Montblanc decided to make the Minerva connection a stronger one with the announcement of the 1858 Collection, featuring collaboration between the traditional workshops of Montblanc in Le Locle, and their ateliers in Villaret. The collection was launched in October 2015, and one of the new watches announced is the subject of our review today the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Blue.
Released as part of a “Return to Minerva” series of watches in the Salón Internacional Alta Relojería (SIAR) in Mexico late October 2015, and called the 1858 Collection, the announcement comprised of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Blue (our review subject) in a limited edition of 100 pieces, the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter in rose gold in a limited edition of 100 pieces, and the Montblanc 1858 Small Second. The Small Second comes in 3 versions. One in a limited edition of 858 pieces with an alligator strap; a bracelet version; and a version with a calfskin leather strap.
The Minerva Connection
Minerva was a company which was bought by Montblanc in 2007. The Minerva factory was located in the town of Villaret which it has been in operations since 1858. Minerva had, by then established a reputation for value for money chronographs and chronometers.
The first products of this takeover did not carry over the Minerva brand name, and were referred to as Montblanc Villaret. From 2007 onwards, the Montblanc Villaret workshops were tasked to produce watches which were at the very high end of haute horologerie. Some examples were the Villaret 1858 Pulsographe which Deployant Friend Eddie Sng reviewed here. But also very horologically interesting watches like the Exotourbillons, the Geospheres and Metamorphosis series. Finishing on the Villaret Collection has always been top grade. And so were the prices.
When Jérôme Lambert joined Montblanc as CEO in 2013, we suspected he had his eye on the historical aspects of the Minerva story. Especially when other brands within the Richemont stables, notably Panerai has been putting Minerva movements in their watches. The Panerai Minerva association is also a long term historical one which pre-dates either’s Richemont ownership. The Panerais which are so equipped occupy the upper echelons of the collections. An example is the Panerai Radiomir 1940 Chronograph which we reviewed here.
So we see here, what we think is Jérôme’s influence in the creation of the 1858 Collection to pay homage to their Minerva heritage. Enter the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Blue, a member of the 1858 Collection. The review sample was literally taken off Jérôme’s wrist when he visited recently.
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Blue
The design is unmistakably Minerva inspired. The cathederal styled hands, with block numerals on a black dial with a huge onion winding crown, and a coaxially mounted single pusher for the chronograph.. Elements which are reminiscent of a pilot’s watches made by Minerva in the 1920s-1903s.
Case, dial and hands.
First off, we were captivated with the beautiful deep blue of the dial. Used as a canvas background for the markers, hands and other markings, it is one of the reasons we were strongly drawn to the beauty of this watch, and we suspect the reason why many of our collector friends will buy this piece. Mesmerized!
Attention to detail is outstanding. The domed sapphire glass reminiscent of the perspex ones from old is one case in point. As are the block Arabic numerals, now filled with SuperLuminova instead of radium paint. And the small details like the red tipped chronograph hand and 30 and 60 seconds markers on the main dial are well chosen.
The tachymeter track around the dial is clear and legible. And we applaud the nod to tradition for omitting the date on a chronograph.
Another detail worth mentioning is the use of the Minerva “M” logo font in between the marking on the dial “Montblanc Caliber M 16.29” a nice tribute to Minerva. We appreciate this little detail, Montblanc. Chapeau to you too!
Montblanc Caliber 16.29
This movement is gorgeous. No other way to describe it. The 13.21 in the Villaret Collection Pulsograph takes reference from the Minerva 13.20, but the 16.29 used in the 1858 Chronograph Blue is much larger and takes reference from the Minerva 17.29 designed by Minerva in 1920. Its pocket watch size allows it to take advantage of the real estate afforded by the large case, which measures a generous, and now considered right sized, 44mm in diameter and a height of 13.15mm.
We present a Watchscape wall paper of the above image in 1920 pixels x 1200 pixels. Click here to download on the condition that it will be only used for personal, non-commercial use and will not be modified in any way.
Design layout of the chronograph components is old school. And we mean this in a most praiseworthy way. The graceful sweeping curves of the chronograph levers and springs converging on the column wheel is a visual spectacle. The column wheel commands a horizontal clutch, an implementation which is also very traditional and classical. In comparison, a modern chronograph design will usually call for a vertical clutch system. The movement runs at 18,000 bph, is also classical, although the power reserve of 50 hours is rather more up to date.
Movement finishing is top grade. All traditional finnisage are executed par excellence. As mentioned in the caption of the photograph above, the “Devil’s Tail” is one case in point. As well as all the anglage performed with high skill, to the gold chatons and the column wheel are all first rate.
The use of maillechort (German Silver), though rhodiumed plated is also a nod to tradition. The plates feature Côtes de Genève and perlage on both sides.
It will of course draw comparison to the other top grade traditionally constructed chronographs like the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph (more so the original version, but also the Auf/Ab revised version) and the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vaches. Please read the linked reviews for an idea of what is offered by the competition. Of particular importance, and essential reading is the VC Cornes de Vaches article where we make comparisons to other chronographs.
We find the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Blue mesmerizing…yes, we said that earlier, but the word keeps coming back as perhaps it is the most apt. From the deep beauty of the blue dial, the retro design of the dial elements – hands, markers, the throwback nods at its Minerva origins to the magnificent movement. The finishing on the case, dial, hands and the movement is breath taking, and is on par to what is offered by the far more expensive competition. More about the price later.
The real excitement, because the Chronograph Tachymeter Blue is so beautiful and well executed, is the price. At S$37,800 it is exceptional value. The rose gold version retails for S$47,500. Both outstanding value. And if we may be so biased by the blue dial, our vote goes to the steel cased version.