Contrary to popular belief, TAG Heuer didn’t invent the square-cased chronograph when it introduced the Monaco in 1969. The model might’ve been the first water-resistant, automatic version ever made—a big deal at the time and a big deal today—but it’s only one in a long line of square-cased watches that date back to the early 1900s—each unique in their own right. While everyone from Rolex and Cartier to Timex and Hamilton has introduced square-cased chronographs over the years, the Monaco—which was re-launched this week in a retro “Dark Lord” special edition—is one of the few still in production in 2022. But it’s not the be-all and end-all of the genre. And for anyone who doesn’t have approximately $7k in the bank, the Momentum Square 2—made by a small Canadian brand that specializes in classic, affordable sports watches—carries all of the same high-octane styling at a fraction of the price.
In the world of motorsports, the Monaco Grand Prix is in a class of its own. Winding through the infamously narrow streets of the tiny Mediterranean tax haven, it’s a race that’s legendary as much for what happens on the track as what happens in its orbit. (Celebrities partying alongside European royalty, enough champagne to fill Lake Como: it’s Coachella-meets-the-Superbowl for the global glitterati.) As the race’s most famous namesake, TAG Heuer’s watch shares a similar pedigree: a timepiece with more than half a century of racing heritage behind it that’s as famous for its cultural clout as its trackside rep. If you haven’t seen it worn in Le Mans, the ’70s Steve McQueen flick, you probably clocked it in Breaking Bad, or more recently on the wrists of Max Verstappen and Jacob Elordi at last weekend’s F1 race.
The Momentum Square 2 is inspired by the Monaco and other “rally” style watches of the ’60s, and what it lacks in creative nomenclature it makes up for in spot-on looks and premium details. Comparing a $295 quartz watch to a Swiss-made luxury timepiece is a little like comparing grocery store apples to those fancy ones they sell in Japanese department stores, but it holds up remarkably well under scrutiny. Its case is made from high-quality 316L stainless steel, alternately brushed and polished for maximum visual impact, and rated water-resistant to a very respectable 100 meters. Beneath its sapphire crystal are a pair of chronograph subdials and a date window, as well as a staggered seconds track (which makes it easier to read at a glance) and a pop of orange on the tip of the seconds hand. Inside is a Japanese Miyota quartz movement, a simple, accurate, and reliable workhorse used by countless big-name brands. With a choice of three dials and four bracelets (perforated leather if you’re feeling classic, Milanese mesh for a more contemporary vibe) this hidden gem is like scoring VIP box seats to the Grand Prix for the price of a couple of nosebleeds.