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Review: Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama

by Peter Chong on June 20, 2015

The name is quite a mouthful. But it makes perfect logic. The watch under review is from Montblanc, as part of the Villeret Collection, and features a Tourbillon Cylindrique, with Geosphères and a tribute to Vasco da Gama. Logical, isn’t it? But still a mouthful…Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama. Interesting watch, striking visuals. 

 

Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama.

Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama.

 

The Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama

At first glance, the visual impact of the watch is arresting. It is large, measuring some 47mm in diameter and sitting 15.38mm high. The tourbillon is magnificently displayed at 12 o’clock, held in place by a stylized bridge. And then there is the elephant in the room. Two blue and silver globes, representing the earth’s Northern and Southern hemispheres sit squarely at the bottom half of the dial. The visual impact is like getting whacked on the head with a sledge hammer. This is not a watch for the discrete, or one who wants to quietly sit through one’s dinner without the next table asking, “What’s that watch?”.

 

The dial

The dial is as massive as the case. Crafted in 18k gold, it is constructed on multiple levels. The depth perception of the levels is quite attractive, and the two distinctive globes also providing the visual impression of being three dimensional.

 

Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama's distinctive dial. Note the multi-level approach to show off the design elements of the dial.

Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama’s distinctive dial. Note the multi-level approach to show off the design elements of the dial.

 

The top half of the dial is set at a lower level and on it is placed the arcing, convex, polished tourbillon bridge in a highly stylized pattern reminiscent of the sweeping curves one executes as one is testing a fountain pen on paper with ink. This bridge is magnificently crafted and the finish on the rather difficult shape is very well done. To the left and right of the tourbillon bridge are waves applied in hand guilloché. The motif of the waves being a nod to the voyages of Vasco da Gama.

 

The globes

As we move to the lower half of the dial, it makes a large step up and presents the two globes. The pair of globes depicting the World’s 24 timezones in both the Northern and Soutnern hemispheres along with a day night indicator. It is interesting that the globes are fixed on the dial and do not move, but two discs indicating the 24 hour timezones rotate once a day around them. The disc for the Northern hemisphere rotates clockwise and the one for the Southern hemisphere rotates anticlockwise. The time on any desired part of the world can be read by using the meridians of longitude corresponding to the time on the discs.

 

The globes. Intricately finished and crafted. It shows the map of the world overlaid with the longitude and latitude.

The globes. Intricately finished and crafted. It shows the map of the world overlaid with the longitude and latitude.

 

We feel that Montblanc could make the watch more complicated and visually more stimulating if the globes themselves revolve. In fact, they would only require one globe to show all the 24 timezones, somewhat like what Greubel Forsay does with their GMT which they announced in 2012. Of course with Montblanc’s two globe display, the owner can see at a glance the sunlit halves of the two globes and the halves which are turned away from the sun simultaneously.

The globes themselves are beautifully executed to show fine detailing on the world map with the circles of longitude and latitude engraved on them. The colour of the gloves are stunning.

And sitting squarely at 6 o’clock is an independently adjustable display for home time is presented on a three dimensional twelve hour compass rose at 6 o’clock. The design is inspired by the marble compass rose on the base of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a famous Portuguese monument dedicated to the Age of Discovery of the 15th and 16th centuries. This monument is located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and Orient.

The tourbillon

The tourbillon itself bears some additional attention. It features a cylindrical hairspring with double Philips terminal curves. The balance itself is a rather impressive 14.5mm in diameter and is made in-house in Villeret.

 

The tourbillon with a cylindrical hairspring and a very large balance wheel. The beautiful, arched curves of the tourbillon bridge is quite a spectacle.

The tourbillon with a cylindrical hairspring and a very large balance wheel. The beautiful, arched curves of the tourbillon bridge is quite a spectacle.

Click here for a wallpaper sized image, 1920×1080 pixels.

Cylindrical hairsprings are typical in marine chronometers, and in the days before GPS, the ship’s chronometer is the indispensable tool for the sailors to pin point their location. However, da Gama’s ships could not have been equipped with these precision marine chronometers featuring cylindrical hairspring, as the hairspring was only discovered by Hooke in 1675. And the problem of longitude was only solved by Harrisson in 1765. da Gama made his first journey in 1497.

The conventional hairsprings is wound concentrically from the center in ever expanding diameters to form a spiral. The entire spring can be laid on a table flat, safe for the terminal curve which is later applied by hand by a master craftsman. In the cylindrical hairspring, each consecutive revolution is made in the same diameter but one on top of the other. This eliminates eccentricity of the center of gravity. Montblanc chose to use this hairspring in this watch. The spring is equipped with two Phillips terminal curves. The upward curvature at each end of the spiral contribute significantly to improving the regularity of the hairspring’s breathing. And can be observed as a lower isochronism error. The main disadvantage of the cylindrical hairspring is that it requires a movement to be higher than a flat spring.

It is of interest that the modern cylindrical hairspring probably made its first appearance in a wristwatch made by Jaeger LeCoultre as early as 2012. The JLC Perpetual Calendar is one example, but the JLC catalog has several others. Perhaps it is a coincidence that the launch of the cylindrical hairspring in its movements, JLC’s then CEO was Jérôme Lambert, who is the current CEO of Montblanc. However, cylindrical hairsprings are not unique to these two Richemont brands. The Bulgari L’Ammiraglio del Tempo Minute Repeater is also equipped with one.

