World of Watches (Singapore) - - Features -


here is a logic to progress that is un­flinch­ing, al­most ruth­less in its ef­fi­ciency. Mak­ing much more of some­thing in shorter time, for much less, is an ad­van­tage that is very hard to pass up. For this rea­son, mass pro­duced com­mod­ity is stamp­ing out the niceties of ar­ti­san pro­duc­tion ev­ery­where. Yet, thanks to com­pa­nies like Mont­blanc, in­dus­trial prow­ess is some­times lent to­wards pre­serv­ing pre­cious pock­ets of ar­ti­san pro­duc­tion so that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions may yet won­der and ac­tu­ally ac­quire her­itage ob­jects of rare beauty.

Mont­blanc churns out time­pieces by the tens of thou­sands a year from its fa­cil­ity at Le Lo­cle. It also has a man­u­fac­ture at Villeret (formerly Min­erva SA be­fore it was ac­quired by the Richemont Group in 2006 and turned over to Mont­blanc) that pro­duces only around a cou­ple of hun­dred time­pieces a year – that’s about as many as pos­si­ble, do­ing things the old way, ev­ery­thing in­house, with clas­si­cal tools and ma­chines, largely by hand!

Min­erva was best known for its chrono­graphs, and the Cal­i­bre 16.29 that is used in the Mont­blanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is a gor­geous sam­ple of clas­si­cal watch­mak­ing. Based on a move­ment made by Min­erva in the 1930s, the 16.29 is huge, fill­ing up the 44mm watch case. There’s a col­umn wheel, lat­eral cou­pling in­stead of ver­ti­cal clutch favoured by its mod­ern brethren, and the huge bal­ance with weight screws os­cil­lates at a stately 2.5Hz for max­i­mum vis­ual drama. But clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture is not the 16.29’s sole merit: lush fin­ish­ing aside, the ser­pen­tine pro­file of its bridges and levers, in­clud­ing the sig­na­ture devil’s tail of the chronograph ham­mer, makes many other chronograph move­ments look un­gainly in com­par­i­son.

Hand-wound chronograph move­ment beat­ing at 2.5Hz, with 50-hour power re­serve Di­men­sions: 38.4mm di­am­e­ter Num­ber of parts: 252

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