Exciting watches underscored by a sports aesthetic, in which Swiss technical content is accompanied by what could be described as an Italian design flair. Montblanc acquired the historic Minerva brand in 2007, and so it now has privileged access to Minerva’s vast heritage of sports chronometry. In our conversation with Jens Henning Koch, Executive Vice President at Montblanc, we touched on some of the most attractive features of the new models.
LUXOS: The new chronograph collection demonstrates the perfect integration between your two units, the sports style of TimeWalker watches made in Le Locle, and the high watchmaking at what used to be the Minerva manufacture in Villeret. You’ve brought the two together.
Jens Henning Koch: We wanted to make this a collection of real, professional sports watches. At the beginning of the last century, Montblanc was one of the top three brands for stopwatches. They developed the capability of 100th-second chronometry, and were involved in Olympics timekeeping. We did some research and found a rally chronograph, a stopwatch designed to be mounted on a dashboard for motor racing. We thought about how to translate it into a new collection, and its black bezel became the design signature for the entire range, comprising the chronograph, chronograph UTC, and automatic. The TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter is a piece with all the passion of motor racing, and when you have this 50mm piece on your wrist, it’s very special. It is pure fun, because you can turn the watch to the angle you want, you can put it on the desk or use it as a stopwatch.
Related article: A pilot’s watch by Montblanc
LUXOS: Would you say that the Rally Timer Counter reflects today’s demand for interactive pieces?
JHK: There is another element involved. Everyone looks for a watch that expresses them as best as possible, and our collection offers a wide range, such as the new bronze pieces in the 1858 collection with their vintage flavour. The 1858 Tachymeter Chronograph has the beautiful 16.29 calibre, with some gold-plated bridges, and in the dual time and automatic watches, there is a bronze crown. The vintage feel is enhanced by the calf strap with contrasting stitching.
Related article: 110 years of Montblanc
LUXOS: The really interesting thing is that for some of these pieces, you are still using the old machines at Villeret to make the movements.
JHK: That is exactly how we want to protect our heritage. Our approach is “sharing the passion for fine watchmaking.” What we mean is that we want to transfer elements of fine watchmaking to where they hadn’t been before. Introducing this sort of detail, design language and technical solutions into the 2,000-5,000 Swiss franc segment is rare in the contemporary scene.
Related article: Classic watchmaking at Montblanc Villeret
LUXOS: Often, when a brand purchases another company, the name that has been acquired is soon eliminated to avoid any confusion. Montblanc has unusually chosen to give Minerva a lot of visibility, particularly in this collection.
JHK: This has been the strategy for three years. The 1858 collection was derived from Minerva chronographs. Then you have the legendary Minerva Pythagore from 1946 on, and this provided the basis for the new Chronométrie collection that we launched two years ago. We call our new sport watches a rebirth, because the Minerva manufacture has been fully integrated. We are protecting this watchmaking heritage, which is super-rare.
LUXOS: All the chronograph watches in the new collection are genuinely professional, because the fractional seconds scales are always complete, and the rotating bezel adds extra timing possibilities.
JHK: We found it interesting to transfer the chronograph design code to the automatic as well, so, for example, instead of the hour numerals, there are the minutes. You immediately feel that it is a special piece. They are all water-resistant to 100 metres, they all undergo the 500-hour text, they have a leather strap from our own pelletteria in Florence, or a rubber strap, or a metal bracelet of new design.
LUXOS: 2015 and 2016 were difficult years for many brands. How did Montblanc perform?
JHK: It was challenging, and the fundamental approach was to correctly interpret the consumer’s need. We don’t publish figures, but in the reports, Montblanc is described as a very successful maison. So all our strategy paid off. The Maison has developed a good momentum, in watches, writing instruments and leather goods.
The new TimeWalker collection ranges from the TimeWalker Automatic Date, starting at €2,990, and moving on to the TimeWalker Chronograph competitively-priced at €3,990. The TimwWalker Rally Timer retails at €37,000, while the TimeWalker Chronograph 1000, a watch with the capability of recording times to an accuracy of 1,000th of a second, costs €175,000. The watches will be available in Montblanc boutiques from June 2017. More information from the Montblanc website.