TREKKING PEAK

At the heart of the ex­panded Mont­blanc 1858 col­lec­tion is an en­try-level chrono­graph with util­i­tar­ian ap­peal and a dash of old-school charm for good mea­sure.

WatchTime - - Table Of Contents - By Lo­gan R. Baker

| At the heart of the ex­panded Mont­blanc 1858 col­lec­tion is an en­try-level chrono­graph with util­i­tar­ian ap­peal and a dash of old-school charm for good mea­sure.

— Mont­blanc’s rea­son­ing for en­ter­ing the watch business and ac­quir­ing the erst­while Minerva man­u­fac­ture is fairly easy to com­pre­hend. Watch­mak­ing can be a lu­cra­tive trade and there’s noth­ing wrong with the 112-year-old writ­ing in­stru­ment and leather goods com­pany want­ing to tap into it. As con­ser­va­tive as the Swiss watch in­dus­try can be, there’s at least a hope that the spirit of in­dus­try and com­pe­ti­tion is am­pli­fied when pres­ti­gious marques in­tend to throw fund­ing into watch­mak­ing as a whole. On the other hand, even with other en­trenched lux­ury brands, such as Ralph Lau­ren, Her­mès and Chanel, there has been an un­for­tu­nate amount of side-eye given by some estab­lished col­lec­tors who, de­spite those brands’ in­vest­ment, not only into watch­mak­ing but haute hor­logerie as a whole, still aren’t given the time of day.

Let’s rewind for a mo­ment. Mont­blanc of­fi­cially en­tered the watch in­dus­try 21 years ago. Ac­cord­ing to Watchtime lore, way back in 1997, af­ter the first line of Mont­blanc watches was re­leased (in­spired by the iconic Meis­ter­stück pen line), the Mont­blanc CEO at the the time, Nor­bert Platt, en­dured a press con­fer­ence where jour­nal­ists riffed on the watch with ques­tions like, “Where do you fill it with ink?” To cir­cum­vent such sar­casm from the nor­mally-quite-ge­nial (I prom­ise) watch and fash­ion press, Mont­blanc con­tin­ued slowly ex­pand­ing its watch ca­pa­bil­i­ties un­til pur­chas­ing the afore­men­tioned Minerva mar­que that had fallen into dis­re­pair in 2006.

In the past 12 years, we’ve seen Mont­blanc’s pro­file rise in the in­dus­try as well as in the cal­iber of time­pieces it pro­duces. And, along the way, the brand has adapted the Minerva her­itage in more ways than one. Not only does the Minerva man­u­fac­ture in Villeret, Switzer­land, pro­duce all of the brand’s high-end pieces (it’s best known for hand-wound, col­umn-wheel chrono­graphs), but Mont­blanc has made the his­tory of Minerva de­sign a for­ward-fac­ing as­pect of the watches it re­leases. is was more

Mont­blanc of­fi­cially en­tered the watch in­dus­try 21 years ago.

ap­par­ent than ever at SIHH this year with the ex­pan­sive 1858 col­lec­tion that in­cluded time­pieces that range from sim­ple time-only watches to a fresh take on a GMT, lim­ited-edi­tion ver­sions of clas­sic mono­pusher chrono­graphs, a few pocket-watches and the watch I wore for about two weeks in early July, the 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph, an en­try-level op­tion com­pared to its more horo­log­i­cally po­tent, and more ex­pen­sive, chrono­graph sib­lings.

Ever since the 1858 col­lec­tion was rein­tro­duced back at SIHH 2015, it has served as the plat­form for Minerva-esque de­sign. Where pre­vi­ous and cur­rent mem­bers of the 1858 fam­ily had a fully-fleshed iden­tity from inside-out, the 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph uti­lizes a base Sel­lita cal­iber (SW500, to be ex­act) to reach a new cus­tomer base in the sub-$5,000 chrono­graph cat­e­gory. (ere’s also a bronze ver­sion that comes in right at $5,000.)

And, putting it bluntly, the 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph is a very suc­cess­ful piece. Of course, it’s not break­ing down any horo­log­i­cal bar­ri­ers, but look­ing at it through the lens of Mont­blanc, a bi-com­pax chrono­graph with old-school pump push­ers is a no-brainer ad­di­tion to its lineup of her­itagedriven de­signs.

As men­tioned, there are two case ma­te­rial and dial op­tions avail­able. e stain­less-steel model comes with a black dial and ei­ther a striped NATO or a brown leather strap, and the bronze ver­sion comes with a cham­pagne-tinted dial and the same leather strap. Al­though the leather strap is hand stitched at the Mont­blanc Pel­let­te­ria in Florence and is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of how a com­pany can lever­age its mul­ti­ple prod­uct of­fer­ings to­gether, the watch in our test had a NATO strap given the time of year and en­v­i­ron (beach) where I wore it. It’s worth not­ing that the NATO isn’t any runof-the-mill strap ei­ther, it’s hand­crafted at a 150-year-old weav­ing man­u­fac­ture in France and feels both ro­bust and com­fort­able on the wrist. e al­ter­nat­ing black-and-gray stripes also give it a sub­dued-enough look so it could easily pass in a ca­sual of­fice set­ting. Wear­ing it with a blazer might be push­ing your luck, but that would be the case with any vin­tage-styled chrono­graph.

