Tag Archives: Montblanc

SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Successful climbs or “summiting” all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge (the most difficult one at that), first achieved in 1985 by Richard Bass.  The SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime is dedicated to that challenge. Featuring a worldtime complication with two turning domed hemisphere globes, each making a full rotation in 24 hours, one is reminded of the superlative Tourbillon Cylindrique NightSky Geosphères, itself a homage to the daring adventurer Vasco da Gama. More importantly, the new Montblanc SIHH 2018 novelty doesn’t come with a similar eye-watering price tag and a chance to create your own legend.

Indeed, the Tourbillon Cylindrique NightSky Geospheres was a superlative hand-finished watch, with a price tag of €275,000. The same concept sans tourbillon with cylindrical balance spring is applied to the  SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime. The resulting watch is simpler yet it still pays respectful tribute to the 160th anniversary of Minerva and while featuring a brand-new Villeret manufacture WorldTime complication, exposing the world of Montblanc fine watchmaking to a new breed of watch aficionados.

SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Geosphere WorldTime

The northern hemisphere of the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere turns anti- clockwise while the southern hemisphere at 6 o’clock turns clockwise, both surrounded by a scale with the 24 time zones, along with a day/night indication in contrasting colours. A second time zone display at 9 o’clock serves as a quick reference to time at a secondary location, however the ease of reading worldtime via literal hemispheres renders it somewhat redundant if useful from the standpoint of aesthetic balance.

Aesthetically speaking, the world’s Seven summits are marked on the two hemispheres with red dots, drawing your attention to summits yet untamed. They are also engraved on the case back along with the unique drawing of the Mont Blanc mountain, a compass and two crossed ice pick-axes. Design elements are found across the 1858 collection are also found on the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere like cathedral hands and well defined arabic numerals.

By night, this worldtime instrument comes alive with the longitude reference meridian for both hemispheres is highlighted with a white line, and the continents themselves are also coated with SuperLumiNova®. Like the automatic chronograph, the watch comes in two versions, with a stainless steel case or a limited edition bronze case. Both feature polished and satin-finishing as well as vintage fluted crowns with the Montblanc emblem in relief. A new bidirectional stainless steel or bronze bezel with shiny black ceramic completes the design of the 1858 Geosphere WorldTime.

The automatic Calibre MB 29.25 of the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere is powered by an automatic Sellita base movement and topped with a Villeret in-house WorldTime module completely certified by the vaunted Montblanc Laboratory Test 500.

Limited to 1858 pieces.

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Price and Specs

Movement Automatic in-house Calibre MB 29.25 with 42 hours power reserve
Case 42mm stainless steel or bronze with 100m water resistance
Strap Brown Sfumato aged calf leather Bund strap with beige stitching
Price €5,190 in stainless steel, €5,890 in bronze – Singapore Price: SGD 8300

SIHH 2018 Montblanc introduces New 1858 Automatic Chronograph

The new SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph features rhodium-coated luminescent cathedral-shaped hour-hand and minute-hand, white chronograph’s second-hand and white counter- hands, historical Montblanc emblem at 12 o’clock

The last time we saw a Montblanc 1858 Chronograph, it was a Tachymeter Limited Edition In Bronze. It equipped with a manually wound chronograph calibre reminiscent of the legendary calibre 19.09 (19 lines / launched in 1909), featuring the recognizable V-Chrono shaped bridge and it eventually got nominated for GPHG 2017.  For SIHH 2018 Montblanc introduces a new 1858 Automatic Chronograph inspired by the legendary professional Minerva watches from the 1920s and 30s that were meant for military use and mountain exploration.

The 1858 collection is a homage to the 160 years of the Minerva Manufacture and its extraordinary heritage; the new Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph feels like an odd (for reasons we will make clear in a minute) but appealing choice for a heritage edition.

The stainless steel Montblanc 1858 automatic chronograph with slim curved horns featuring polished and satin finishing

SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph

First, the new SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph combines a strong vintage aesthetic with a chronograph function and though it follows design heritage of the Minerva Monopusher chronograph, the subdials on this edition are larger and closer together as opposed to the vintage model.

Available in a stainless steel or bronze case, the 42 mm 1858 Automatic Chronograph features both polished and satin finishing for utmost refinement and comes with a domed sapphire crystal glass box, highlighting the robustness and the vintage appeal however unlike the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter variants, one niggling aspect feels oddly (if accurately) out of place – those monopusher chronograph models featured sapphire casebacks where the finely decorated movements with hand chamfered and hand decorated chronograph calibre 16.29 – the manually wound nature of the movement embodies the spirit of the era while the open caseback was oddly anachronistic (sapphire backs didn’t exist nor was it the sort of thing watch collectors were into at the time); Comparatively, the latest Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph features closed casebacks, which while period accurate, feels somewhat disappointing because we don’t get to see high horology Minerva finishing that we have grown accustomed to.

The vintage Minerva monopusher chronograph which provides design DNA for both manual winding tachymeter and automatic chronograph variants,

For the bronze model, the case back comes in titanium coated in bronze to avoid allergies. The case back has been engraved with the emblematic Mont Blanc mountain, a compass and two crossed ice pick-axes, as a nod to the spirit of mountain exploration. Nevertheless, this SIHH 2018 Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph kicks off our coverage for the brand because there is a ton of aesthetic appeal recalling the old school bundeswehr chronographs produced for military pilots.

The bronze model with smoked champagne-coloured dial with sunray finishing, is the closest in terms of aesthetics to the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter in Bronze, providing an elegant backdrop for the bi-compax counters positioned at three and nine o’clock. The dial is completed with beige luminescent Arabic numerals and cathedral-shaped hands that are slightly domed and have been enhanced with SuperLumiNova. For both stainless steel and bronze 1858 Automatic Chronograph variants, the muse from Minerva’s historic chronographs are self-evident.

Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph Price and Specs

Case Stainless steel or bronze with 100m water resistance
Movement Automatic in-house Calibre MB 25.11 with 48 hours power reserve
Strap Lined black and grey “NATO” strap or a cognac-coloured aged calfskin strap with beige stitching
Price €3990

Best Way to Spend Your Holiday: Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel overlooking La Mer de Glace

You’ve worked hard for over 90% of the year and the best way to spend your holidays is to go for a trip to some of the most beautiful places; so why not head to the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel overlooking the La Mer de Glace? It’s only been housing mountaineers and travelers from all across Europe since the late 1800s.

Overlooking La Mer de Glace, Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel offers some of the most scenic views in the world. For those unfamiliar, the Mer de Glace is a valley glacier located on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif, in the French Alps and it has drawn climbers from all across the globe, leaving them mesmerised and enchanted by the sheer majesty of this geographical tapestry.The impressive and picturesque mountain-scape has attracted more artistic visitors, painters and later photographers since the 18th century until the construction of Grand Hotel du Montenvers in 1880 where it became a “must stay” hotel for all travelers to the valley glacier depicted in Joseph Mallord William Turner‘s “Source of the Arveron in the Valley of Chamouni Savoy”

Best Way to Spend Your Holiday: Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel overlooking La Mer de Glace

If you’re looking for a way to impress the heck out of your companions and to satisfy your appetite for provenance and luxury, there’s simply no better place to spend your holidays at the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel.  Legendary for its history, magical by nature and envied for its panoramic view, the Mer de Glace at Montenvers, above Chamonix is one of the finest jewels of the French Alpine heritage.

Each of the 20 rooms and suites at the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel overlooking the 7km La Mer de Glace has since been renovated but still maintain the essence of their mountain refuge roots with the original furniture has been preserved and re-used to give it new life.  Old wooden chimneys have been transformed into bookcases, bedside lamps replaced with miner’s lamps and leather travel trunks, brought back from journeys and expeditions of the past, turned into bedside tables.

In the bathrooms, the use of stone highlights the washbasins and retro bathroom fittings. There is absolutely everything you need to enjoy unique experiences with your family and friends. At 6725 feet above sea level, the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel faces the top of Europe – the Mont Blanc summit, a juxtaposition of traditional accommodations which also includes a heritage old-school dormitory which sleeps 10 in capsule style bunk-beds with luxurious restaurants and on-site coffee shop serving local alpine cuisine, this ocean of ice impresses and attracts thousands of visitors with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

A Picturesque Heritage Stay at the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel

With room rates covering accommodation, breakfast and dinner, the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel enjoys five tiers:

  1. The Refuge rooms are designed to be like intimate cocoons, offering the charm of yesteryear and old-fashioned yet comfortable furnishings: parquet flooring, reclaimed dark wood panelling, cosy beds, mountain wool fabrics and subdued lighting.
  2. The Hiker rooms really go back to basics with simple, welcoming, comfortable lodgings. Designed like cosy nests with reclaimed dark wood panelling, mountain wool fabrics and soft duvets, they are the perfect place for sharing authentic experiences like re-reading “Premier de Cordée”… There is a sofa bed for a third person. Each bedroom has its own bathroom with a shower.
  3. The Family Hiker rooms are simply and authentically decorated with comfort in mind for families to come together and share special times in the mountains. They have a double bed, a sofa bed and bunk beds and can accommodate up to 5 people. Each bedroom has its own bathroom with a shower.
  4. The Tribu rooms offer 5 or 7 beds and have been designed for families or groups of friends sharing fun times and unforgettable moments together. They offer the authentic ‘Refuge’ experience with comfortable, modern decor, light wood panelling and exposed beams, but enjoy the privacy of having their own bathroom.
  5. The Altitude suites are perfect for a cosy romantic break. They are more spacious, decorated in an authentic style and provide all the comfort needed for you to enjoy your stay. The bathroom offers a bath and a shower and is open to the bedroom giving the whole area a boudoir feel. A sofa bed can accommodate a third person.

