Moving from leather goods and writing instruments to haute horologerie has not been easy for the brand. While customers of luxury writing goods make complimentary purchases in high end watches, Montblanc lacks the same legitimacy in watchmaking that its sister brands enjoy.
But where there is competition, there is excellence. Montblanc’s struggle to differentiate itself in a crowded market, and in finding a product market fit, has found some fascinating products, like the new Perpetual Calendar.
The Case and Dial
The stainless steel perpetual calendar is sized at 40 mm in diameter and 12.30 mm in height. Considering the modular design and the raised dome sapphire, the case is considered relatively thin. Just for comparison, a time-only Grand Seiko automatic is 13.1 mm.
The watch uses a traditional Perpetual Calendar layout, made mainstay by the Patek Philippe 3940. The three subdials display the calendar, leap year and moonphase. On closer examination however, Montblanc’s Perpetual Calendar takes it up a notch with a 24 hour display and a second time zone hand.
The 24 hour display is extremely functional and useful for owners. A Perpetual Calendar watch is usually in a collection of many other watches; and while some owners use winders, most do not. That means, when the perpetual calendar watch runs out of power, the wearer has to set the date when the watch comes back in rotation. The 24 hour display is useful to remind the wearer, not to adjust the watch via the quickset – pushers/crown in the hours close to midnight. They won’t have to wonder as well, which time of the day the watch stopped at and risk setting the time 12 hours behind.
It’s hard to say the same for the second time zone hand however. It may be rather confusing when traveling across timezones more than 12 hours apart. That said, most won’t complain about having a double chronograph added to a perpetual calendar.
The color theme used in the dial is classic and very pleasant. A light blue is used on the text and numbers, with contrasting red to highlight the end of each subdial cycle. The font choice is modern, belonging to the Sans Serif family – in an odd way, matching the italicized logo.
The see-through caseback reveals the in-house caliber MB 29.22. The MB 29.22 was designed by ValFleurier – the movement making wing of Richemont. It performs with similar specifications as most automatic movements and beats at 28,800 vph with 48 hours power reserve. The base movement is shared across the Richemont brands, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, and was first used by Cartier in 2010.
The Perpetual Calendar module also features a bi-directional setting mechanism, made possible by its gear based system. This means that the date can be corrected both forwards and backwards. It also has a built-in mechanism that prevents the calendar from being adjusted via quickset, from 8pm to 12pm that could otherwise potentially damage the movement.
The Montblanc Heritage Perpetual Calendar in steel is priced at €15,000 and is easily one of the lowest priced, if not the lowest priced Swiss made perpetual calendar in the market at retail. It’s a good looking watch with a good caliber.
The GMT hand may be useful for some, but would probably throw off a couple of folks. Finishing wise, the movement looks…well just look at the dial and the beautiful moonphase disc. It’s the nicest part of the watch and likely the only hand-made component in it. The case finishing is good, with a nice mirror polish all around. The set of tapered lugs has a nice elegance to it as well. Overall, the design of the dial and case is modern, classic yet not boring, targeting the young professional rather than the boomers.
However, it’s going to be an uphill battle with the likes of a similarly priced Jaeger-LeCoultre MUT Perpetual Calendar. The first competitor that comes to mind – also offered in steel, at US$19,600, approximately €17,800. It’s 9.2mm in thickness, which makes for a more classic look. It’s a JLC – the watchmaker of watchmakers. It uses IWC Kurt Klaus’s legendary perpetual calendar system.
That said, Montblanc may not be targeting customers who know about Jaeger-LeCoultre with this Perpetual Calendar. After all, for the hardcore collectors who know their stuff, there’s always the real gem, the monopushers.