Watcmaker celebrates what would have been the Minerva’s160th anniversary with some handsome complications.
Introduced in 2015, Montblanc’s 1858 collection has been rightly cooed over by journalists ever since. At its core is a design that’s as vintage-inspired as any on the market, executed better than most (lack of date window; old-school logo) with enough personality running through the range for it to stand out – think the Dual Time automatic, for instance.
The flagship is the monopusher chronograph, which has the phenomenally lovely hand-wound MB 16.29 calibre inside. It’s a direct link to Minerva’s heritage, and knowing a good thing when they see it, Montblanc has run out versions in black, blue, salmon pink, faded bronze, and even green (for Only Watch 2017).
But, all that goodness comes at a price. Each piece is limited to 100 pieces and they cost in the region of £17,000. So the 1858 collection feels like a chronograph collection, but for the majority of buyers, it isn’t. Now, that all changes as Montblanc brings out a mid-range chrono to compete at that all-important mid-market level.
It’s called the 1858 Automatic Chronograph, and it’s available in steel or bronze. It’s a two-register chronograph with the counters at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, and notwithstanding beauty’s place in the eye of the beholder, we would happily say it is a very good looking watch. Actual prices have yet to be released but we understand from Montblanc that it will cost around £4,000.
The main question, especially in light of the focus on Minerva, is: what’s under the dial? Sadly, not a fantastic in-house chronograph movement derived from Minerva’s iconic calibres. But that’s no real surprise – that kind of watchmaking does not come at this price point. What we have is a new calibre to Montblanc, named MB 25.11.
We haven’t had chapter and verse from Montblanc on its origins but three things point to it being a Sellita-based chrono. Firstly, the price. Secondly, the fact that Montblanc has just launched an in-house chronograph movement in the TimeWalker – it’s unlikely they’d put out another, different, in-house chrono at a similar price point. Thirdly, the brand is in no hurry to display the movement: the watch comes with a closed caseback engraved to highlight the “Spirit of Mountain Exploration”.
Here are the other basic facts on the 1858 Automatic Chronograph: it measures 42mm across, has a 48 hour power reserve and is water resistant to 100m. It comes in steel with a black dial on a fabric strap or leather strap, and in bronze with a champagne sunburst dial on a brown leather strap.
A New Worldtimer
Alongside the Automatic Chronograph in the 1858 collection is a new mid-range complication, the 1858 Geosphere. Limited to 1,858 pieces, this watch brings Montblanc’s established Geospheres concept out of the Villeret collection to a more approachable price point.
With two domed displays at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock that show the northern and southern hemispheres centred about the poles with a 24-hour ring around each, it just about qualifies as a worldtimer, although lacks the more legible peripheral city ring that you would normally associate with the complication. It’s perhaps better used as a more comprehensive at-a-glance day or night function for anywhere in the world. For greater precision, you’ve got a second timezone display at 9 o’clock (which many people will initially assume is a small seconds dial).
It’s powered by an automatic calibre, MB 29.25, has a 42 hour power reserve, measures 42mm across and is also water resistant to 100m. It comes in stainless steel or bronze, and is offered on a variety of fabric, leather or “Bund” straps – the latter chosen as another link to vintage Minerva pieces which were apparently “ideal for military use and mountain exploration”, although it’s not clear whether there is an association to any specific forces or expeditions.
Pricing has yet to be announced but we expect the Geosphere 1858 to cost around £5,000.
This article was first published on Salon QP
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