Food & Beverage at the Refuge du Montenvers

Life at the Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel is best experienced with a bit of mountain cuisine at the Restaurant du Montenvers. Savour transalpine flavors like the Snail cassolette of the Mont Blanc country, crust with morels, roast poultry or fondues signed by the master cheesemaker Boujon..

Le Panoramique Mer de Glace restaurant, the hotel’s bistro is a venue with a view featuring French cuisine promoting regional flavours: a selection of verrines, slates and dishes prepared in their cast-iron cocottes, simmered with love. Enjoy classics like the Savoyard hotpot, Pela des Aravis or grandmother’s roast chicken, a favorite family recipe. Try mountain favorites like the Mer de Glace, a homemade ice cream cup, the classic Mont-Blanc with chestnut cream or the Aiguille Rouge, poached pear, blackcurrant and gingerbread.

It’s named Le Panoramique for a reason – the best, most breathtaking views of the Mer de Glace and the Drus is found here. Ceramic subway tile, notes of light woods, a simple yet refined decor leaves the beauty to the incredible view of the Petit Dru and the Mer de Glace. When summer arrives, enjoy the incredible terrace which gives the impression of being “at the edge of the world.”

Finally, a place which guests and Montenvers skiers of the Vallée Blanche can stop and share: The Bar des Glaciers, located at the arrival station of the Montenvers train, where snacks prepared with fresh, ingredients are proposed at any time of day. Featuring rough and natural materials such as granite and wood, The Bar des Glaciers renovations echo the natural environment just steps from the terminus. A large granite countertop replicates the rocky peaks, touches of ice blue call to mind the glacier; antique photographs of the Montenvers dot the walls in contemporary style. A stop at the Bar des Glaciers is a must before returning to Chamonix!

Rooms at Terminal Neige Refuge du Montenvers Hotel start $300. Book here.

New Watch: Pre-SIHH 2018 Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph


When it comes to Montblanc’s Pre-SIHH 2018 Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph, it might appear at first blush that it is yet another new watch jumping on the “trend bandwagon”. First, there was a DLC trend, then there was a ceramic trend, a bronze trend followed soon after and it looks like we are at peak “Panda” trend; almost every brand which makes a chronograph has one in their repertoire or added one in the last two to three years.

That said, what we perceive as “trendy” today is not exactly a momentary inclination towards that design aesthetic when the desire and appeal for those types of dials can be characterised as “ever-lasting”.


New Watch: Pre-SIHH 2018 Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph

For those of you unfamiliar, the panda aesthetic literally refers to a white watch face, typically a tri-compax chronograph but also applicable to a bi-compax chronograph with black or dark subdials. The reverse panda however, refers to a black face with white subdials.

Having re-invigorated interest in the brand’s classical watches thanks to high appeals to nostalgia courtesy of their 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter and the Heritage Chronometrie collection, Montblanc casts their watchmaking ambitions towards the sportive genre with their strongest ever push yet – the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph.

Make no mistake, the Manufacture was not content to merely tug on the heart-strings with a heritage aesthetic, Montblanc designed a column-wheel manufacture chronograph calibre with their latest MB 25.10 and despite the post-modern outward appearance of the timepiece, elected to decorate the movement with traditional finishing such as “Côtes de Genève”, circular graining, blue screws and a thematically appropriate monobloc oscillating weight made of black rhodium-plated tungsten, designed in the shape of a steering wheel.

Suffice it to say, every element of design is rooted in racing details recalling the golden age of motor racing. Beyond the panda tri-compax design inspired by 60s and 70s racing chronographs, the dial also has a flange with 5 minute track coated with SuperLumiNova for high visibility. Other sportive accents include the include rhodium-plated, dauphine-shaped hour and minute hands and a red chronograph second hand inspired by the Minerva arrow, a nod to Minerva’s legacy and heritage.

All ensconced with a 43mm satin-finished stainless steel case and secured to scraps with semi-skeletonised lugs akin to the air intakes of a car, the TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph comes with fixed black ceramic bezel for that touch of glossy elegance and durability – a reminder that despite the cream dial, this chronograph may reference a glorious period of racing history but it is really a thoroughly modern high precision chronograph.



Pre-SIHH 2018 Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph Price and Specs

Case 43mm Stainless steel, satin-finished case with 100m water resistance
Movement Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB 25.10 with 46 hour power reserve
Strap Vintage brown Sfumato aged calf leather strap or stainless steel bracelet
Price €4990 to €5290

TimeWalker: Montblanc Singapore Celebrates The Spirit of Racing

The author with his race companion Vanessa Liok of Porsche Club Singapore

Born after 1977 and before 83, I’m part of a generation of Singaporeans who oddly embraces the vagaries and extreme spectrums of technology. Equally passionate with mechanical watches and smart devices, Xennials, the group of individuals who are sandwiched between the oft derided millennials and the long suffering generation X often enjoy the nostalgia of heritage while celebrating modern advances and creature comforts. Thus, when the new Montblanc TimeWalker collection debuted at SIHH 2017, I was a little more than enthused about the retro styling coupled with the material technology of futuristic ceramics. Thus, when Montblanc Singapore wanted to evoke the glory days of vintage automobile racing and the history of chronograph specialist Minerva with a Rally Race, I was metaphorically chomping at the bit (horse-racing providing the impetus for ever increasing precision timing devices).

Montblanc established a racing atmosphere at Fullerton Bay Hotel’s LANTERN. Of great popularity, a nostalgic throwback to our childhoods courtesy of a toy magnetic race car track.

Montblanc Singapore Celebrates The Spirit of Racing with Timewalker Grand Prix

A convoy of 46 Porsches (10 of them were specially stickered to resemble vintage rally
racing cars) from Porsche Club Singapore raced off from The Fullerton Bay Hotel and embarked on the TimeWalker Grand Prix, an island wide treasure hunt which was supposed to take 2 hours but thanks to my speedy race partner, Vanessa Liok from Porsche Club Singapore, we completed the Timewalker Rally in slightly more than an hour even after taking into account the many Montblanc Timewalker challenges (where we answered trivia questions regarding the collection and “skits” for social media)  at various locations around Singapore such as Keppel Bay, Dempsey Hill, HortPark and Sentosa Cove.

A Montblanc Grand Prix rally point where Timewalker trivia challenges were given to the rally racers.

Some of the social media skits and challenges used by Montblanc Singapore to disseminate awareness of the new Timewalker collection on social media

As exhausted rally racers returned to the Fullerton Bay Hotel for a brief reprieve, Montblanc’s VIP customers and Porsche Club Singapore co-partners could look forward to an evening of precision chronographs and imbibing cocktails at the picturesque Lantern bar. But before we could escape the relentless late afternoon sun, we glimpsed the arrival of ultra-rare vintage Porsches including the 356 Speedster, a one of a kind RUF 993 CTS 2 (993 Turbo) in
Speed Yellow, a 930 Slopenose, 1 of 2 originals from Stuttgart, and a 911E in Slate Grey
paying homage to Steve McQueen, a parade of automotive heritage.

Montblanc Singapore had managed to infuse Lantern with an atmosphere of racing with a slot car game, chequered flags and trophies and something from my Xennial childhood, a toy racing car track where we raced toy cars on magnetic rails via remote.

New Montblanc TimeWalker Collection & SGD Prices

Against this vibrant backdrop of heritage mechanical watchmaking and well engineered performance machines, Montblanc introduced their latest TimeWalker Collection combining the heritage of the legendary Minerva timing instruments with the finest technology and a vintage-themed racing style.

Backed by the legitimacy of  Minerva, a leading specialist in the fabrication of professional timing instruments since their founding in Villeret in 1858, the Montblanc TimeWalker Collection symbolizes the spirit of racing and harks back to these heritage timing instruments by offering a line of new professional watches for the modern performer
The Manufacture developed stopwatches that could measure 1/5th of a second as early as 1911, rapidly increasing to 1/10th of a second. In this innovative spirit, in 1916, the Minerva Manufacture was one of the first to produce a high-frequency movement that could measure 1/100th of a second, a development that was further technically improved in 1936, putting Minerva on the map as the specialist of professional watches and stopwatches and today, Montblanc continues the legacy of professional timekeeping through the aptly named TimeWalker collection.

The new Montblanc TimeWalker collection represents a strong contemporary expression of the ever evolving art of classical watchmaking. Today, these mechanical throwbacks to pre-industry are dressed in high tech material combinations like black ceramic, satinated steel, titanium and rubber. These timepieces were on display inside glass cases set around the cocktail area while a Montblanc watchmaker worked at his bench offered guests and watch aficionados a closer look at the technicity of the new Timewalker watches.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter and Rally Timer Voted 2017 GPHG Finalists

The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition and TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition from Montblanc are two of 72 watches chosen as finalists in the 2017 Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG) .

