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.

Robb Report (Malaysia) - - Time - By KEN­NETH TAN

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 ≠

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