The incorporation of Minerva, a watchmaking company founded in Villeret in 1858, into Montblanc has added a lot of depth to the brand’s range of products. At Villeret, it’s all about traditional watchmaking, using traditional machine tools. The watches emerging from Villeret are priced much higher than those made at Montblanc’s other manufacturing unit in Le Locle. With the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition, Montblanc continues its exploration of Minerva’s heritage of tool watches.
Like the other two new pieces in the 1858 collection (Montblanc 1858 Automatic and Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time), the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is made with a 44mm case, 15.15 mm thick, in satinated bronze, a material that develops a unique patina over time. The bezel is in polished bronze, and the caseback is in bronze-coloured titanium. If it were in bronze, it would stain the skin and perhaps cause allergy problems. Water resistance is 30 metres.
The watch reflects the style of the original 1930s Minerva chronograph, with sunray-finish champagne dial, Arabic numerals, and large cathedral hands with beige SuperLuminova. The two subdials, for continuous seconds on the left and chronograph minutes on the right, are widely spaced, so that there is a contrast between the busy external section of the dial, and the wide open spaces towards the centre. The slender chronograph seconds hand has a red tip that is read off the seconds scale, with its fifth-second divisions, and the tachymeter scale, which is clearly subdivided with markings that help get an accurate reading of speed over a 1,000 unit distance. The crown is distinctive, with its deep fluting and onion shape, and the monopusher at the centre. With successive presses, this pusher takes the chronograph through its cycle, start, stop, reset. The strap is in cognac alligator, made by Montblanc’s own leatherworking unit in Florence. It has a satinated bronze-plated buckle. The overall effect has a touch of hygge.
The view through the caseback is glorious and classic Villeret. The Minerva MB M16.29 movement is based on a 1930s Minerva movement, the 17.29, with similar component structure and layout, but with different finishes (inside angle bevels, Côtes de Genève stripes, circular graining) and differentiated colours for the components. Some of them have a red gold colour that provide an interesting contrast with other components in steel, maillechort (German silver) and brass. Probably on the 1930s watch, the movement was hidden to view. Today, the sapphire caseback calls for a very high degree of finish throughout.
The movement has a large balance replete with screwed weights, and it runs at 18,000 vibrations per hour, 2.5 Hertz. The mainspring is hand-wound and provides a 50-hour power reserve. The chronograph functionality is visible through the caseback, with the crown wheel at the top, and the curving control levers, one of which terminates in an arrow, a classic Minerva hallmark. Another distinctive feature is the Y-shaped bridge to the right of the balance, bearing the words Minerva Villeret. The chronograph has a horizontal clutch.
Price and availability
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition in bronze costs €27,500, available in Montblanc boutiques from April 2017. It is a 100-piece limited edition. The watch can be compared to monopusher chronographs by Longines, which also have a very traditional design. Visit the Montblanc website for further info.