The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter and TimeWalker Rally Timer will compete with other watchmaking exemplars of high horology to win one of the 15 prizes that will reward the industry’s most innovative, best finished or most groundbreaking horological creations  including the prestigious “Aiguille d’Or”. The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) aims, in a spirit of sharing and cooperation, to yearly highlight and reward high-quality creations in order to nurture the advancement of the watchmaking art and the Aiguille d’Or or Grand Prix is the prize which rewards the best overall watch among all categories, it is also the Grand Prix’s most prestigious award.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter and Rally Timer Voted 2017 GPHG Finalists

A panel of jurists will meet in November to commence final selection. Each will vote behind via secret ballot under the watchful eyes of a legal notary, a strict procedure to allay fears and rumour-mongering of the often politicised Grand Prix for watchmaking. Fans of Montblanc will learn whether their beloved Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter and TimeWalker Rally Timer are winners of either category awards or the creme de la creme Aiguille d’Or at the award ceremony on Wednesday November 8th at the Théâtre du Léman in Geneva.

Profile of a GPHG Finalist: The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition

The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter was a two toned 44mm limited edition in satinated bronze and titanium. The Montblanc GPHG finalist also bears polished bezel for extra depth and elegance while the champagne dial with sunray finishing and cathedral shaped hands are matched by faux-patinated SuperLuminova which further sell the vintage appeal of the classical age of motoring.


The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is driven by the calibre MB M16.29, distinctive for its column wheel mechanism, horizontal coupling, chronograph bridge in a “V” shape, the so called signature “Devil’s tail” and a large screwed balance wheel beating at a somewhat leisurely 18,000 vph. Montblanc’s GPHG finalist nominee bears 50 hours power reserve and is dressed with a cognac alligator leather strap crafted at the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence, complete with a satinated bronze plated buckle.

Profile of a GPHG Finalist: Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition

Reinterpreting Minerva’s historical Rally Timer, Montblanc presents an innovative and versatile timepiece strictly limited to 100 pieces. It can be used in different ways, as it can be changed from a wristwatch into a pocket watch or dashboard clock. The manufacture calibre MB M16.29 with a monopusher chronograph was inspired by the original Minerva calibre 17-29 from the 1930s, offering handcrafted fine watchmaking finishes such as chamfered angles and “Côtes de Genève” or circular graining decorations. As on the famous Minerva Rally Timer, the chronograph’s 30-minute counter at 12 o’clock is vertically aligned with the small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. With a tip sculpted after the Minerva arrow, the red chronograph seconds hand runs in central position along a tachymeter scale, which can be used to calculate speeds over fixed distances. The historical Arabic numerals and the precise minuterie with red accents at five-minute markings were also modelled after its predecessor. With the same dimensions as its famous predecessor, the satinated titanium case with knurled finishing and DLC coating on the flank boasts an unusually large diameter of 50 mm. For utmost reliability and performance, the timepiece has been rigorously tested by the Montblanc Laboratory Test 500.

Inside Manufacture Minerva: Home of Montblanc 1858 Collection

Montblanc Villeret Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique 110 Years Anniversary Limited Edition

Montblanc Villeret Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique 110 Years Anniversary Limited Edition

In the pantheon of Roman gods, Janus is the one who presides over beginnings, transitions, and endings. Time itself is part of his domain, and Janus was often depicted with two faces – one gazed back at the past, while the other looked into the future. Montblanc shares a striking similarity to Janus in that both bridge the past and future: the maison constantly seeks to break new ground, yet keeps a keen eye on its heritage, both to protect it and to draw inspiration from it. This trait is characterised, quite fittingly, by the brand’s timepieces.

Dawn of a New Manufacture

Montblanc only started producing timepieces in 1997. This was admittedly a late start, especially in comparison to other manufactures that already boasted over a century of watchmaking heritage by then. Considering how the maison has managed to establish itself as a bona fide manufacture with both mass market and haute horlogerie offerings within two decades, however, it is clear that the length of time is but one factor in determining the relative success that a brand has in this field.

Montblanc's Le Locle Manufacture

Montblanc’s Le Locle Manufacture

Montblanc’s initial foray into timepieces was centred on Le Locle, where it established its watchmaking operations. The choice was an easy one to make – the little town nestled in the Jura Mountains had a long history of watchmaking, and already depended on it as its chief economic activity from the 1840s. As Montblanc was part of the Richemont Group, it could also count on technical support from sibling brands such as IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. From the get-go, however, the maison was determined to maintain its autonomy in design and product positioning. To that end, its initial offerings heavily mirrored the fountain pens that the brand was then better known for – gold cases and black dials recalled classics such as the Montblanc Meisterstück 149, and drew an instant link between the two product universes. The stylised six-pointed white star was also a recurring motif and appeared in places such as the crown and the seconds hand. Over time, Montblanc expanded its range of watches to include women’s collections such as the ultra-feminine Star Lady, and sportier lines like the Timewalker. The brand’s ability to master both the traditional and the avant-garde was evident from the start – even as it pushed the envelope with technical details such as the use of DLC in some sports watches, it also offered classic designs in lines like the Star collection.

Acquiring Minerva, Transforming into Villeret

Montblanc received a major boost to its watchmaking capabilities in 2006, when the Richemont Group acquired Minerva. The Villeret-based manufacture was nearly 150 years old by then, and the terms of the deal included unlimited rights to its calibres, existing ébauches, machines, tools, and even the building itself. Considering that Minerva did produce its own watches, it was certainly possible to establish the manufacture as a distinct brand within the Richemont Group’s portfolio, albeit one that operated on a smaller scale. The ultimate decision, however, was to integrate it with Montblanc.

Inside Manufacture-Minerva, now known as Villeret, Home of Montblanc 1858 Collection.

Inside Manufacture-Minerva, now known as Villeret, Home of Montblanc 1858 Collection.

Minerva was only named as such in 1929; the company was founded in 1858, and was initially an établisseur that merely assembled finished components into complete watches. It reached a major milestone in 1902 with the introduction of its first in-house movement and, by 1910, was producing around a dozen different ébauches alongside chronographs and stopwatches. As an entity, Minerva changed hands several times and, as was common in the past, had its products marketed under many different brands, such as the now defunct Rhenus and Tropic. There were common threads running through its history though. For one, despite the ownership changes Minerva remained private until its acquisition by the Richemont Group. This gave the manufacture an independence that also shaped its development – automation, for instance, was never considered, which kept the quantities of movements and watches produced relatively modest. In turn, Minerva’s limited scale safeguarded its independence, as it was too small to attract the attention of conglomerates keen on acquiring watchmaking assets. Ownership aside, the company’s winning of the timing contract for the 1936 Winter Olympic Games also set an important precedent by firmly establishing chronographs, stopwatches, and measuring instruments as the second key pillar of the business, in addition to watches. This business unit kept the company afloat during the Quartz Crisis, as it supplied stopwatches and other measuring devices to clients outside the watch industry.

The vaunted 500 hours test within Montblanc's Le Locle facility

The vaunted 500 hours test within Montblanc’s Le Locle facility

Inside Manufacture Minerva: Home of Montblanc 1858 Collection

Under Montblanc, Minerva was rebranded as the maison’s Villeret manufacture. This addition meant that Montblanc now had two synergistic watchmaking assets under it –the state-of-the-art Le Locle manufacture that produces tens of thousands of watches annually, and the traditional Villeret manufacture with an expertise in movement development and production honed over one and a half centuries.

Indeed, the maison took full advantage of this, and eventually separated the watchmaking functions among the two manufactures to play to each’s strengths. The Villeret manufacture now handles in-house movement development and prototyping, as well as the assembly of all in-house movements from small to high complications. Selected timepieces that are produced within the manufacture’s high watchmaking atelier are encased there as well, with each watch cased up by the same watchmaker that assembled its movement. Finally, the Villeret manufacture also produces hairsprings. This fairly uncommon capability that has allowed Montblanc to offer atypical oscillators, such as the Villeret Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique 110 Years Anniversary Limited Edition watch, which uses two concentric cylindrical hairsprings (one set inside the other) within the tourbillon escapement.

Hairspring production remains a key competency of the Villeret manufacture

Hairspring production remains a key competency of the Villeret manufacture

The Le Locle manufacture, on the other hand, handles the watchmaking functions outside of movement development and production. These range from the initial design and prototyping work, to the production of cases, dials, and hands, to final assembly and quality control. Montblanc’s Laboratory Test 500 Hours, which subjects all Montblanc watches with in-house movements to a battery of tests totalling 500 hours, is also conducted at Le Locle. Finally, with the recent establishment of a dedicated business unit for watches, even the staff involved in marketing and other such functions are now based there.

Minerva – Villeret – Le Locle – Montblanc: Managing Fine Watchmaking Know-how

With the cutting edge design and production capabilities of one manufacture to complement the rich heritage of the other, Montblanc has been able to flex its watchmaking muscles and offer vintage inspired watches with decidedly modern twists. The recent three additions to the maison’s 1858 collection epitomises this, beginning with the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition. This timepiece is the flagship of the three new watches, and harks back to the early days of chronograph technology with its monopusher layout. The modern self-winding chronograph movement with two pushbuttons, such as the ubiquitous Valjoux 7750, is the result of several cumulative developments, which the monopusher chronograph predates. Instead of two pushers, the sole pusher here starts, stops, and resets the chronograph sequentially, and is thus unable to total the elapsed time for separate events by stopping and restarting the chronograph – a quaint limitation today, but the norm in the past.

