Just the fact that we can compile a “top ten” for Montblanc provides an indication of the breadth and depth of the brand’s work. From innovation in wearable technology to some exceptionally beautiful watches made using predominantly manual crafting by skilled artisans, Montblanc’s new watches for 2015 are perfectly tailored to the diversity of customers, from the younger generation for whom a fitness tracker is an important accessory, to those who appreciate the finest subtleties of watchmaking. Here is a brief review.
1. Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed e-Strap
Cynics would say that an Apple Watch designates the wearer as a nerd, and a gold Apple Watch as a rich nerd. Like several luxury watch brands, Montblanc were quick to see that a smartwatch is not really a part of the luxury milieu and so went about a way of offering this technology in an unobtrusive format. The e-Strap is a way of wearing an activity tracker, providing smart notifications and other functions operating in connection with a smartphone, in a small unit that slips onto the strap of a conventional watch. The e-Strap is initially available with models in the TimeWalker Urban Speed series, and it can also be purchased separately and used on any 20/22mm watch straps.
2. Montblanc Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery
This is the women’s version of the men’s Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar introduced in 2014, which offers the perpetual calendar complication – keeping track of everything from seconds to leap years – at an incredibly low price. The Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery is a lovely 36 mm watch with a balanced dial layout framed by 60 diamonds. The crown is set with a diamond in the Montblanc star-shaped cut. The calibre MB 29.15 movement has a 42-hour power reserve; if the watch is kept running, the calendar indications will need adjustment only in 2100. A watch of this type will spend some time in a drawer or a safe, and so a practical adjustment system is an important feature. This watch ticks that box as well, because calendar adjustments can be made using recessed pushers on the caseband. A watch that shows how women’s interest in watches includes mechanical complications – the movement is visible through the sapphire caseback.
3. Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time
The watches that Montblanc presented this year came into two principal categories: calendar watches, and GMT watches that indicate a second time zone. The latter is one of the most useful complications for frequent flyers, and in this watch, it is presented in a practical way. The home time is shown by a blue hour hand, with the same hour shown on the subdial at the top, which also has a day/night function. So, in the photo below, the local time is ten past ten, while the time back home is ten past eight, and you know that it’s a good time to call your partner because the top subdial shows that it’s just past eight in the morning and he or she is having breakfast. The smart thing about this watch is that adjustment is simple: to set the second time zone, you use the crown pulled out to the first position, and rotate it: the blue hand moves in one-hour increments, while the minute and seconds hands continue running. If you are not travelling, you can set the second time zone to the same hour as local time, so that the blue hand is exactly underneath the hour hand. The 41 mm steel case is just 9.9 mm thick, and this slimness, along with the steel case, silver dial, blue hands and black strap, makes it ideal as a dress watch. The automatic MB 29.19 calibre movement provides a power reserve of 42 hours.
4. Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph
At around about €38,000, this is at a different price level with respect to the models above, but even so, it’s very accessible when compared with most tourbillons. It is powered by the new MB R230 movement, designed and built at Montblanc’s Villeret manufacture, which has 157 years of tradition behind it (it was previously the brand Minerva before becoming part of Montblanc), and a massive technical heritage: for example, it is one of the few workshops capable of making the tiny balance spring that lies at the heart of every mechanical watch. In this piece, the monopusher chronograph function has been added to the ExoTourbillon, originally created in 2010. A tourbillon improves precision by compensating for the effects of gravity on the balance wheel, and the ExoTourbillon is a Montblanc speciality in which the cage that normally encloses the balance has been separated and placed underneath, reducing the weight of the cage and making the balance more visible. The tourbillon is given pride of place at the bottom of the dial. Just above, the two chronograph subdials have a very effective design, with semicircular scales and hands of different lengths so that they correspond to the respective scales. The date is shown on a circular scale, at the centre of which are the hour and minute hands, in a vertically offset position. Other features include the stop-second function for precision setting, and the single pusher on the left side of the case, which cycles through chronograph start, stop and reset functions. It is a superb piece, with brilliant design and superlative craftsmanship.
5. Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Vasco da Gama Limited Edition
This is the same watch as the Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph, with the addition of a dial in dark blue aventurine with the Montblanc star emblem at the top, and a sapphire caseback with an engraving of the São Gabriel, the ship that Vasco da Gama navigated to India in 1497. Vasco da Gama and his voyages of exploration are the overall theme of Montblanc’s watch collection this year. This is a 60-piece limited edition, in white gold case.
6. Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
This watch shows the time at all of the world’s time zones, by means of an ingenious display based on a series of superposed discs. The top disc shows the earth seen from the North Pole, and outside this, another disc shows the time zones labelled with the respective cities. The most external ring is a 24-hour indicator, which also functions as a day-night indicator. Pressing the pusher on the caseband rotates the cities ring, and you set your desired timezone by placing it over the red arrow at 6pm. The central discs also include a dark disc that colours half the world dark grey. A fascinating depiction of our planet and its relationship with time. The version with stainless steel case is at a very attractive price point: the red gold version costs understandably more.
7. Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Quantième Annuel Vasco da Gama
This watch keeps track of seconds, minutes, hours, day of the week, date and month, and it takes the differing length of the months into account. It does all this with a deceptive simplicity, with the calendar information shown on three subdials with blued hands, on a silver dial framed by a red gold case. The watch has to be adjusted once a year, with a special pin provided to operate the individual correctors for each function on the caseband. This watch is a limited edition of 238 watches (238 refers to the height, in metres above sea level, of the Cape Point Peak lighthouse on the Cape of Good Hope. Vasco da Gama sailed around the cape in 1497 during his epic voyage to India.
8. Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Quantième Complet Vasco da Gama
Another watch on the Vasco da Gama theme, this piece provides the full calendar, with date indicated at the edge of the dial by a hand with a forked red tip, and day and month shown in two windows above the centre pivot. It doesn’t take account of length of months, and so it has to be adjusted at the end of all months with less than 31 days. The watch is supplied with a stylus that can be used to adjust calendar indications and moon phase, pressing pushers on the caseband. The moonphase indicator includes a depiction of the Southern Cross constellation, used by Vasco da Gama during his 1497 voyage to India. The watch is 40 mm in diameter, slim at 9.7 mm, with the calibre MB 29.16 visible through the sapphire caseback, which is engraved with Vasco da Gama’s ship São Gabriel along with the navigator’s signature.
9. Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphéres Vasco da Gama
This is a limited edition of 18 pieces, with a beautiful tourbillon at the top of the dial in which the hairspring is cylindrical. This solves one of the problems of a conventional spring in which the force of gravity is greater on the exterior turns of the spring and causes a decrease in precision. The tourbillon is framed by a subdial reminiscent of a compass rose, a reference to Vasco da Gama’s explorations. The truly unusual feature of the watch is represented by the two half-globes in the lower half of the dial, depicting the northern and southern hemispheres. The hemispheres show the time at any place in the world, by means of the two rotating discs that also act as a day/night indicator. A second time zone is shown on the subdial at 6 o’clock.
10. Montblanc Metamorphosis II
This is a limited edition of 18, and it is a very unusual watch. The concept was created by two young watchmakers, Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny, who wanted to apply the Transformers concept to a watch. This version, slightly simplified with respect to the original Metamorphosis I, starts off with a classical dial with hours on a subdial with Roman numerals, a retrograde minute hand, a centre-sweep second hand, and the date on the subdial at 6 o’clock. When the slider on the left side of the caseband is moved down, the first dial layout progressively deconstructs and the watch becomes the sporty chronograph shown on the right in the photo below. In this configuration, the seconds hand indicates chronograph seconds, and the rotating dial records chronograph minutes. The chronograph is started, stopped and reset by the pusher in the crown. The transformation takes about 5 seconds and is based on overlaid dials that open like a theatre curtain. It is achieved using 746 components, all hand-made and assembled in the Villeret manufacture. It reveals the influence of Demetrio Cabiddu, Technical Director at Montblanc Villeret.
Below, watch a video that demonstrates the transformation of Montblanc's Metamorphosis II: