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Montblanc banks on its iconic models
New Models

Montblanc banks on its iconic models

Friday, 30 January 2009
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

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4 min read

If 2008 was a vital exercise for Montblanc in establishing the brand’s credibility in the Fine Watch segment, the coming twelve months will be devoted to confirming its status with new and exceptional models. In five short years, the brand has already imposed its style with the Rieussec and Villeret ranges.

“Fine Watchmaking makes for a beautiful story at our brand,” says Hamdi Chatti, Managing Director for Watches and Jewellery at Montblanc, at the SIHH 2009. “At first we strove to develop products that would form an instinctive bridge with writing, a theme we quite naturally named “writing time.” We then had the good fortune to meet a collector who showed and later sold us an original Nicolas Rieussec piece. This was an epiphany for us. The year was 2003. From that point on, we worked relentlessly to create a timepiece that would pay tribute to the inventor of the chronograph. This was really where the development of our proprietary movement began, in perfect correlation with our leitmotiv of uniting writing and the measurement of time.”

Two ranges, two manufactures

This initial revelation would give rise to the concept for a monopusher chronograph, the reflection of a longstanding tradition in Fine Watchmaking, with two rotating discs connected by a “smiling” bridge. A relatively slow process but conform to the brand’s determination that it would make its entrance into Fine Watchmaking right on cue. This was also the moment when Richemont, Montblanc’s parent company, acquired Minerva Villeret. “A wonderful coincidence,” in Hamdi Chatti’s words. “Throughout its history, the Minerva manufacture, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, and was rapidly integrated into Montblanc, has specialised in monopusher chronographs. This left us even more convinced that we had made the right choice.”

There was, however, never any question of merging the two ranges. Each is developed separately from the other: the Nicolas Rieussec range in Le Locle and the Villeret 1858 collections in the Manufacture’s birthplace. “Villeret manufactures highly specific, innovative and exclusive products in limited editions,” continued Hamdi Chatti. “This explains the autonomy it enjoys and its need for relative independence.” The fact remains that barely twelve years after its first steps in watchmaking, Montblanc can pride itself on having opened a significant breach in the prestige watch segment, which is known for its reluctance to admit newcomers into its circle. “Thanks to the real efforts made to develop the Nicolas Rieussec range, we have been able to capture the interest of retailers who would never have considered Montblanc as worthy of their mix,” Hamdi Chatti observes. “In this sense, Villeret has been the cherry on the cake. The question now is, are these products an antidote to the general slowdown? Obviously everyone at Montblanc hopes so. That said, we are all thrilled to have established a foothold in Fine Watchmaking in so few years.”

A means of distinction

Montblanc has every intention of adding to this thrill in 2009, with the launch of the Montblanc Star Nicolas Rieussec Chronographe Monopoussoir Open Date (calibre MB R 110) and the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Grand Chronographe Régulateur (calibre MB M 16.30), which succeeds the Villeret Grand Tourbillon Heures Mystérieuses, presented last October for the 150th anniversary of the manufacture. “The patent awarded to Nicolas Rieussec in 1822 describes a chronograph with two rotating discs on which ink-filled styli plot the measured times,” the brand reminds us. “Montblanc has perfected and modernised this system with the Star Nicolas Rieussec Chronographe Monopoussoir which, in the case of the Open Date model, lays bare its soul so that the observer might have a unique view of the watch’s inner life.”

Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Grand Chronographe Régulateur © Montblanc
Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Grand Chronographe Régulateur © Montblanc

The Villeret Grand Chronographe Régulateur is no less exclusive, with an hour circle at 12 o’clock, a large central minute hand, and small seconds at 9 o’clock. It also provides a second time zone, a day/night indicator, and a combined power-reserve/winding display at 6 o’clock. The chronograph function takes the shape of a large central seconds hand and a minute counter at 3 o’clock. With this new timepiece, Montblanc pays tribute to chronometry in that regulators were found essentially in watchmakers’ workshops, where they were valued for their precise rate and accurate measurement of seconds. Hamdi Chatti concludes: “From now on, the Montblanc spirit also exists through timepieces that are a further distinction of our brand!”

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