Left: An earlier Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition in steel. Right: Its successor, 1858 Chronograph Limited Edition in Bronze

Left: An earlier Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition in steel. Right: Its successor, 1858 Chronograph Limited Edition in Bronze

Choice of complication aside, the watch’s design also alludes to the past, specifically Minerva’s history of producing watches for military use. The importance of keeping accurate time in a military context should be easy to understand. Coordinating troop movements to predetermined times, for one, would maintain the element of surprise. A chronograph with a telemeter scale, on the other hand, would allow an artillery battery’s commander to gauge the distance to the enemy. Pilots, too, relied on chronographs when navigating, by timing the various legs of a flight pattern. The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s design is based on an earlier reference in blue, which was itself derived from a pilot’s monopusher chronograph Minerva made in 1932. Note how the cathedral hands, vintage typeface for the hour indexes, and oversized onion crown have all been maintained as throwbacks to the original.

The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s bronze case has been matched with a champagne-coloured dial

The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s bronze case has been matched with a champagne-coloured dial

In lieu of an exact facsimile, however, Montblanc opted to update the original’s design while preserving its vintage military vibe, with the most striking change being the usage of bronze instead of steel. Bronze was, of course, never used in any vintage watch – the material was only introduced as a case material in the mid-1990s. The alloy immediately imparts an aged look to the watch that will intensify over time as it acquires a patina. Lest one is worried about this choice of material, rest assured that the variant used here is aluminium bronze. This alloy will start to develop a dark, even patina after two to three weeks of wear, but lack the pitting or green discolouration commonly observed in standard bronze and brass. Meanwhile, the timepiece’s case back is bronze-coloured titanium, so skin allergies are a non-issue. The choice of bronze is certainly atypical for a timepiece positioned at this level. Davide Cerrato, managing director of Montblanc’s watch division, agreed. “It’s clearly not a watch for everyone. If you think you’re buying a gold watch, then you’ll be disappointed because it will get darker – we’ve communicated this very clearly. For the collector who wants a watch with a patina, however, it’s the perfect timepiece.”

The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s bronze case has been matched with a champagne-coloured dial, which is yet another anachronism. Period correct military watches would, of course, have high contrast dials in either black or white for maximum legibility. This was also deliberate. According to Cerrato, this dial colour was chosen to impart a monochromic look, for an even heavier touch of vintage appeal. The crystal also remains domed like the original, although its material has been updated from acrylic to sapphire. The finishing touch on the front of the watch is the vintage styled Montblanc logo, which currently appears on all 1868 collection timepieces.

The Montblanc MB M16.29 calibre here features impeccable hand finishing on every single component and there is much to see thanks to the chronograph's horizontal clutch layout

The Montblanc MB M16.29 calibre here features impeccable hand finishing on every single component and there is much to see thanks to the chronograph’s horizontal clutch layout

Flip the watch around, and the transparent case back presents a feast for the eyes. The MB M16.29 calibre here features impeccable hand finishing on every single component – frankly a given that’s expected of the Villeret atelier – and there is much to see thanks to the chronograph’s horizontal clutch layout. The V-shaped chronograph bridge and arrow-shaped component, signatures of the Minerva manufacture, are also present here, with the latter executed at one end of the chronograph blocking lever. In a first for the brand, the movement bridges and mainplate have been plated with red gold, to complement the hue of the bronze case. The greatest visual delight is served up by the large balance wheel, which beats at a leisurely 18,000vph. This oscillation frequency is inherently less accurate compared to movements beating at higher frequencies, and thus demands much more work to reach similar levels of chronometric performance. The consequence is of this is that every watch becomes a luxury product through and through given the time lavished on its movement.

The Rest of the Montblanc 1858 Collection

The 1858 Automatic Dual Time and 1858 Automatic were conceived to be accessible translations of the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition’s concept, and have been priced accordingly. The most striking differences lie in their designs: in lieu of full bronze cases, the watches are bi-colour instead, with stainless steel providing contrast to their bronze bezels and crowns. The two watches also have high contrast dials that are closer to the original’s in spirit.

1858 Automatic Dual Time

1858 Automatic Dual Time

Of course, the movements housed with the two watches also differ from the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition. In fact, the small complication housed within the 1858 Automatic Dual Time, a second time zone display with day/night indicator, is also anachronistic, as it had only been developed in the 1950s. Cerrato described this watch as “almost a pre-GMT”, yet again demonstrating Montblanc’s deft touch in combining the best of elements from different time periods. The Automatic Dual Time’s MB 29.19 calibre is an in-house development, and is capable of “hiding” the second hour hand below the first should the watch’s wearer not require it. Finally, the 1858 Automatic rounds out the trio as the most affordable timepiece among them, with a simple two-hand layout that only displays the time.

Despite having designs rooted in a military chronograph produced during the interwar period, the three timepieces have been refreshed with modern elements, and look like perfect blends between a modern watch and its predecessor from a century ago. What’s even more impressive is how they can effortlessly put a dressy twist on the rugged tool watch aesthetic – none of these timepieces will be out of place under a suit in the boardroom. Cerrato opined that the right combination of elements can render such categorisations moot, because “[a] good design transcends such categories”. The three watches here have certainly done that.

1858 Automatic

1858 Automatic

Standard bearers: A Guide to the Swiss Watch Industry’s Quality Benchmarks


Before ­­the advent of the mobile handheld computer, watches were the primary (or in some cases the only) tools of timekeeping. Ok, also clocks but time became personal long before electricity lifted the world out of darkness. Consumers of the 21st century, by way of contrast, can access the hours, minutes and seconds on nearly all powered devices in their daily lives – while also having a perpetual calendar and chronograph in the mix. Fun fact: there is more computing processing power in your mobile phone than the Apollo 11 astronauts had in their spacecraft.

Obviously, we live in times where watches are bought less for their timekeeping performance and more as a lifestyle accessory or personality enhance. Well, that requires a qualifier so here goes: watches can make you feel better about your standing in life and in society. Still, the precision of timekeeping remains the single most objective aspect for which a timepiece can be judged, as design, shape, colour and size are all subjective. It is worth remembering here that collector Henry Graves Jr (he of the Henry Graves supercomplication from Patek Philippe) was primarily interested in watches with exceptional precision, which in the early 20th century meant observatory-certified watches.

Standard bearers: A Guide to the Swiss Watch Industry’s Quality Benchmarks

The following standards show prominent third party certification bodies serve as a pillar of confidence – and how certain watch brands are doing more internally to guarantee precision.

Typically found on watch dials, the COSC chronometer label sometimes appears in other places, as seen here. Breitling has put it on the rotor of the Superocean Heritage Chronoworks where it reads "Chronographe Certife Chronometre"

Typically found on watch dials, the COSC chronometer label sometimes appears in other places, as seen here. Breitling has put it on the rotor of the Superocean Heritage Chronoworks where it reads “Chronographe Certife Chronometre”

Watch Quality Benchmark 1: COSC CHRONOMETER

The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute is also referred to as COSC – the shortened form of its French name Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres. COSC serves as an independent institution providing testing and certification services to watch companies. A manufacturer who wishes to market a watch as a chronometer-grade timepiece must first submit the watch’s movement to COSC. At this facility, the movement is tested in five positions and at three temperature levels over a period of 15 days in order to identify the watch’s average daily accuracy. Only movements proven to be accurate within +6/-4 seconds per day are certified. Once returned to the manufacturer, these movements are cased up and the watches powered by them have earned the chronometer designation on the dial.

Geneva Seal or poincon de Geneve on a caseback of Vacheron Constantin watch

Geneva Seal or poincon de Geneve on a caseback of Vacheron Constantin watch

Watch Quality Benchmark 2: POINÇON DE GENÈVE

More casually referred to as the Geneva Seal, this standard scrutinises and certifies movements on three levels: provenance, craftsmanship and reliability. Provenance is a key emphasis here. Only movements assembled in Geneva can be certified; after all, the seal was established by the State of Geneva as a guarantee of Genevan watchmaking excellence.

According to the certification criteria, movements submitted to the testing body will be gauged for an accuracy level of +1/-1 minute per week. Functions such as chronograph, calendar and repeater are tested to ensure operational functionality. The power reserve must also be correct as per the specification claimed by the manufacturer. While the above qualities are intangible, the craftsmanship is not. All plates and bridges must be chamfered and polished by straight or circular graining such that all machining marks are removed. For this reason, a Geneva Seal watch is invariably well finished. Today, only a handful of brands can boast the seal in the form of an engraving on a movement bridge or the caseback.

The Qualite Fleurier mark on a Chopard LUC

The Qualite Fleurier mark on a Chopard LUC

Watch Quality Benchmark 3: QUALITÉ FLEURIER

The Fleurier Quality standard was officially launched in 2004. It marks a joint project by Bovet Fleurier, Chopard, Parmigiani Fleurier and Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. Taking the form of a foundation, the standard involves local governmental authority with auditing by a third party in the private sector. At the beginning of a lengthy process is the regular COSC chronometer certification. The movements are then subject to accelerated ageing and shock under what is called the Chronofiable Test. Subsequently, movements having passed the aesthetic quality criteria are cased and placed in a purpose-built Fleuritest machine for a period of 24 hours to simulate real-life wear, with alternation between more and less active periods. The required accuracy goal is +5/-0 seconds per day.

Although the foundation is located in Fleurier, the certification is technically open to watches from any other town in Switzerland, provided that the case, dial and movement are Swiss made.

