The monopusher chronograph developed by the manufacture during the 1930s to meet the needs for precise timekeeping has served as a guide for developing the new Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter chronograph. Adorned with an 18-karat round, red gold case with curved horns, it is operated by a hand-wound mechanical calibre finished in accordance with the strictest criteria of haute horlogerie. With its luxurious finishes, this time-keeping instrument, manages to capture the spirit of technical advancement that marked the 1930s period by integrating key historical design features, like the bevelled crown with its coaxial push-piece and a black dial combining large luminescent Arabic numerals with a tachymetric scale.
The Minerva Heritage
The prestigious Minerva manufacture, founded in Villeret in the Saint-Imier valley in 1858, is now an integral part of the Montblanc watchmaking manufacture. It is recognised in the profession as one of the great specialists in developing chronographs and sports counters that can measure tiny fractions of time with chronometric precision. The 13.20 calibre – launched at the start of the 1920s – is one of the emblematic creations of Villeret, and has become one of the foremost mechanical chronograph movements specially developed for wristwatches. The mechanical counter, accurate to a hundredth of second, which was unveiled in 1936, is also of note. This passion for accurately measuring time, combined with perfect mastery of the various watchmaking frequencies and its ability to make its own balance wheels and balance springs, enabled Minerva to demonstrate its expertise in the field of timekeeping for demanding professionals. Montblanc is proud of this heritage, and is now continuing in this tradition by developing new high-quality calibres, made using the same traditional methods that Montblanc has always been keen to respect.
Montblanc's wish to demonstrate the value of 157 years of rich heritage from its abundant past to enrich its history with new pieces.
The Inspiration for the Elements and Their Design
Montblanc’s wish to demonstrate the value of 157 years of rich heritage and to be constantly looking for best watchmaking performance is also expressed through its ability to draw inspiration from its abundant past to enrich its history with new pieces.
In keeping with this principle, Montblanc chose, for its Montblanc 1858 collection, to reinterpret a chronograph launched by the Minerva manufacture in the 1930s. In the dimensions of the 18-karat red gold case of the contemporary model, one can discover this “vintage” profile. The winding crown that incorporates the chronograph push-piece is also reminiscent of that of the fluted facets on period timepieces. Its easy-to-grasp shape was ergonomic and simple to handle, so that pilots could wind them up in-flight while wearing gloves. To maintain this vintage feel that is truly in keeping with the time, the dial’s construction, design and colour are very similar to those used for the chronographs made for these pilots, men on the ground and adventurers of the time. The dials of the watches in the Montblanc 1858 collection still bear the historic logo of Montblanc that was used at that time, and on which not only the numerals but also the hands are luminescent, identical in every way to those of the model that served as inspiration. Only the rail track around the bicompax dial of the chronograph differs slightly, for this instrument used to measure short fragments of time has a tachymetric scale on the edge of the finely pad-printed railtrack. On the whole, the décor of the vintage character that is easy to read at night helps to underpin the spirit of adventure of the creations in the Montblanc 1858 collection.
Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter
The 44 mm-diameter case made from 18-karat red gold features a design with rounded forms inspired by those of the chronograph from 1930. Just like the original model for pilots, the horns are fine and curved. All these typical lines and curves of that time mean that the middle, a mere 13.15 mm deep, can follow the natural curves of the forearm and rest comfortably on any wrist. In the same spirit, the lug has been widened to 20 mm to ensure that the overall design respects the original proportions. To further highlight the historic character of this 100-pieces limited-edition timekeeper, the bevelled winding crown that includes the single push-piece of the chronograph has been kept, as has the fine round bezel, so that the dial has as large a visible surface as possible.
The great simplicity with which this piece has been designed reveals the spirit of adventure of the original model.
A Clear, Inspired Dial
The large, exceptionally clear bicompax dial has large Arabic numerals and “cathedral” hands coated with Super-LumiNova®*. With this non-radioactive material that remains luminescent for a long time means that the timepiece can be used both night and day. The entire display is laid out around two counters, the first of which continually displays the seconds (at 9 o’clock) with the second showing the minutes that have elapsed once the chronograph complication has been started. The dial background painted in deep black, on which the historic Montblanc emblem has been drawn, also shows a traced rail track, to which has been added a tachymetric scale for measuring speed in terms of a timed kilometre. The great simplicity with which this piece has been designed reveals the spirit of adventure of the original model, which for the new model has been further enhanced.
An Exceptional Manufacture Calibre
The calibre of the monopusher chronograph with an MB M16.29 hand-wound mechanism is the same size as that of a pocket-watch – visible through the transparent sapphire case back – and was inspired by the original chronograph movement, the 17.29 calibre, designed by Minerva in 1929. Consequently, it has components with many similarities. Just like the historic chronograph that served as the model for the creation of this contemporary, vintage-style product, it has a column-wheel activated by the single push-piece that is built into the winding crown. Through the transparent case back, it is also possible to see the iconic engraved “V” chronograph bridge, which has been protected by Minerva since 1912. All the components, including the cock of the large screw-regulated balance wheel for fine adjustment referred to as the “swan’s neck”, have a Geneva ribbing finish and edges with a large number of re-entrant angles hand-bevelled in the finest tradition of haute horlogerie. The horizontal coupling in this classic construction is combined with a lever that holds the chronograph’s hammers, and is finished off with a little arrow, the visual signature of Minerva. This resolutely classic mechanism, assembled, adjusted and finished by hand in the Villeret Manufacture while respecting the highest standards in the profession, comprises 252 components, has a depth of 6.30 mm and oscillates at 18,000 vibrations per hour, a traditional frequency reminiscent of heart-beats that allows an autonomy of 50 hours.
Montblanc 1858 Small Second Special Edition
The Montblanc 1858 collection launched at SIAR 2015 also features a stainless steel, 44 mm-diameter model. This contemporary interpretation, in a design that extrapolates the codes of the historical chronographs produced by Minerva, indicates the hours and minutes, with direct-drive small seconds at 6 o’clock. Just like the models of the past, this creation operated by a hand-wound calibre has a bevelled winding crown that is ideally proportioned for everyday use. In the same vein, its fine, curved horns, designed to follow the natural curvature of the wrist, make this creation, with a design that is both pure and yet strong, particularly pleasant to wear. This new vintage-style watch features a black alligator-skin strap with ecru saddle stitching, fastened at the wrist with a stainless steel pin buckle. It is a limited edition of 858 pieces, paying tribute to the birthday of Minerva in 1858.
A Vintage Dial
For the lovers of traditional watchmaking, this watch features a fine bezel to maximise the clarity of the dial, both at night and during the day. It does this at night thanks to large Arabic numerals and “cathedral” hands coated with beige-painted Super-LumiNova®*, a non-radioactive material that remains luminescent for a long time. To further underline the retro design with the aged appearance of the luminescent paint, the seconds are shown in a little subdial at 6 o’clock, as was customary for this kind of instrument in the 1930s.
An Accurate and Efficient Calibre
Following on from those designed for use by pilots during air missions, the MB 23.03 manually wound calibre is simple and effective. This movement, with its large diameter of 37.2 mm, recalls the beauty of the pocket-watch movements. This movement, with 17 jewels and 46 hours of power reserve once the barrel has been fully wound, has a balance that oscillates at 21,600 vibrations an hour. The visible finishes that can be seen through the transparent case back, such as the blued screws (visible through the transparent case back) are in keeping with the spirit of those developed in the 1930s.