SINGAPORE (Oct 29): Behind Montblanc’s Villeret collection is a legacy that began 160 years ago with the founding of a watchmaking factory in 1858 on the edge of the Jura Mountains. It was not long before the company expanded into a movement assembly and manufacturing empire now known as Minerva. As early as the 1880s, the company had already gained international recognition for its precise and innovative timekeeping breakthroughs. These included the first-ever pocket watch to be wound without a key; stopwatches that could measure a fifth of a second as early as 1911; and a high-frequency movement that could measure a hundredth of a second.
It was this innovative spirit that eventually put Minerva on the map as the specialist of professional watches and stopwatches in the early 1990s and led to developments such as the first manually wound monopusher chronograph, which further consolidated its reputation in the manufacture of pocket watches and chronographs. Such levels of mastery and watchmaking innovation continued to grow even after the Villeret manufacture was absorbed by Montblanc’s watchmaking division in 1997.
To commemorate the 160th anniversary of its Villeret watch manufacture, Montblanc has released a series of new collections with a focus on three fine watchmaking explorations, all of which link Minerva’s past and present through the groundbreaking combination of design, style and technical innovation.
Scaling greater heights: Montblanc 1858
Inspired by the legendary Minerva watches of the 1920s and 1930s designed for military use and mountain exploration, the Montblanc 1858 collection introduces new vintage-style timepieces with distinctive aesthetics, innovative in-house complications, a mix of materials and a choice of different case sizes.
The Automatic Chronograph (main image, centre), for example, combines a strong vintage aesthetic with a chronograph function. Its caseback is engraved with the emblematic Mont Blanc mountain, a compass and two crossed ice pick-axes as a nod to the spirit of mountain exploration. The 42mm case features both polished and satin finishing and comes with a domed sapphire crystal glass box to highlight the robustness of its design.
On the other hand, the Geosphere (main image, right) pays tribute to the world’s Seven Summit mountaineering challenge with a brand-new manufacture worldtime complication, which is powered by the calibre MB29.25 and developed by Montblanc engineers in Villeret. Two turning domed hemisphered globes of the worldtime complication each make a full rotation over 24 hours. Both are surrounded by a scale with the 24 time zones along with a day/night indication in contrasting colours, introducing a new instinctive way of appreciating the different time zones of the world.
At the pinnacle of vintage chronograph design is the Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100 (main image, left), featuring an original smoked green dial and matching green alligator strap with beige stitching, which hails from the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence. Reminiscent of the iconic Minerva chronographs, the limited-edition release features a bi-compax dial with a small counter at nine o’clock, a chronograph 30-minute counter at three o’clock and a tachymeter scale on the outer part of the dial.
Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon (left) and Star Legacy Automatic Date
Stellar classics re-envisioned: Montblanc Star Legacy
Exclusive models have been unveiled as a reinterpretation of Montblanc’s iconic Star product line, which comprises various expressions such as the 39mm and 42mm automatic watches, 42mm moonphase and full-calendar timepieces and 42mm automatic chronographs. Dials of the new Star timepieces are highlighted by prominent, slightly redesigned Arabic numerals, as well as the addition of the iconic exploding star guilloché pattern.
Continuing to push the boundaries of fine watchmaking is the Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon Limited Edition 58, featuring a new patented complication developed entirely inhouse by the master watchmakers at the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret over the course of three years. A massive balance wheel is raised 3.2mm higher than the dial in a “floating” position, thanks to a new tourbillon bridge with only one stainless steel arm that is curved and mirrors the domed hour circle at 12 o’clock. In all, the mechanical architecture of the Exo Tourbillon saves more energy than a conventional tourbillon because of its smaller, lighter cage, which is free of the weight of the balance wheel.
The purest timepiece of the entire collection is the Star Legacy Automatic Date, which features all of the iconic design elements of the classic Star line: leaf-shaped hour and minute hands, a filet sauté guilloché, a unique railway minute track and a second hand with the Montblanc emblem at its tip, among others. According to Montblanc, such an inclusion of all Star DNA details in a single watch is a difficult feat, considering how the timepiece must always be pure and elegant.
TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph.
Bringing ‘panda’ back: Montblanc TimeWalker
Among the two timepieces introduced to Montblanc’s TimeWalker collection this year is the TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph, which combines the historic tri-counter “panda” dial with a brand-new Montblanc Manufacture chronograph calibre MB25.10. The new model is equipped with a new fixed black bezel engraved with a tachymeter scale, made with high-tech black ceramic for optimum durability and performance. Its movement is equipped with a traditional column wheel, a horizontal coupling as well as a stop-second mechanism, allowing the precise setting of the time. In the spirit of racing, the watch’s caseback has been fitted with a smoked glass opening, much like the glass window covers of V12 engines.
This article appeared in Issue 854 (Oct 29) of The Edge Singapore.