Cyclotest machine at the Jaeger-LeCoultre facility

Cyclotest machine at the Jaeger-LeCoultre facility

Watch Quality Benchmark 4: JAEGER-LECOULTRE MASTER 1000 HOURS

Despite the respect earned from watch enthusiasts around the world, Jaeger-LeCoultre found it necessary to provide such customers with concrete assurances, resulting in the establishment of the Master 1000 Hours programme of rigorous testing. Assembled watches are put in a machine, which move and subject them to small shocks, not unlike when the watches are worn, to ensure that the watch components are firmly in place and to test the tension of the mainspring. The next tests concern balance spring adjustment, power reserve and reaction to Swiss room temperature (22°C), a lower temperature (4°C) and a higher temperature (40°C).

Test watches are then left on the cyclotest machine for three weeks to simulate wrist movements, both in motion and in repose. The entire test period of 1,000 hours is sufficient to serve as the run-in period. A technical glitch, if any, should manifest already and can be corrected while at the manufacture. And as a result, customer dissatisfaction is minimised.

Montblanc Laboratory Test 500 - here, testing water resistance

Montblanc Laboratory Test 500 – here, testing water resistance

Watch Quality Benchmark 5: MONTBLANC LABORATORY TEST 500

Having made a name with products other than watches, Montblanc had quite the task convincing traditional brand-conscious buyers of their watches’ technical virtues. One of the means used is the introduction of the Montblanc Laboratory Test 500. This comprehensive test program in a dedicated laboratory sees that each Montblanc watch to be released from the manufacture in Le Locle meets strict quality criteria, such that it can offer as long a service life as expected by the buyer.

Several procedures are carried out during the 500 hours of the test. For the first four hours, cased watches are tested for assembly quality and winding performance. This is followed by 80 hours of continuous accuracy control, 336 hours of functions control and 80 hours of general performance testing. In this process, daily wear and various environmental conditions are simulated by machines. The final test is two hours immersion in water to ensure perfect resistance.

At the METAS facility within Omega's HQ, an automated system alters positions of the watches and move them from one temperature zone to another.

At the METAS facility within Omega’s HQ, an automated system alters positions of the watches and move them from one temperature zone to another.

A photograph is taken for comparison with one from before the test process in order to determine the level of accuracy.

A photograph is taken for comparison with one from before the test process in order to determine the level of accuracy.

Watch Quality Benchmark 6: MASTER CHRONOMETER

This last example of in-house control comes with governmental oversight. Going beyond the regular chronometer certification, Omega has developed the Master Chronometer standard in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS) as the next level of timekeeping performance.

First, COSC-certified movements are cased-up for a series of tests. Chronometric accuracy of the watches is monitored for a period of 24 hours after they have been exposed to a magnetic field of 15,000 gauss. Following demagnetisation, a machine the size of a (small) room arranges watches in six positions in two alternating temperature zones. Accuracy is rechecked at the end of the 4-day period to arrive at a daily average. Deviation in accuracy between when the watch has 100% and 33% power reserve is determined as well. A test watch must be accurate to +5/-0 seconds per day in order to be certified.

Everything is done under Omega’s roof at the firm’s facility in Biel but a room is allocated to METAS so their personnel can audit the watch company’s test results using their own equipment. This is why the certification is official and the red certificate card can bear the METAS emblem with Swiss national flag on it.

More brands are diligently working in the area of quality control. With competition being more intensive, everyone is fuelled by the need to offer added value, which is always beneficial to end users. At the close of the day, it is realistic to remember that mechanical watches do not stay accurate forever. Their performance theoretically can be affected by the knocks and bumps from everyday usage, as well as from their natural service life. This is why reasonable care should be used when wearing and handling your watches, and why you should have them serviced at the interval suggested by their respective manufacturers.

Handwriting Makes You Smarter: Put Down Your Keyboards and Pick Up your Montblanc Pens

According to Psychology Today, there are surprising benefits to putting down your keyboards and picking up your Montblanc pens because writing by hand could actually make you smarter.

Gone are the days where penmanship was a required class in school where generations of adults first learned to write alphabets and then progressed to beautiful cursive sentences. Today, Millennials are growing up in an environment of personal computing devices which render handwriting all but necessary only for tests and exam papers. In fact, with instant messaging, emails and printed school reports and essays on the rise, academic curriculars in many schools in most developed countries have dropped the “archaic skill” of cursive handwriting entirely. That said, cognitive scientists are beginning to discover that learning cursive is an important foundation for cognitive development because you are essentially learning “functional specialisation” – the act of putting pen to paper and then executing maneuvers which deliver aesthetically pleasing sentences and paragraphs creates an environment where the capacity for optimal efficiency aka functional specialisation is drastically improved.

Handwriting Makes You Smarter: Put Down Your Keyboards and Pick Up your Montblanc Pens

Regarding functional specialisation, there was debate as to whether the writing practice which facilitated neural specialization was triggered by driven perceptual feedback from the act of writing itself or the actual execution of the motor act

paper by Kersey and James of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, researchers discovered that after testing 7 year olds in a battery of handwriting tests both through active self-production and passive observation, fMRI analysis concluded that brain activation patterns were generated through active training – that is to say, the act of writing, which “increased recruitment of the sensori-motor network associated with letter perception” rather than triggered by mere passive observation.

In young adults, Researchers from Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a similar study using different experimental stimuli – that of differences between students who wrote their notes as opposed to students who typed them. Subjects took notes during a lecture using one of the two methods and were tested on the material after. In the short term, both methods of notetaking performed well in terms of recall after 30 minutes with typists having better verbatim grasp of the material but handwritten notetakers were able to better explain concepts of the lecture after a week had passed. Not to mention, they were also more receptive to the understanding of new ideas.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal, educational psychologist Kenneth Kiewra from the University of Nebraska revealed a similar study with a startling conclusion – laptop notetakers had a slight advantage because typing meant transcribing lectures verbatim but handwritten notes tended to be briefer and better organised with accompanying illustrations, this meant that handwritten notes were produced by processing the lecture and then putting ideas down on paper in a brief yet understandable way – giving the handwriters an advantage in remembering and digesting new concepts long-term.

Penmanship: Handwriting engages the brain


Transcription, the act of taking down a lecture word for word on your laptop doesn’t require critical thinking; but since the hand doesn’t write as fast as speech, handwriting your notes requires you to engage with the materials to put down an interpretation of the information pre-processed by you. Because the information is type-written, your brain is not effectively engaged with the material, signalling your brain to discard the lecture over the long term for the sake of efficiency.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated, there is core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental stimulation in your brain, it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realise. Thus, learning is made easier.” – French Psycholgist Stanislas Dehaene to New York Times


More interestingly, in children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, their neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters and because of the varying styles – writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres pf the brain.

A vintage Montblanc 246 with flexible nib allows you to replicate many signature (no pun intended) cursive styles

A vintage Montblanc 246 with flexible nib allows you to replicate many signature (no pun intended) cursive styles


When writing in cursive, the brain must execute each stroke relative to other strokes, while remembering the appropriate size and slant in context of the other letters before it and the details of each individual letter – this forces the brain to develop and refine categorisation skills. Thus, writing in cursive is more advantageous than mere handwriting because the actions or movement tasks are more demanding without the repetition of mere handwriting stereotypical shapes.

“Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.” – Psychology Today

Cognitive scientists believe that cursive writing engages artistic senses in the same way learning to play a musical instrument improves brain development. Furthermore, the beauty of the writing and the aesthetics of it, reinforce the role of emotion during specific stages of “encoding” or remembering that information.

With its elegant all-metal appearance, the inspiration behind the Montblanc Solitaire Serpent Limited Edition 1906 is a historical Montblanc metal and gold writing instrument from the 1922-1932 period. The original writing instrument featured a barrel and cap made from chased silver. The chasing technique is used on this latest limited edition, intricately decorated with a magnificent serpent engraved on the platinum-coated metal surface.

With its elegant all-metal appearance, the inspiration behind the Montblanc Solitaire Serpent Limited Edition 1906 is a historical Montblanc metal and gold writing instrument from the 1922-1932 period. The original writing instrument featured a barrel and cap made from chased silver. The chasing technique is used on this latest limited edition, intricately decorated with a magnificent serpent engraved on the platinum-coated metal surface.

The design of the Montblanc Writers Edition Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Limited Edition are inspired by ‘Night Flight’, his famous novel based on his experiences as an airmail pilot. The shape of the writing instrument recalls his Caudron Simoun plane with engravings on the night blue precious resin barrel and cap reminiscent of the rivets of the aircraft.

The design of the Montblanc Writers Edition Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Limited Edition are inspired by ‘Night Flight’, his famous novel based on his experiences as an airmail pilot. The shape of the writing instrument recalls his Caudron Simoun plane with engravings on the night blue precious resin barrel and cap reminiscent of the rivets of the aircraft.

It may well be that the physicality of shaping letters cements concepts in the mind. For example, to type the word “typing,” I made the same motion on the keyboard six times, choosing which letter to type but not forming them. But if I were to write the same thing by hand, I’d have to shape six different letters and put them together. That takes more effort and seems to both demand more of the brain and leave a deeper imprint on the mind than typing. That imprint appears to be critical when learning new things – the more emotionally charged it was, the longer we retained memory of it and our chances of recalling specific details relating to it.



It looks like you might want to start handwriting your reports in cursive first before typing them out.



