Often, when one brand buys another, the brand that has been absorbed gradually disappears from sight, such as the case of Bulgari and its purchase of Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth in 2000. Today, the two smaller brands have been entirely integrated into Bulgari, and there is no mention of the independent designers on the dial. You just see something of their DNA in the watch design. Montblanc has done something different. Richemont Group purchased Minerva in 2006 and assigned it to Montblanc the year after. Montblanc has maintained the unit at Villeret, with all its antique machinery and its heritage of making hand-crafted movements, and what was Minerva continues to craft some super-expensive limited-edition watches. In this year’s collection dedicated to the automotive sports heritage, Montblanc has used certain features of Minerva to give extra character to its entry-level pieces with third-party movements. In the early 20th century, Minerva was one of the top three brands for stopwatches used for sports and one of the first brands to build chronographs that could record times to an accuracy first of one-fifth of a second (1911), then later tenths of second, and by 1936, hundredths of a second.
A hybrid sports watch
Montblanc’s approach is “sharing the passion for fine watchmaking,” and this means using elements from Minerva even in watches in the 2,000-5,000 Swiss francs bracket (this watch starts at €3,990). In the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Automatic, the chronograph seconds hand has a red arrow tip, a reference to a classic Minerva motif, the fractional seconds scale is complete and wholly legible in all positions, and the watch has a rotational bezel to add extra functions (for example, countdowns, or a second time zone). The watch is water-resistant to 100 metres and its characteristics are comprehensively assessed by Montblanc in their 500 hour test. In short, it is part of the vast trend towards sports watches, hybrid pieces that provide a water resistance higher than the usual 3 bar/30 metres, and other tool watch elements such as, in this case, the unidirectional rotating bezel.
Large size, powerful design
All the watches in the new TimeWalker collection have strong references to motor sports. They are all large and masculine at 43 mm diameter, thick at 15.2 mm, with lugs that have a shallow recess on the side and straps with racing-glove perforations. Black knurled surfaces appear on the side of the rotating bezel, the crown, and the little cuffs at the base of the chronograph pushers. The dial is visually powerful with its contrast between the satinated steel case, the dial with its radial sunburst, in black or silvered options, and the glossy bezel in black ceramic. The two chronograph subdials are grouped vertically and rendered totally separate from the smaller subdial for continuous seconds with its guilloché Montblanc star. The date is nicely incorporated and seems wholly part of the overall design. The numerals are applied, in brushed steel. Night-time visibility is enhanced by SuperLuminova on hands, the hour batons, and small markers on the minute scale.
New folding clasp with comfort adjustment
There are three strap options, leather, rubber, and a metal bracelet. All three are fitted with a new triple-folding clasp that incorporates a length-adjustment feature that helps achieve the perfect fit and enables changes to be made quickly during the day. The photo below shows the version with silver-finish dial.
The caseback with a smoked crystal display window reveals a Montblanc MB 25.07 movement, which is a Sellita SW500 self-winding movement. It runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a 42-hour power reserve. It is branded by means of the oscillating weight with its vertical Côtes de Genève. This movement is based on the ETA Valjoux 7750, and it was introduced in 2010.
Price and availability
The Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Automatic is reference 116096, and it will be available on the market from 1 June 2017. Reference 116096 has a rubber strap and costs €3,990, £3,420, $3,985. Reference 116098 has a leather strap, at the same prices as the rubber version. Reference 116097 has a 3-link steel bracelet and costs €4,290, £3,680, $4,290. Further information from the Montblanc website.