At 42 mm, the 1858 model lands in the sweet spot for con­tem­po­rary chrono­graphs and pro­vides the dial am­ple room for en­hanced leg­i­bil­ity. ere’s an outer min­utes ring in white that con­trasts with the black back­ground and two prom­i­nent reg­is­ters at the 9 and 3 o’clock po­si­tions for run­ning sec­onds and a 30minute counter, re­spec­tively. e hour and min­utes hands are pe­ri­o­dap­pro­pri­ate cathe­dral style while the chrono­graph sec­onds counter uses a pointer with a small coun­ter­weight on its op­po­site end. On the case­back, there’s a hand­some en­grav­ing fea­tur­ing the Mont Blanc moun­tain in re­lief and a vin­tage Mont­blanc com­pass-with-pick­axe logo. e thick pi­lots’ crown ef­fec­tively com­ple­ments the pump push­ers and is easy to han­dle.

Mont­blanc has said that it draws its pri­mary in­spi­ra­tion for the

The 1858 col­lec­tion serves as the plat­form for Minerva-esque de­sign.

1858 col­lec­tion as a whole from a 1930s Minerva chrono­graph, but where the mod­ern watch chan­nels a com­mon WWII-ERA chrono­graph de­sign with pump push­ers, a straight­for­ward case and dial con­fig­u­ra­tion, the vin­tage watch was it­self a mono­pusher. While mono­push­ers are cap­ti­vat­ing, they also tap into a very niche seg­ment of the mar­ket, which is why we see the

mono­pusher de­signs in 100-piece lim­ited-edi­tion sets. Other than the dual push­ers, the main dif­fer­ences be­tween the vin­tage and mod­ern de­signs in­clude the us­age of bold Ara­bic nu­mer­als filled with faux­aged Su­per-lu­mi­nova for all the hour mark­ers rather than bar in­dexes seg­mented by nu­mer­als and the cathe­dral-style hands.

De­spite those ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ences, there are some vin­tagein­spired de­tails that trans­late ex­tremely well to the 2018 model. e rail­road min­utes track that runs along the outer ring of the dial and on the two over­size reg­is­ters is an im­me­di­ate cross­over and one of the most iden­ti­fi­able and suc­cess­ful de­sign notes on the watch. When com­pared to the bronze ver­sion, it’s ap­par­ent that the steel model has the high­est level of vin­tage ap­peal and most closely matches the aes­thetic of the orig­i­nal 1930s Minerva model.

e only com­plaint I have is rel­e­gated to the width of the watch, un­doubt­edly caused by the chunky SW500 move­ment with a 48-hour power re­serve, which is near-iden­ti­cal to the very preva­lent ETA Valjoux 7750 and fea­tures the same rec­og­niz­able whirring ro­tor. As with all of Mont­blanc’s watches, the move­ment must suc­cess­fully pass the Mont­blanc Lab­o­ra­tory Test 500, where each watch must run for 500 con­tin­u­ous hours to cer­tify its ac­cu­racy and earn its brand-given moniker, which in this model is the MB 25.11 cal­iber.

The Mont­blanc 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph rep­re­sents a great en­try-level ac­qui­si­tion for the dis­cern­ing col­lec­tor. De­tails such as the lack of a date win­dow and Minerva-in­flu­enced de­sign make it clear that the time­piece is tar­geted to the en­thu­si­ast mar­ket rather than a more gen­eral au­di­ence. It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that Mont­blanc, one of the world’s most prom­i­nent and di­verse lux­ury goods com­pa­nies, doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to make watches that ap­peal to the en­thu­si­ast au­di­ence. Its reach is large enough that it could crank out over­priced, time-only watches to the jet set. Instead, its ap­proach hon­ors horo­log­i­cal his­tory and in­tro­duces multi-tiered pric­ing lev­els so it can reach all lev­els of col­lec­tors. For those that have re­mained wary of Mont­blanc time­pieces, the greater 1858 col­lec­tion is a fan­tas­tic in­tro­duc­tion to what the brand is try­ing to ac­com­plish and there’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple within the line than the straight­for­ward and well-ex­e­cuted 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph.

The Mont­blanc 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph is priced at $4,300 in stain­less steel and $5,000 in bronze. —

The case­back fea­tures an en­grav­ing of the Mont Blanc moun­tain that pro­vides the brand its name.Fac­ing page:The NATO strap is pro­duced by a 150-year-old weav­ing man­u­fac­ture in France. The crown fea­tures Mont­blanc's long­time em­blem, meant to re­call a birds-eye view of the Mont Blanc moun­tain.

A 1930s Minerva chrono­graph that served as in­spi­ra­tion for the 1858 col­lec­tion

The Mont­blanc 1858 Au­to­matic Chrono­graph on its leather strap op­tion

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