The most striking feature of this new Montblanc timepiece is its “metamorphosis” concept which is driven by a highly complex mechanical movement with 746 components and protected by various patents that took over 4 years in development. It was at SIHH 2010 when Montblanc first introduced connoisseurs to the astounding concept of overlaid dials, which open majestically like a theatre curtain. The aim of this unique complication is to offer a spectacular change of design and function of the timepiece from classic time to chronograph and back using the same movement. A bold, creative and innovative way to combine the characteristics of traditional fine watchmaking with revolutionary principles of innovation.
Metamorphosis II is the first timepiece to perform such a capacity for transformation. To master this challenge, the Montblanc master watchmakers took the 156 years of expertise as a chronograph specialist of the Montblanc manufacture in Villeret- the former manufacture Minerva- and borrowed traditional methods from the art of automaton manufacture, an age-old artisanal craft long practised alongside fine watchmaking in the Swiss Jura mountains.
Crafted entirely by hand, Metamorphosis II represents the perfect symbiosis of tradition and innovation, and will rightfully claim its place among the grand complications in the world of fine watchmaking. A skilful alchemy between classical, timeless beauty and sporty elegance, the new aesthetic of the Metamorphosis II enables Montblanc to open up a new chapter in the history of horological design.
A Timepiece with Two Faces
The functioning principle of the Metamorphosis II is as simple to explain as it is difficult to create : In the classic position, the timepiece displays the classical face of time showing the hours, minutes and date. A slide on the left side of the case is used to transform this elegant, classic indication, by revealing a new face. Additionally, the control device initiates a highly sophisticated mechanical process that transforms the dial with the classical time indication into a chronograph and new function.
The Metamorphosis of Watchmaking
The concept of the Montblanc Metamorphosis II is inspired by the opening of a theatre curtain to reveal a stage. Its innovative principle forges a unique link between the movement components and the dial functions to create a new ensemble.
During the metamorphosis, which is controlled by the sliding bolt situated between “10 o’clock” and “8 o’clock” on the middle case, two wings fold in on themselves inside the lower part of the dial, gradually disappearing on each side. They unveil a chronograph counter disc for counting down the minutes, which rises gradually like a lifting ramp inside the movement until it “absorbs” the hand that indicates the date, thanks to a subtly defined opening. Similar transformation is performed in parallel in the upper part of the dial. Two wings also move apart on the left and right sides, causing the classic time display with Roman numerals to disappear. They reveal a new dial in a new design with Arabic numerals and index, ensuring optimal readability of the chronograph face.
This process is reversible, and the opposite movement is initiated when the control device is actuated again: the sliding wings at the top and bottom of the dial are re-deployed, concealing the chronograph counter, which is once more lowered out of sight inside the movement, and bringing the timepiece ‘s classic, elegant face back to the fore.
One of the most innovative, technical characteristics of the Metamorphosis II is its ability to permanently retain all of its functions irrespective of the chosen face. The chronograph and date functions remain active independently of the watch face. Hence, when the timepiece is in classic mode and the chronograph is actuated, the chronograph minute counter continues to run. When the chronograph face is revealed again, the elapsed time is indicated instantly. The same happens for the date: even if the chronograph mode has been active for several days, the date continues to run in the background, and is displayed again with complete accuracy when the watch returns to the classic mode. It only takes around five seconds to switch from one face to the other. During this time, numerous components of the timepiece – the wheels, cams, pinions – begin a perfectly choreographed mechanical dance, driven by a separate barrel and precisely controlled by a force regulator. A total of 82 moving components, all of them meticulously crafted by hand, are involved in this extraordinary watchmaking metamorphoses.
The Time for Classic Elegance
In its classic position, the Montblanc Metamorphosis II displays all the understated elements of elegance of a fine watchmaking timepiece in the most traditional sense. While the red gold case is perfectly round, the display itself is classical yet highly original. The time indication uses the regulator principle with separated hands and scales for the hours and minutes. The hours are indicated by a single hand which moves around a subdial with Roman numerals at “12 o’clock”. The minutes display is even more technically complex, with its large central hand tracing a 210 degree retrograde arc between “8 o’clock” and “4 o’clock”. Once it reaches the “60” graduation on the right of the dial, the hand instantly returns to the “0” position and traces its path afresh. Finally, a small hand very clearly indicates the date on an additional dial graduated from 1 to 31 at “6 o’clock”.
The hour, minute and date hands show the time on a particularly refined and sophisticated 18K solid gold dial, which features a variety of different artisanal finishes and decorations requiring a very unique know-how of traditional watchmaking craftsmanship. The inner part of each side of the dial is decorated with hand-crafted silvered “Grain d’orge” (barleycorn) guilloché. The lower section adorns a sapphire bridge while the outer part of the dial features an artisanal circular-brushed satin finish as well as the hour counter at “12 o’clock”. Finally, the minute track is decorated, with a hand-crafted raised brim and cabochon index in 18 K red gold.
This decorative work, carried out with the greatest respect for tradition by master craftsmen, illustrates the importance that Montblanc attributes to both the internal and external beauty of its timepieces. In this configuration, the refined elegance of the Metamorphosis II harks back to the golden age of watchmaking.
The Ultimate Chronograph
It takes just five seconds for the Metamorphosis II to undergo the transformation from classic time to a sporty, elegant chronograph face . Thus transfigured, a unique character emerges, poised for action and configured for the measurement of short intervals of time.
The emerging dial, which displays dynamic Arabic numerals, features a hand-crafted black-coloured “Clous de Paris” guilloché decoration at 12 o’clock for the indication of the hours, beautifully contrasting with the silvered spiral guilloché and circular-brushed satin finish of the centre part of the dial. These different artisanal finishes reinforce the timepiece’s readability, infusing it with a precious dynamism.
While the retrograde minute hand retains its original function, the central seconds hand changes its function to serve as the chronograph second hand. The chronograph minutes counter in black rises from inside the movement to the level of the dial and is actuated by pressing the pusher integrated in the crown. With its monopusher column wheel chronograph mechanism, horizontal clutch and large balance wheel with Phillips terminal curve, operating at a traditional frequency of 18,000 semi-oscillation per hour, Montblanc pays tribute to the legacy of the legendary Minerva chronographs, produced since 1858 in the Villeret manufacture. Once the brief time intervals have been measured, the slide can simply be slid across to return the Metamorphosis II to its original configuration featuring its classic face.
Over 156 Years of Watchmaking History
It is thanks to the expertise nurtured over 156 years in the Swiss watch manufactures in Le Locle and Villeret that Montblanc was able to bring its ambitious vision of the Metamorphosis II to reality. All of the watchmaking disciplines and traditional craftsmanship mastered to perfection in the Maison’s workshops have been used for the development of this extraordinary timepiece. Combining a strong respect for tradition and a quest for revolutionary innovation, the Metamorphosis II underlines Montblanc’s positioning at the very heart of fine Swiss watchmaking.
Incorporating a total of 746 components made from precious materials and decorated entirely by hand – 494 of which are dedicated exclusively to the metamorphosis function – this extraordinary new timepiece is the subject of numerous patents and ranks among the most complex of contemporary watches. In the spirit of all the timepieces of the (prestigious) Collection Montblanc Villeret 1858, the new Metamorphosis II remains faithful to its dedication to perfection in terms of traditional artisanal craftsmanship and innovative construction, aesthetic refinement and reliability.
This truly exceptional timepiece will be produced in a very limited edition of eighteen pieces, offering a unique interpretation of the metamorphosis of time.