The 2018 Montblanc 1858 watches hands-on
The story goes that in 2007, when the Richemont Group acquired Minerva, they gave the chance to each one of its watch-making brands to explain the reason why they should work with this historical company. It seems that Montblanc presented the most impressive project of them all and the two brands embarked on a strict collaboration path that eventually turned into an indissoluble bond. After almost 10 years, we can say that this collaboration has been a real success. Montblanc inherited 150 years of know-how and skills and tried to translate them into modern time. To highlight the importance of this collaboration, a whole collection has been created and devoted to the year 1858; Minerva’s foundation year.
The goal of this collection is to re-interpret the brand's chronographs from the 30s and, during the 2018 SIHH, 5 new models that are part of this collection, were launched, four of which are on this page today: a World-time timepiece, an automatic chronograph, a mono-pusher chronograph and a pocket watch. The new Montblanc 1858 collection expresses the current trend of diving into the world of nature and adventure and it takes inspiration from outdoor activities by presenting complications that have been specifically developed for and are geared towards those people, whose life revolves around the concept of exploration. As usual, watches are not simple items that one wears around their wrist, but they are rather the mirror of the person, who wears them and are thus designed to fulfill the aspiration of a specific type of customer.
Before presenting the whole collection, I want to bring your attention to two key points that are essential to fully understand and appreciate this collection. The first key point is the use of bronze. If you take a quick look at what is currently on offer on the market, you will quickly realize that several brands feature a bronze watch in their catalog, but none of these timepieces is actually able to transmit the same sensation that the Montblanc 1858 collection emanates; only Tudor shares some commonalities on paper with this collection and this is not strange at all. Montblanc’s new Managing Director previously worked for Tudor and it looks like he brought with him the experience he has made so far with working this alloy.
The artificial aging process performed on the watch cases creates a particular oxide layer that prevents the formation of that green film that is usually visible on aged bronze material and, at the same time, it preserves the look and the feeling that this watch is capable of transmitting. The second key point is the quality that lies behind the calf leather strap coupled with the bronze versions of the watch. Montblanc owns a center of excellence in Florence that is called 'Montblanc Pelletteria' and that creates leather straps with the help of its expert Italian artisans, who are able to give the leather strap the same aging feeling transmitted by the case and also to make it last for a long time. It’s like dealing with a unique watch that is somehow 'alive' and with small 'imperfections' that make us appreciate this timepiece even more.
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter takes inspiration from Minerva’s historic chronographs and this is clearly visible on the bicompax totalizers located at 3 o'clock and at 6 o’clock and by its “vintage” sensation similar to that of the automatic version. This timepiece is bigger that the automatic version (it measures 42mm by 14,55mm) and it is equipped with an enhanced caliber (MB 25.11, 48 hours of power reserve, 4 Hz).
Note the presence of the big central seconds hand and the engraved decoration on the case-back that represents the Mont Blanc and two crossed ice axes inside a compass. A clear reference to the exploration topic discussed above. Selling price; € 4,690.
The Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100
The Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100 is a new interpretation of the vintage-style chronograph theme previously tackled by Montblanc. It is equipped with an impressive caliber (13.21 that derives from the 16.29) with an architecture taken from a Minerva pocket watch from 1929.
The 13.21 caliber uses a separate single-button system located above the crown at 2 o’clock rather than a mono-pusher crown button (unlike the 16.29 caliber and the other Chronograph Tachymeter that have been released until now). Personally, I can't remember of any Montblanc timepiece that has ever devised this solution before, maybe it is a modernization or a rejuvenation of this complication that makes it more accessible and easier to use.
The movement is hand-wound, it uses a column wheel for the chrono mechanism and all its main components are made of gold, silver or are rhodium plated. The guaranteed power reserve equals 55 hours and the green dial and the alligator straps create interesting shades that clearly remind us of the sounds in a forest. Due to the preciousness and the quality of both the movement and its finishes, the Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100 timepiece comes as a limited edition of 100 pieces only and is available at a retail price of €28,000.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime
In my opinion, the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime is the most interesting watch of the collection and is available in stainless steel or bronze with a bronze/black ceramic bezel (1,858 pieces only). It is dedicated to the “Seven summits challenge”; the challenge that pushes a mountaineer to reach the peaks of the highest mountain of every continent and that only 300 men have achieved so far (Mont Blanc or Mount Elbrus in Europe, the Puncak Jaya or Mount Kosciuszko in Oceania/Australia, Mount Everest in Asia, the Kilimanjaro in Africa, the Aconcagua and the Denalit in America and Mount Vinson in Antartica). This aspiration to success and the overcoming of obstacles naturally matches the world of watch-making that is, like mountaineering, a very strong mental activity.
The dial of the new Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime is dominated by two globes showing the northern and the southern hemispheres that rotate in a counter-clockwise and in clockwise direction, respectively, and that are surrounded by a contrasting day and night 24-hour-indicator. The seven summits are marked by a red dot on the globes and the main meridian is coated with Super-Luminova®. This watch comes either with a black NATO strap, an aged cognac-coloured calf leather strap and a new brown and aged calf leather Bund strap that reminds us of those Minerva vintage timepieces that used to be equipped with this kind of straps. The caliber is the MB 29.25 with 42 hours of power reserve and running at 4Hz. Selling price: €5,890.
The Montblanc 1858 Exploration Pocket Watch Limited Edition 100
Launching a pocket watch in 2018 seems a bit strange, but Montblanc’s philosophy is about offering high quality watch-making in any form and shape to whomever wants it. Focusing on this principle and the adventure and exploration topic, Montblanc presented the Montblanc 1858 Exploration Pocket Watch Limited Edition 100 a pocket watch measuring 60mm by 20,8mm that is also a “multi-purpose exploration instrument” and only comes in 100 pieces. The case is made of titanium and the main dial is made of blue Dumortierite stone that gives this timepiece a sense of uniqueness, amazing shades of blue and a more metallic look than what a more traditional lapis lazuli dial would have.
The back of this watch features the hunter case that shows the movement and contains a compass to highlight the functions of this timepiece. The 24-hour-display, the pulsometer scale and the mono-pusher chronograph make this watch apt for every possible need. The caliber is the hand-wound M16.24 with a mono-pusher column wheel chronograph, the tiempiece sports gold, silver or rhodium plated components, it runs at a frequency of 2,5Hz and it guarantees up to 50 hours of power reserve. The possible magnetization that could be created by the compass is avoided, since the movement is protected by a Faraday cage located inside the case. It is a well-engineered and well-designed timepiece, a true example of what the watch-making industry is able to create when the right ideas are there. Selling price: € 48,000.
The Montblanc 1858 collection is the perfect bond between past and present, where the past is represented by the movements inherited by Minerva and the present is the innovative target these watches have been designed for. Where-else could you find mechanical watches inspired by mountaineering and history? Nowhere! Moreover, the retail prices are absolutely interesting too, since they are around €5K; really competitive prices for good quality. The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime is the most successful model of the collection, its rotating bicompax hemisphere reminds us of high-range timepieces, but this is actually an entry level watch for the brand that will gives you the perception of owning something extremely precious, whose added value is generally reserved for iconic watches. All in all, well done, Montblanc!
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®