Timepieces and accessories for a good cause with the Montblanc for UNICEF collection

Watchmaking and brand-building are both about continuity, which is what makes partnerships such as the Montblanc-UNICEF initiative so special. Over the last 13 years, the Montblanc for UNICEF collection has helped raise more than US$10 million to benefit education programmes around the world. Montblanc, a brand built on the idea that writing — and consequently reading — is a “precious gift”, is the perfect partner for UNICEF in its mission to help children in need everywhere. Obviously, UNICEF’s mission is a tough one, given that some 59 million school-age children are not in school. Even where children receive some form of schooling, some 130 million will not achieve a basic standard of literacy and numeracy. Montblanc’s journey with UNICEF began in 2004 with the Sign Up for the Right to Write initiative, a campaign that used the exactly the right words — if you are lucky enough to read those words the reason should be clear.

In 2017, Montblanc has set the bar high for its Montblanc for UNICEF campaign, aiming to raise more than US$1 million. In service of this goal is the aforementioned Montblanc for UNICEF collection, consisting of limited edition writing instruments, timepieces, accessories and leather goods. Each item from the Writing Is a Gift Collection sold between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018, raises the amounts Montblanc will be contributing to towards helping more children gain access to improved standards of primary education.

“There is still much to be done to ensure that every child around the world has proper access to an education, a cause Montblanc has been proud to champion for the past 13 years,” explains Nicolas Baretzki, Montblanc CEO. “This new initiative gives individuals who are as passionate as we are about the written word the ability to own a Montblanc piece that carries true purpose, and by doing so, making a valuable contribution to the work of UNICEF in communities around the world where children are not always given the opportunity to learn to read and write. Writing is indeed a special gift that every child should enjoy.”

More than pretty words, Montblanc has released some specifics of how it intends to use the money it raises. In China, for example, it will be supporting child-friendly schools and the rights equal education. In Brazil, Montblanc’s contributions will help UNICEF achieve its goal of getting children aged four to 17 access to basic education; UNICEF is also helping teachers and school managers here to stymie the dropout rates of the most disadvantaged boys and girls. The mission continues in other places, of course.

Father’s Day 2017 gift idea: Montblanc’s Legend, a new cologne for men

Back with a bang is Montblanc with a legendary new fragrance for men—the Legend. A scent for the confident, virile and ambitious man, Montblanc pours its vision of timelessness and elitism into this fragrance. Fashioned by perfumer Olivier Pescheux, this scent is the epitome of subtle masculinity.

The Legend’s muse is British model Simon Clark, portraying the essence of a charismatic man. Photographed by Peter Lindbergh in black and white, the campaign effortlessly pulls off what wearers of the fragrance embody—strength in simplicity.

Opening with a whiff of lavender, the scent diffuses into a fresh pinch of Bergamot from Calabria and Litsea Cubeba. A lively burst is created from these notes before settling into an intense harmony of Evernyl and Pomarose. The former is reminiscent of oakmoss, displaying its warm woody scent before the injection of fruity rose and apple from the latter. “I wanted it to be the true heart of the formula,” explains Olivier, “so I was very generous with it.” For a contemporary twist, Geranium is added to the mix, lifting the scent higher. The base notes feature the pliable Coumarin, before adding a touch of irresistible Sandalwood to complete the scent.

Not skimping on presentation, The Legend is dressed in Montblanc’s signature black and white colours. The bottle encapsulates the timeless masculinity in the brand’s design, bearing the iconic Montblanc hallmark. Slightly curved, the sleek black bottle is crafted from black glass and topped with a shiny metal stopper. Three rings around the cap and the emblematic star in the middle are homage to the brand’s signature symbols. The box’s design mirrors that of the bottle, bearing the design of curved metal thread, and the iconic star in the middle.

The Montblanc Legend is available at all Sephora and departmental stores. The 30ml is priced at $65, the 50ml at $90 and the 100ml at $120.

For more information, do visit Montblanc.


New luxury watch designs: Interview with Davide Cerrato on Montblanc’s passion for fine watchmaking

Montblanc may not have as storied a history in the art of fine watchmaking as others but a lot of thought goes into crafting each timepiece that leaves its factory in Le Locle. Who better to walk us through the decision-making process involved than the Managing Director of Montblanc‘s Watch Division, Davide Cerrato. Join us as we get an insider’s guide as we explore the design process of the brand’s new watches.

Why the choice of bronze?

As I was looking through the watches that Minerva produced in the 1930s and 1940s for inspiration, it became clear to me that bronze would be an interesting choice to express the vintage touch of the new watches. The alloy is a good material to express the idea of ageing, and to create an aged product. The patina every watch case acquires will also be unique, which translates to a different ownership experience depending on where the wearer lives, as well as how he wears his watch.

Was everything else built around this material choice?

Yes, we went with a very specific shade of champagne for the dial, instead of the black or dark chocolate brown that actual vintage watches had, to match the bronze case. The aim was to create a mono-colour or mono-material look for a very powerful design language. Similarly, the look of the case back was considered, and we chose to use red gold plating for the bridges and mainplate to complement the bronze case.

What about the two-tone execution for the other watches?

The monopusher chronograph was planned to be the main highlight. As always, however, Montblanc wants to continue sharing its passion for fine watchmaking, so we aimed to recreate the same vintage rugged military look, but at an affordable price point. Matching bronze and steel, which had never been done before, was the perfect way to do this, because you could have patina on the bezel and crown, but keep things affordable with the rest of the watch in steel. Military chronographs of that era often looked largely similar.

Was it challenging to create something unique for Montblanc’s reinterpretation?

Yes, it was. This was the reason for the choice of a champagne dial instead of one in black. There was no specific detail that we put in just to create a different look though it was more the overall look of the watch, both on the front and back. The inside of the strap, for instance, is full alligator leather complete with scales, to frame the view of the movement nicely to convey a similarly precious feel.

This article was originally published in WOW #43 (Festive 2016) issue.

Luxury watch brands: Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award 2016 recognised Peggy Guggenheim

Over the past 25 years, Montblanc has recognised the invaluable contribution of modern-day patrons of the arts from 17 various countries through its prestigious Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award. The award is part of the brand’s commitment to actively engage in the promotion of arts and culture across the globe. To accompany the award, each year, Montblanc commissions a unique limited edition pen inspired by a historical patron of the arts.

The Montblanc Patron of Art Edition 2016 paid tribute to Peggy Guggenheim, one of the most influential art collectors and exhibitors of 20th-century art. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she is the niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, the eponymous founder of the Guggenheim Museum. As a significant figure in the Western art world, Peggy Guggenheim dedicated most of her life to protecting the art of her time by discovering and nurturing new talent, while building an important collection of works, which are currently housed in a Venice museum that carries her name.

Born in 1898 to a family whose fortune was made from the mining and smelting of metals, Peggy grew up in New York and travelled to Europe at the age of 23. Marrying first husband Laurence Vail, Peggy soon found herself at the heart of Parisian bohemia and American expatriate society. In 1938, she opened her first art gallery in London, and a year later conceived the idea of opening a ‘modern art museum’ formed upon historical principles. Throughout and in spite of the war, Peggy busily acquired works for the future museum, with a resolve to “buy a picture a day”. Some of the masterpieces of her collection, such as works by Francis Picabia, Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí and Piet Mondrian, were bought at that time.

Peggy Guggenheim, recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Peggy Guggenheim, recipient of the 2016 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award.

Eventually, Peggy left France in 1941 and returned to New York where she finally opened her museum-gallery, Art of This Century. The gallery hosted innovative exhibition rooms and soon became the most stimulating venue for contemporary art in New York. She exhibited her collection of Cubist, abstract and Surrealist art in the gallery. Peggy also held temporary exhibitions of leading European artists to unknown American ones. This led to a cross-pollination of styles and ideas. Peggy and her collection thus played a vital role in the development of America’s first art movement of international importance. She spent the last 30 years of her life in Venice, bringing American avant-garde art to Europe and continued to collect works of art and support artists.

The pen commissioned for the 2016 Montblanc Patron of Art award pays homage to Peggy’s life from her arrival in Europe to her later life in Venice. Created in the Montblanc Artisan Atelier from the finest materials and shaped by highly skilled master craftsmen, the design of the writing instrument is inspired by the art deco style that surrounded Peggy when she arrived in Paris in the 1920s, with clean lines forming the straight shape of the cap, clip and barrel. The skeletonised gold structure of the barrel mirrors the dramatic gates to the Guggenheim Collection in Venice. The lion head clip design refers to the Lion of Saint Mark, symbolic of the city where Peggy chose to house her collection. A red lacquer inlay spiral is inspired by the iconic striped mooring poles lining the canals of Venice. Crowning the cap, the Montblanc emblem is crafted in white marble, mirroring the distinctive marble façade of Peggy’s palazzo.

Through the artistry of great craftsmanship, Montblanc shares the story of the woman who championed so many modern artists with passion and determination. Peggy’s contribution to cultural life is undeniable, and she joins a small group of historic patrons to be honoured by Montblanc. The limited edition writing instruments serve to inspire contemporary patrons by commemorating historic patrons of art. The Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award has been awarded since 1992 and is still awarded annually to recognise today’s patrons for their contribution and commitment to arts and cultural projects.

This article was first published in Art Republik.

