that had loads of larger-than-life swagger. It’s no surprise then that his style was something folks wanted to emulate. McQueen got to drive the coolest cars, wear the latest clothes, and wear top-of-the-line wristwatches. In Le Mans McQueen sports probably his most iconic timepiece—the Heuer Monaco Chronograph. Heuer’s piece looks great on McQueen’s wrist as he navigates the stresses of his character’s psychology, while navigating one of the most difficult races in the world. The 24-hour Le Mans race is already a grueling experience for any driver involved. It’s a true endurance test, with a win boiling down to a series of split second decisions. With every second counting—it would make sense to have a Heuer Watch like McQueen’s. Heuer’s Swiss Mechanical designs were some of the most accurate watches of the time. What sets the Monaco Chronograph apart from other Heuers/watches from the time, though, is that it was the first of its kind. Indeed, the Heuer Monaco Chronograph was the first automatic chronograph watch available on the market. So once again McQueen was sporting the pinnacle of engineering, while speeding across the screen with iconic flair.
The First Automatic Chronograph
Before TAG had a stake in Heuer craftsmanship, Heuer was already waving checkered flags in terms of stellar watch design. With every gear shift winding this automatic piece in Le Mans McQueen’s silver screen partner is just as stylish and iconic as he is. Aside from its capability to deliver a chronograph without winding the crown, it serves up clean 70s-era racing pomp. Heuer opted for a square case design and matched the sub-dials to boot. The watch also features red hands that pop on top of its otherwise cobalt dial. It has asymmetrical rectangular markers that frame the interior seconds’ chronograph tick marks. Just the look of this watch alone would make it a stand out piece, but its film relationship with Steve McQueen has solidified it as a wristwatch classic.
Retro Racing Continues
This silver screen first-of-its-kind wristwatch is actually still available for purchase from Tag Heuer (as a reissue). Its unique coloration, case design, and retro allure make it a great piece to add to any collection—whether one is in to horology, movies, or both. They can still run a shiny penny, coming in at around 4.5 grand. However, can anyone put a price on cool?
With a new 24-Hour Le Mans film coming up in main-stream cinema (Ford v Ferrari 2019), taking place in 1966, it’ll be exciting to see what easter eggs wait for the horologically minded. Racing and timekeeping have an intertwined history—based on precision engineering and breakneck achievements in sport. So it’s safe to say, considering the all-star casting and high budget of the film, that it will be a great look back into racing and watch history. However, Christian Bale and Matt Damon can only hope to achieve 1/100th of McQueens original presence.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.