What defines a great chronograph? Historic significance? Technical sophistication? Beauty? I would argue the Monte Carlo is spectacular chronograph, though it doesn’t excel particularly in any of the above criteria (I find it more playful than beautiful, though certainly attractive). Many collectors love the 7149 (bakelite bezel), 7159 (steel bezel), and 7169 (rotating 12 hour) Monte Carlos for their relatively attainable values, vast diversity in iteration, and classic 70s style. I find any of the above attributes compelling, but in confluence the desirability is undeniable.
The 7149/0 and its above mentioned siblings are a descendants of the first-ever Tudor chronographs, the ‘Home Plate’ series, slightly more bold in accents. The reference garnered its moniker for its similarity to the roulette tables of Monaco, with orange, white, grey, and black/blue track details. I want to say that this is a Daytona for people with with taste, but that’s a bit extreme and I still lust for a 6240. Let’s just say this is a discreet Wilsdorf chronograph, for watch people alone to enjoy. Compared to the navy examples, this black dial and bezel lend a more austere and serious tone to what is a lovely lighthearted chronograph. The contrast is delicious.
With a 40mm steel oyster case and column-wheel Valjoux 234, the components are somewhere generic. However, this watch is more than the sum of its parts. Moreover, this 234 calibre was the first to feature a non-cam driven chronograph and a higher beat rate. Moreover, there is one detail which draws colossal enthusiasm from the detail-obsessed Rolex crowd: it has its own unique style of squared-off crown guards. Pair that with an oyster-case and its screw-down pushers to create something of a spectacular chrono-side silhouette.
This example’s strength is its dial. Clear of degradation, perfectly aged tritium, and all bright oranges still unfaded. The bakelite bezel, likewise, is uncracked and shows very mild signs of patina. Lovely. Its case has seen a light polish but nothing outrageous. Proportions of the lugs are still there. The Valjoux 234 is said to be running well and it comes on an original Rolex rivet stamped ’77 from a well-regarded retailer.
Find this 7149 here from L’ora del Gallo for 17900 USD.