Luxury perfumes for her: Lady Emblem Elixir fragrance by Montblanc brings a new interpretation


Valentine’s day is just around the corner! If you’re thinking about what to get for your significant other (or just as a gift from you to you), Montblanc’s Lady Emblem Elixir might be it. Montblanc’s Lady Emblem is captured in a bottle with a scent that represents all her qualities perfectly. Described as a woman with an intense gaze who captures your attention at first sight, she has a rebellious streak that contrasts her calm nature. Much like her, the fragrance is a combination of notes that contrast yet complement each other.

Beneath the floral notes, sits a hint of wood that adds to the allure of the Montblanc Lady Emblem. The scent opens with zesty mandarin; followed by dewy lychee to create a bubbly finish. Helmed by the Damask rose, the heart carefully reveals a harmonious mix of orange blossom, jasmine and iris. The infused sparks of vanilla, patchouli and sandalwood come together to round up the fragrance trail with a woody aroma. With its gracefulness injected with a hint of black pepper, the scent bursts into sensual elegance.

A reflection of the 43-faceted cut cap that is reminiscent of the Montblanc diamond that was inspired by the six-valley design, the flower-shaped bottle is dressed in a pink gold hue with metallic accents. The box pairs beautifully with the bottle because of its pink gold wash, making the perfectly sophisticated combination.

The Montblanc Lady Emblem Elixir collection comes in 3 sizes: 30ml ($80), 50ml ($122) and 75ml ($155). The series will be available from mid of February 2017 at selected department stores.

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter in two of its transformations

Montblanc Timewalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter: Transformable watch shown at SIHH 2017 Day 3

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter in two of its transformations

With Day 3 at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) wrapped up, we find ourselves overwhelmed as usual. The WOW team has by now seen (and, not for nothing, photographed) all the novelties from all the major players exhibiting at the Palexpo. At this moment, we are hard pressed to choose just one watch to highlight…

For example, there is an amazing Richard Mille vying to be the lightest watch in the world; an amazingly complicated Grand Sonnerie, 10 years in the making, at Vacheron Constantin; a lubrication-free watch from Officine Panerai that has a 50-year warranty; and an outrageous and out-of-this-world diamond-encrusted wonder from Audemars Piguet. Believe it or not, the list goes on but for today, our penultimate day inside the halls of the Palexpo, I want to look at something fun, which we discovered at Montblanc, with the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter.

Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter in action

A 50mm wrist titan, this watch can be transformed into a pocket watch, a table clock and a dashboard clock. It can also be worn in many different ways, making it possibly the most flexible wristwatch at this size (the watch is cased in grade 2 titanium so it isn’t actually as hefty as it sounds). The case turns from 0 to 180 degrees, or from 3 to 9 o’clock, which means the knurled crown can be positioned from 3 to 9 o’clock.

It was inspired by the original Minerva Rally Timer from the 1930s and is reportedly in exactly the same size today. Even the movement, the manual winding manufacture MB M16.29, is inspired by the original Minerva calibre 17.29. It is worth noting that Montblanc and Minerva are today the same, with Richemont announcing that both firms are now totally integrated.

Of course, Montblanc has a couple of star pieces from the fair, one of which graces the current issue of WOW, and another of which is a superlative chronograph with three balance springs, also in the TimeWalker collection but more on this later. For now, the specifications.


Case: 50mm titanium

Dial: Black, with Arabic numerals and SuperLuminova treated indexes

Movement: Manual winding calibre MB M16.29 with monopusher chronograph

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph

Limited edition of 100

Double Balance Wheel

Why Two Balance Springs are Better than One

Just like the human body, a mechanical movement has a core anatomy. Typically, it includes a mainspring coiled within a barrel and a going train that consists of four gearing wheels, the escapement, and the balance wheel. Science has proven that larger brains equate to higher intelligence, so it stands to reason that having two brains is very likely better than just one.

It is the same for mechanical watches. When done well, having two balance wheels (or more) yields higher timekeeping accuracy and additional barrels understandably give more power. A set of gongs that encircle the movement twice, also known as cathedral gongs, produces chimes with greater resonance, color, and richness as opposed to traditional gongs that go round the movement only once. And two tourbillons are always better than one.

Audemars Piguet

For the first time, Audemars Piguet makes a Royal Oak equipped with two sets of balance wheels and hairsprings geared to one going train.

In their continual quest to build better watches, watchmakers have not only toyed with the concept that having additional critical components would improve performance, but they have also boldly acted on it, producing some of the most exciting mechanical movements in modern watchmaking history.

Fine BalanceAudemars Piguet

Oscillator is to watch what pendulum is to clock. A staggering majority of mechanical movements, whether made today or historically, have been designed with a single oscillator placed at the end of the gear train. The oscillator generally consists of balance wheel and balance spring, and its job is to convert the linear flow of power coming from the mainspring into oscillations, hence the back and forth motion. With each oscillation, it dispenses power to the escape wheel in pulses and this is how a watch advances each second.

Unlike a clock, which sits immobile on a mantelpiece or mounted on the wall, a watch and its movement are constantly put through different positions on the wrist. Gravity’s effect acts on the hairspring from as many as six different directions.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor

With four oscillatiors set at an incline and a differential mechanism to extrapolate the average rate, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor places first in showmanship

The argument that a tourbillon would be the ideal solution to optimal rate accuracy (or not) is a tale as old as time. A less conventional but no less exciting solution is to implement additional balance wheels instead of just the one.

Companies like Roger Dubuis, F.P. Journe, and more recently, Audemars Piguet and Greubel Forsey all have stunning inventions to show. In particular, Roger Dubuis outdid even itself and worked with two pairs of two balances in pursuit of timekeeping precision. Even ultra-niche MB&F has thrown its hat in the ring with this formula.

Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Incliné

The Greubel Forsey Double Balancier Incliné uses two balance wheels set at a 30-degree incline

Audemars Piguet presented the Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked this year. It is the first timepiece by the Le Brassus manufacture to be made with two balance wheels, in what it calls the dual balance patented geometry.

Before this seminal invention, Audemars Piguet had only produced watches with double hairsprings. With the ambition to increase timekeeping precision, its watchmakers mounted a second balance wheel with its own balance spring on the same axis as the first, resulting in a regulator that oscillates at three hertz with double the mass. More mass equals more inertia, and more inertia enables the regulator to continue oscillating even when there is shock. Ergo, the greater the inertia, the more stable the timekeeping.

MB&F Legacy Machine No.2

The MB&F Legacy Machine No.2 flaunts two balance wheels hanging over the dial and seemingly disconnected from the differential wheel.

Precision also stands to benefit and this movement, Calibre 3132, boasts an average daily rate of -2/+10. Also, because the two balance wheels are set against each other, the hairsprings take turns to “breathe” and the effect of gravity gets cancelled out as the device regulates itself.

Greubel Forsey has always dabbled in movements with multiple balance wheels or multiple tourbillons set at multiple axes. From the get-go, this ultra-niche firm has been about modern horological inventions, and so it’s not surprising that it is home to the most robust collection of double (and quadruple) tourbillons on the market.

Joining the Double Balancier Incliné of 2009 is the breath-taking Double Balancier à Différentiel Constant with two balance wheels set at a 30-degree incline from the mainplate. Between two regulators lies a spherical and constant force differential that is used to average out the errors of the two balances. Note that because they’re set at an incline, the balances are already more accurate than ordinary ones, as no matter what position the watch is in, either one or both of the balances will not be completely vertical to the force of gravity.lm2_platinum_engine

Other than to even out the margins of errors of the two balances, the differential is also boosted by a constant force mechanism that sends energy in regular pulses to the two escapements. This means that irrespective of the movement’s state of wind, the amount of power being sent to the regulators remain constant.

Without it, the regulators stand to oscillate faster and stronger when the mainspring is fully wound, and with progressively less speed and power as energy in the mainspring depletes. Oscillating in tandem, the two balance wheels produce a hypnotic effect that is even more exciting to watch than any traditional high complication.

Going by the kind of watches Roger Dubuis has been producing, audacity would clearly be its middle name if the Genevan manufacture had one. Three years ago, it released a watch called the Excalibur Quatuor that had not one, not two, but four spring balances. Needless to say, the movement, Calibre RD101, stood beside itself both in terms of technique and aesthetic.

F.P Journe's Chronomètre à Résonance

F.P Journe’s Chronomètre à Résonance remains the only double balance movements that utilises the phenomenon of resonance for regulation.

Each of the four balance wheels was set at an incline to average out the effects of gravity on the movement, and the wheels work in pairs, compensating immediately for rate variations caused by changes in position. According to Roger Dubuis, what the tourbillon achieves in 60 seconds, the Quatuor does instantaneously.

This movement is also equipped with a differential device to average out the errors of both pairs of spring balances, and oscillating at four hertz each, they come together to bring the accuracy of the movement to an astonishing 16 hertz. Putting one’s ear next to the watch, the break-neck speed at which all four balances simultaneously oscillate produces a sound that’s not quite the soothing, traditional tick-ticking, but rather, an almost deafening trill not unlike the cacophonous chirping of crickets.

A sure sight for sore eyes, the MB&F Legacy Machine No. 2 offers a sleek and modern take on the double balance movement. Ironically, though, this timepiece finds more inspiration in the past as opposed to the future. According to MB&F founder, Maximilian Büsser, the idea for the LM2 came from timepieces made by two esteemed watchmaking legends: the double balance calibres made by Ferdinand Berthoud from the 18th century and the one-and-only Philippe Dufour Duality.F.P Journe's Chronomètre à Résonance

Hovering above the dial, the two balances are supported by a pair of curved arms designed to evoke a distinctive futuristic vibe echoed by the bridge supporting the gilded differential wheel. The objective of this differential wheel is, once again, to average out the errors between the two balances. Oscillating at a leisurely 18,000vph, these mesmerising devices mirror each other and reflect the twin wheel layout of two gear wheels seen from the case back, which remind one of a style of watchmaking that was dear to Berthoud. Done, as usual, in collaboration with friends of the brand, the LM2 movement was designed by Jean-François Mojon of the movement specialist firm, Chronode, and expertly finished by Kari Voutilainen.

