HIGHER AND HIGHER
Globally recognised for its emblematic representation of Western Europe’s highest peak, Montblanc looks to the mountains once again for this year’s 1858 timepiece collection.
It is late autumn at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a valley situated in the scenic Teton county. Here, the giant snowcapped peaks of the Rocky Mountains loom dramatically over a serene valley floor. The quaint town of Jackson sits on an elevation of nearly 2,000m above sea level, surrounded by national parks – Yellowstone and Grand Teton being the most notable two.
Against this dramatic backdrop of rugged wilderness, Montblanc unveiled its 1858 timepiece collection to a select group of timepiece connoisseurs and watch industry insiders. The mountainous location makes perfect sense, since the 1858 collection harks back to the founding year of the legendary Minerva manufacture, birthed in the Swiss Jura mountain range. “In 2018, we celebrate 160 years of Minerva ( which Montblanc acquired in 2006),” Montblanc’s CEO Nicolas Baretzki said at the preview of the 1858 collection. “It’s special for us that in this milestone year, we are able to continue the spirit of classic watchmaking which has been the defining story of the 1858 collection.”
Through the successful integration of Minerva and Montblanc as a singular maison, Baretzki’s predecessors and his own team have developed what he calls “timepieces with character”. Baretzki, who hails from a watchand- jewellery family, learnt early on that product authenticity is earned when the craftsman moves beyond des ign and mechanics, going into the realms of
honest narratives, with great care for every detail. In the case of this year’s 1858 range, the collection’s narrative stems from the 1920s and 1930s, a period of military and aviator timepieces.
Dressed in full cowboy regalia down to his scarlet cravat, Davide Cerrato, the managing director of Montblanc International’s watch division, details how the idea for the current 1858 collection took its root from archival Minerva timepieces, from its military designs to its pocket watches made for the tastes of early 20th- century gentlemen. “These design codes of yesteryear and the present-day 1858 concepts reflect a watchmaking continuum between Minerva and Montblanc,” Cerrato observed. An example is in the subtle streamlining of the case sizes, from the 44mm cases executed by Minerva into the ‘easier ergonomics’ of today’s 40mm to 42mm timepieces.
“We worked to ensure cases are a bit more proportioned, changing the crowns on some models and bevelling the lugs,” Cerrato pointed out. On the 1858 collections, the combination of railway minute tracks, slimmed- out cathedral hands and a domed glass box results in a vintage-looking line reflective of the early 20th century. Adding to that vintage quality is the use of bronze cases and aged leather as well as caseback engravings of Mont Blanc and crossed ice pickaxes. The 1858 collection’s top- of-line Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition ( RM136,300, S$44,600) – limited to 100 pieces in 40mm stainless steel – is equipped with the Calibre MB M13.21, an evolutionary descendant of Minerva’s Calibre 13.20 conceived for its wristwatches a century ago. Calibre MB M13.21 is assembled using the same V-shaped chronograph bridge – designprotected by Minerva since 1912 – as its most distinguishing feature, a fact recognised by Montblanc etching the words ‘Minerva’ and ‘ Villeret’ on it. The Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence – a centre of leatherworking excellence – also contributes to the overall aesthetics with an alligator-skin strap in a shade that matches the dial’s smoked green.
The Pelletteria’s proficiency also rewards owners of the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
“We worked to ensure cases are a bit more proportioned, changing the crowns on some models and bevelling the lugs.”
(RM25,300, S$8,3000) with rugged calf leather bund straps and calfskin straps. Calling the Geosphere “a crazy piece”, Cerrato explained that the challenge to fully realise its worldtime complication lay in achieving the right kind of white to demarcate meridians on the two domed globes – each representing one half of the world’s hemispheres. These two halves of the globe complete a rotation once every 24 hours in opposing directions, with seven red dots marking the highest peaks on each continent. The latter – fondly known as the Seven Summits Challenge – is the holy grail for mountaineers, an exclusive club with a membership of less than 500 people. Fittingly, the names of these seven summits are engraved onto the caseback: Puncak Jaya, Vinson, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Denali, Everest and Mount Elbrus.
Meanwhile, the 1858’ s Automatic Chronograph – in a choice of 42mm bronze
( RM22,800, S$7,500) and stainless steel ( RM19,400, S$ 6,400) – comes with a comfortable and durable NATO strap, originating from an atelier in Eastern France which has been practising traditional weaving for over 150 years. Rounding up the 1858 collection are the 40mm automatic pieces (RM12,100, S$3,960) with bronzed bezels and fluted crowns, and the multipurpose 60mm titanium monopusher chronograph pocket watch (S$68,700). The latter, which is limited to 100 pieces, sports a dial of blue Dumortierite stone and a compass on its caseback. The natural mineral stone is named after French explorer and geologist Eugene Dumortier (1803 – 1873) who is famed for his paleontological study of the Alps.
The globetrotting adventurous appeal of the new timepieces demanded a real-life representation who was similarly endowed, which led Montblanc to select one of the world’s leading high-altitude climbers to represent its 1858 collection this year.
The 44-year- old Briton, Kenton Cool, has summited Everest 12 times and in 2013, became the first person to summit Nuptse (the world’s 19th highest peak at 7,861m), Everest and Lhotse (the world’s fourth highest peak at 8,516m) in a single push without returning to base camp. “I’ve always been fascinated by the golden age of mountain exploration which occurred between 1864 and 1965,” Cool said. “The 1920s British Mount Everest expeditions
Rounding up the 1858 collection are the 40mm automatic pieces with bronzed bezels and fluted crowns.
had guys pushing the boundaries of what was possible in their time; working without maps, pathways. By the time the ’50s rolled in, the 14 peaks of the world that are over 8,000 metres had already been summited. I’m constantly building on the wisdom which these pioneers have passed down, using the same basic principles and better technologies.”
Just as Montblanc subjects every piece of its 1858 collection to a 500-hour simulated wear test, Cool too, approaches each climbing expedition with a view to exhausting all the variables for failure. “Nature teaches you that on a mountain, margins for errors are so small – there is no helicopter rescue, the weather can turn in an instant and you have to invest a lot of hard work, such as waking up at 9.30 at night to melt water so you have enough resources to reach the summit.” In all this, Cool has understood that there is no quick way to success in his field. In 1996, he fell from a rock face and shattered both heel bones. He was told that he could never again walk without a stick, much less climb. “That was the impetus for me, and I decided that I didn’t want the doctor to take away my dream and ambition. Since then, I’ve continued to subscribe to a philosophy that I should generate the most authentic version of myself on a daily basis.” www.montblanc.com ≠