My Most Regrettable Watch Purchase Was a Tag Heuer Monaco

But it was good enough for Steve McQueen.

One would think that, me being me—someone who sees literally thousands of timepieces per year—I would be impervious to bad buys. Not so, and in fact my worst purchase came not with some trendy oversize modern watch I bought while high on French champagne and jet lag. No, the watch I most regret buying was a 1970s Tag Heuer Monaco, a true classic, but a watch that ruined a legend for me. Let me explain.

The Monaco is easily one of the most appreciated and revered vintage chronographs in the world. It’s famous for its square-ish case, its early self-winding chronograph movement, and, of course, the fact that Steve McQueen wore one in Le Mans.

I had admired the Monaco for years and had always counted it as one of those “someday” watches that I’d buy after God had smiled upon me long enough for me to afford one. Then it happened—browsing online, I found an original Monaco with a gray dial (my preference over the more often seen blue) and the original box and paperwork!

I purchased the watch and before long had the legendary Monaco on my wrist. The thing is . . . I kinda hated it. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word—it just wasn’t what I was expecting. It was big and thick and wouldn’t fit under my shirt cuff when I wore a button-down.

Wearability and design are everything for me, and while the Monaco is one of the most interesting designs in the watch world—the famous Apple designer and Nest cofounder Tony Fadell owns one, for example— it was simply too large on my wrist. Granted, I have small wrists (and wear small watches). I began to appreciate the Monaco less as a watch and more as a design object, with subtle nuances that you pick up on only after owning it: the rugged rectangular hour markers, the thick lume strips, the pointed hands. After a month of living with the Monaco, it had migrated from my wrist to sit propped up against my computer monitor like the world’s most badass desk clock.

Then, one day, a friend stopped by my office and saw my dream watch, just sitting there. I told him that it simply didn’t work on my wrist. He thought I was crazy and offered to buy it from me right away. I accepted, and now, three years later, he’s still wearing that Monaco. He says it’s the best watch he’s ever owned, proving once again just how personal watch buying is. My most regrettable watch purchase was, for him, a perfect fit.

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