Montblanc’s presence in the watch arena over the past few years has been largely built on the premise of price differentiation. Frequently seen in various articles, many rave about Montblanc’s value for money timepieces. Montblanc’s market strategy is a clever one considering the industry’s need to target the middle class segments with affordable timepieces.
As with price differentiation, there will always be a tradeoff. Montblanc’s complication models like the tourbillon and the Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar are some of the most affordable complicated watches in the market. While aesthetics and functionality are arguably achieved, the cliche argument is that significantly less work is put into the movements. So let us examine these tradeoffs and figure out if there is a point in this value-for-money debate.
Affordable, functional and reliable
Priced at S$16,800, the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar in steel was at one point the least expensive perpetual calendar in the market, only being superseded by Frederique Constant this year. Comparatively among major brands, the next perpetual calendar comes in at a list price of ~S$26,000 by Jaeger LeCoultre. For this price tag, one can now afford a perpetual calendar complication, previously only available north of 30 grand. In terms of reliability, the watch is manufactured using a Sellita SW200 base wth a Dubuis Depraz perpetual module; with the assembled product tested in Montblanc Manufacture via a rigorous 500 hours quality test in order to meet finished goods status.
Size, symmetry and proportions
The watch is sized at 39 mm in a steel case and runs on an automatic calibre MB 29.15. Visible through the caseback, the movement design is similar to stock movements and is noticeably smaller in size vis-a-vis the case. While the issue of size, symmetry and proportions is a subjective one, some of us noticed the significant cluster of the subdials to the hands and the wide space from the bezel to the subdials. As compared to the classic perpetual calendar design propagated by Patek Philippe‘s 3940, or the more recent 5140, Montblanc’s offering appears to have overly abundant space between the central display and the bezel. Consequently, the elongated applique indices seem to be placed in an awkward limbo. Nonetheless, this is a matter of preference and observation, although the general school of thought is a predilection for movements designed for a case, notwithstanding, a more expensive process.
In writing this review, we were deeply interested in the consumer psyche. We entertained questions like “what does it mean to own the cheapest perpetual calendar?”; does one take pride in having a complication that is the ‘least expensive’ and ‘made on a budget’. We also explored the idea of luxury timepieces as a status symbol and the dilemma of having a mid-priced complication. In the process of our pondering, we discovered that the most likely buyers of the timepiece are those who have many other well-finished timepieces or do not bother about the movement as long as it runs. Rather, they are intrinsically entertained by the trend of affordable high complications and a watch that does not look blatantly poorly designed. However, for those who are looking for their first complication or have less disposable income, there are undoubtedly many other watches of more significant horological value out there. Do exercise caution nonetheless when contemplating value. Lower priced watches does not necessarily correlate to higher value in asset retention or horological satisfaction.