The purpose of Montblanc when it was founded 111 years ago was to make exquisite writing instruments. The German brand name has since been borne by leather goods and jewellery and, more recently, by watches. At SIHH, the rising star of haute horlogerie presented nine new watches, all inspired by the heritage of its associate in watchmaking, Minerva.
Highlighting the reputation Minerva stopwatches have earned in the world of motor racing, Montblanc introduced five new TimeWalker watches. All bring to mind classic cars, with their streamlined contours, their knurled crowns like knurled radiator caps and their straps perforated like driving gloves.
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The technical specifications make the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 1000 Limited Edition 18 stand out. The watch can measure elapsed time to within one 1,000th of a second. It is a highly complex watch. The calibre has two parts. The purpose of one part is to indicate the time. It is visible through the semi-skeletonised dial at 8 o’clock. The purpose of the other part of the movement is the chronograph function of the timepiece. It is visible at 10 o’clock.
The red seconds hand circles the dial once a second. It completes the circuit in 100 tiny steps, but each is so fast that the seconds hand appears to the human eye to sweep smoothly round the watch face. The vast number of swift but tiny movements means the power reserve is only 45 minutes. That is unlikely to be a drawback, because energy can be added by winding the crown while the chronograph is running. The caseback is made of sapphire crystal, giving an unobstructed view of the intricacy of the in-house MB M66.26 movement. The movement is finely decorated and finished.
The inspiration for the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition 100 was the famous Minerva Rally Timer stopwatch. The new timepiece is housed in an attention-grabbing 50mm case. It is singularly versatile. You can turn it into a pocket watch by detaching the strap, which is easy to do. You can turn it into a table clock by deploying two legs hidden behind the case. And you can use it to augment the instrument panel of your car by mounting it on a special metal plate attached to the dashboard.
The TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition 100 is not as heavy as you might expect. The case is made of titanium, so it is only 60 per cent of the weight of an equivalent case made of stainless steel. The timepiece is driven by the hand-wound MB M16.29 calibre. The movement is made in-house. It is based on the Minerva calibre 17.29, which was used extensively in pocket watches and wristwatches in the 1930s.
For three new timepieces in the Montblanc 1858 Collection, the watchmaker uses bronze in a watch for the first time. The collection takes its name from the year Minerva was founded. In its new timepieces, Montblanc reinterprets the famous Minerva chronograph of the 1930s. They have a retro feel, owing to the use of a bronze alloy in two of them. The bronze alloy will gradually acquire a patina unique to each watch.
The new watches have other old-fashioned elements. The original Montblanc logo – a depiction of Mont Blanc in the Alps – appears in the middle of the dial. Inscriptions are in typefaces fashionable in the 1930s. The straps even have a worn look. Features of the new timepieces mimic those of the Minerva chronograph: the large cathedral hands, the cloisonné pattern, the luminous Arabic numerals, the distinctive crowns and the little railway track encircling the dial.
The case of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100 is made entirely of satin-look bronze alloy. The caseback is made of bronze-coloured titanium, in case the wearer is allergic to the bronze alloy. The MB M16.29 calibre is visible through the caseback. The power reserve is enough for 50 hours.
Another new timepiece worthy of mention is the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Rattrapante. The piece combines the Montblanc-patented ExoTourbillon, a mono-pusher split-second chronograph and other complications such as an indicator of day and night and an alternative time zone display. Even with all the functions, the watch is easy to read, largely because it is easy on the eye. The upper part of the dial has a vertically aligned satin look and the lower part has a grey, seeded pattern of decoration. The sub-dials have a sky blue theme, opaline decoration and sunray patterns.