 

The movement Montblanc Caliber MB M68.40

 

The watch is set via the crown and the timezone functions are accessible via a pusher at 8 o’clock and a inset corrector at the case’s flank at 4 o’clock. On the first pull of the crown, the user can set the local time, home time and simumtaneously adjust the world time display on the two globes’ 24 hour scales. Once all indicators are synchronized, the crown is returned to its original position. A new local time in a different timezone can be set by pushing the push piece at 8 o’clock. Each click of the pusher will advance the hour hand in one hour increments which is shown on the dial’s main hands in the center. The home time shown by the compass rose does not change. Home time can also be corrected in one hour increments by using the adjuster at 4 o’clock.

 

The Montblanc Caliber MB M68.40:

The Montblanc Caliber MB M68.40: A cricular fausses côtes is applied, and looks rather interesting. Note the use of gold chatons to hold the rubies on the canon pinion and the fourth wheel’s pinion. Also interesting is the very traditional click used.

 

 

Finishing

Case and dial finishing is exemplary. These important cues of quality are magnificently finished and the level of attention to detail is very high. The craftsmanship in the detailing of the tourbillon bridge is a case in point. Not only is the design complex and visually appealing, it is executed brilliantly. Nice curves on an arced bridge, very well polished. Very good.

However, on the movement side, we see a slightly different story. Truth be told, the movement finishing is de rigeur and hence not exceptional for a watch at this level. The movement plates are nicely designed with a harmonious flow of the bridge shapes in a classical Lépine style. The bridges are anglaged, though the typical shiny gleam of anglage as it catches the light seems to be absent. Perlage is applied to to both sides of the main plate. In place of the more traditional and almost ubiquitious fausses côtes, which are applied so that the stripes are parallel to each other in a straight line, Montblanc chose to do the stripes in a circular fashion. This creates a different visual impression and arguably more complicated to execute than the traditional Côtes de Genève.

 

Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama on the wrist. Large, imposing. But interestingly, quite comfortable.

Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama on the wrist. Large, imposing. But interestingly, quite comfortable.

 

 

Concluding thoughts

 

The visual impact of the watch, especially when worn on the wrist is outstanding. This is not a watch which which will go quietly into the night. It demands to be admired, it is attracts attention. The powerful imagery of the multi level dial with the magnificent tourbillon in its beautifully crafted bridge is breath taking. The twin globes and the compass rose demands a response to the on looker. This watch has an imposing presence. The attention to detail on the dial side is outstanding.

On the flipside, the movement, visible through the sapphire caseback is less impressive. All the boxes are ticked. The finishing in the movement is certainly adequate, and pleasant, but it lacks the last bit to make it outstanding. It is as if Montblanc is holding the very last bit which can make the finish outstanding.

Thus, we feel a tinge disappointed. Especially for a watch retailing at €250.000, German retail inclusive of Germany tax.

 

The Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama Specifications

Movement

Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB M68.40
Hand-wound mechanical movement with one-minute tourbillon and cylindrical hairspring; triple time zone with local-time, home time and worldtime indication
Dimensions: 16¾ lines (38.40 mm); height = 10.50 mm
No. of components: 281, including 91 for the tourbillon cage
No. of rubies: 18
Power reserve: Approx. 48 hours
Balance Screw balance, diameter = 14.5 mm, moment of inertia = 59 mgcm²
Frequency 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour (2.5 Hz)
Hairspring Cylindrical hairspring with double Phillips terminal curves
Tourbillon One-minute tourbillon with cylindrical hairspring
Main plate Rhodium-plated nickel silver with circular graining on both sides
Bridges Rhodium-plated nickel silver with côtes de Genève
Going-train Gold-plated, faceted arms, diamond-polished surfaces
Watch displays Local time: central hours and minutes in the centre
Home time: hour hand at “6 o’clock”
Worldtime: 24-hour time zones with day/night for the Southern and Northern Hemisphere

Case
18-karat red gold (5N)
Crystal Scratch-resistant, domed sapphire crystal with antireflective treatment on both surfaces
Back 18-karat red gold (5N) back with 24 cities of both hemispheres engraved and with inset pane of sapphire crystal
Dimensions Diameter = 47 mm, height = 15.38 mm
Watertightness 3 bar
Dial 18-karat gold hands, hand-guilloché wave decoration around the tourbillon cage and “grainé” pattern on the lower part, tourbillon with cylindrical hairspring and double-infinity bridge. Worldtime indication on two discs with 24-hour time zones with day and night indication revolving around two fixed globes with traditional hand-painted peinture miniature for the oceans and engraving for the continents and the meridians showing the Northern Hemisphere on the left and the Southern Hemisphere on the right. Home-time indication at “6 o’clock” above a three-dimensional handcrafted rose des vents subdial; 18-karat red gold hour- and minute-hand in the centre, blued “Fleur-de-Lys” home-time hand at “6 o’clock”
Crown 18-karat red gold (5N) crown with Montblanc’s emblem in mother -of-pearl
Pusher Local-time pusher at “8 o’clock” and home-time corrector at “4 o’clock”
Strap Hand-sewn black alligator-skin strap with alligator lining and with a folding clasp made of 18-karat red gold (5N)
Limitation 18 pieces
Price 250.000 euros including 19% VAT in Germany

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