Making a movement with two balance wheels isn’t as easy as it sounds. Bear in mind that in watchmaking, as with all kinds of engineering, having more parts means more parameters to control. Therefore, a double balance movement is more than twice as complicated to make. In lieu of a differential to even out the performances of both balances, F.P. Journe utilised the much under-explored physical phenomenon known as resonance to synchronize the two balances.

Mechanical resonance is where the frequency of oscillation of an object matches the frequency of another, resulting in an increase of amplitude. The F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance is, till date, the only wristwatch that relies on the resonance phenomenon for precision – proof that such a movement is immensely complex to design and difficult to achieve. Both balances have to be placed at the optimum distance from each other, and this is adjustable by a central pinion. Because they’re placed so near each other, one affects the other’s frequency, thus constantly compensating for the deviations. The two balances are also made in the signature F.P. Journe extra-large geometry with four arms and corresponding adjustable inertia weights, where large balance wheels typically offer greater stability thanks to higher moments of inertia generated.

Good Timekeeping

Another area where an additional balance wheel comes in extra handy is in chronograph movements. Traditionally, chronographs experience a sharp drop in amplitude whenever the stopwatch mechanism is activated because those components deplete power from the gear train. Thus, for that split second or so, timekeeping precision would suffer, and fully regain only when the chronograph is stopped and reset. This condition affects not only chronographs, but all movements with additional functions, particularly functions that require a significant amount of power to operate. Repeaters are another example.

Montblanc's Timewriter II Bi-Fréquence 1000

Montblanc’s Timewriter II Bi-Fréquence 1000 uses a separate balance wheel for the chronograph, which pulsates at 360,000vph, but thanks to a patented divisional mechanism, measures time accurate to 1/1,000th of a second.

Having a separate balance wheel for the chronograph function not only eliminates this problem but also enables the movement to measure time autonomously and with even greater accuracy. When it is no longer at the mercy of the gear train, the chronograph’s balance has the freedom to oscillate at higher frequencies than the regular balance wheel.

This brings with it several advantages. The higher the frequency, the more accurate the timekeeper. Yet high frequency balances are subject to a lot more wear and tear, so limiting its use to only when needed would be extremely judicious. Finally, a high frequency balance needs to be small in diameter, which although fast and accurate, is not especially stable; large balances are stable although not as accurate. Therefore, what is the optimal geometry for good chronograph activity isn’t at all good for the regular hours and minutes, and so having a dedicated balance to each is to have the best of both worlds.

For a time, TAG Heuer had committed itself to the development of some of the fastest, most accurate chronographs on the market. Watches like the Carrera Mikrograph and Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000 offer super accurate chronograph function on the one hand and stable timekeeping on the other. The Mikrograph’s chronograph records time accurate to the nearest 100th of a second with a micro balance wheel that beats at an insane 360,000vph while the main balance wheel for the hours and minutes cruises along at a relatively leisurely 28,800vph, which is actually considered pretty fast for the hours and minutes.

Breguet Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent

The Breguet Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent uses silicon balance springs with Breguet overcoil in both balance wheels

On the other hand, the Mikrotimer Flying 1000 takes things up another notch, measuring time to the nearest 1,000th of a second. Its micro balance wheel powers on at a breakneck speed of 3.6 million times per hour, making it 125 times faster than a standard Swiss chronograph, and a hundred times more accurate than the most prevalent industrialized fast-beat chronograph movement, the Zenith El Primero. To watch this timepiece in action is not for the faint hearted because the central seconds hand spins around the dial a whopping 10 times per second. The only drawback is that the chronograph is only able to clock short events of no more than 150 seconds.

Both the Mikrograph and Mikrotimer Flying 1000 are made with the TAG Heuer dual-chain architecture, which eliminates the need for a clutch, but more impressively, both timepieces received COSC certification. Even while the chronograph is running, the watches remain highly precise.

Also measuring time in high definition is Montblanc with its TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi-Fréquence 1000 released in 2012. Again, there is one balance wheel for timekeeping and another for the chronograph, where the former beats at a deliberate pace of 18,000vph or 2.5 hertz, while in stark contrast, the latter pulsates at 360,000vph or 50 hertz. Here’s where the ingenuity of independent watchmaker Bartomeu Gomila comes into play.

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrograph

The TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrograph has two balance wheels, one for the hours and minutes oscillating at 28,00vph and another for the chronograph that oscillates at 360,000vph.

Compared to the Mikrotimer Flying 1000’s 3.6 million vph frequency, the Bi-Fréquence 1000 is 10 times slower. Yet it manages to display time just as accurately (to the nearest thousandth of a second) thanks to Gomila’s unique and patented mechanism. According to Montblanc, it took 10 years for Gomila to build the prototype, which is based on the idea of a childhood game involving a hoop and a stick. Using a thousandths wheel as the hoop and the chronograph gear train as the stick, the thousandths wheel rotates 10 times per second with each impulse received from the gear train. Thus, Gomila’s invention allows further division of the elapsed time by 10 times, thus yielding 1/1,000th of a second reading from a 1/100th of a second balance frequency.

The chronograph also has its own mainspring and can continue running for 45 minutes when fully wound. Both balance wheels can be seen through the dial, along with the chronograph minutes and seconds at six o’clock, the centrally mounted hundredths of a seconds hand that corresponds to the scale on the outermost circumference, and an arch window at 12 o’clock displaying 1/1,000th of a second.

If there were just one watch that deserves to be made with two balance wheels, it would be none other than the Breguet Tradition. Firstly, this timepiece inspired by early Breguet souscription watches is known for its fully openworked aesthetic, where the balance wheel is mirrored by the third wheel and its arbour to form a pleasantly symmetrical aesthetic. But where the balance wheel can be seen constantly oscillating, the third wheel appears not to move at all, even though in reality it is – just very slowly. As beautiful as the Tradition is, many purists and WISes lament this one tiny imperfection.

TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000

With an incredible frequency of 3.6 million times per hour, the TAG Heuer Carrera Mikrotimer Flying 1000 records time accurate to 1/1,000th of a second.

With the Tradition 7077 Chronograph Independent, however, this “wrong” is finally righted, as instead of the third wheel, there is the chronograph balance wheel. To achieve maximum design integrity, Breguet made this balance wheel in the same size as the timekeeping balance. However, in order for it to function optimally, it had to be made in titanium. This is because it oscillates at five hertz and this needs to be lighter than the traditional timekeeping balance oscillating at three hertz.

It may not be ultra-precise like the TAG Heuer and the Montblanc but this timepiece is extra reliable as a pair of brakes engages the chronograph balance every time it starts and stops. Mainly, its role is to ensure positional integrity when the balance stops and optimal amplitude when it starts. Breguet has also used silicon overcoil hairsprings and pallet forks in these areas.

The chronograph can run continuously for 20 minutes because it has its own mainspring. Winding it isn’t done through the crown, but rather, it happens automatically when the reset button is pushed. The reset button winds a small blade spring, which can be seen through the sapphire case back.

Train Reaction

Apart from introducing additional balance wheels, some watchmakers have considered other means of isolating a movement’s timekeeping elements from its functional ones. The most prolific of them would have to be Jaeger-LeCoultre and its ingenious Dual Wing concept. Introduced in 2008, it is essentially a system with two separate gear trains, each with its own mainspring and barrel, and both sharing one regulating organ.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire

As with double balance movements, one of the gear trains is dedicated to timekeeping and the other, all the functions and complications built into the movement. To date, they include moon phases, dual time, chronograph, the Jaeger-LeCoultre patented Sphérotourbillon, and the grande sonnerie in the inimitable Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie.

With a balance frequency of 21,600vph, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre watches aren’t the fastest timekeepers on the market but in terms of rate precision there is no doubt that they’re among the very best. Reaching -1/+6 seconds per day, the Dual Wing construction allows all manner of complications to function without causing any loss of amplitude to the balance.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Spherotourbillon Moon

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre Spherotourbillon Moon

This is because there is no connection between the two going trains; the two gear trains run completely independently of each other, that is, until the end where they converge at the balance wheel. Of all the variations made to date, energy guzzlers like the chronograph and the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie stand to benefit the most from the Dual Wing construction.

Manually wound, the Calibre 380 movement family stays powered for 50 hours. This applies to the hours and minutes as well as the complication, in the case of Calibre 380A, the chronograph. Each barrel is clearly labelled and they correspond to their respective power reserve indicators on either side of the foudroyante counter displaying 1/6th of a second.

Hot on the heels of the Duomètre is the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souveraine, which also offers a method of chronograph timekeeping that does not sap the life out of the mainspring, not even for a fraction of a second. Again, the chronograph has been isolated from the timekeeping mechanism, but here is where the Centigraphe Souverain is absolutely unique.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronograph

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronograph

The hands of the 100th of a second, the 20 seconds, and the 10 minutes counters are driven by two different wheel trains bifurcated from the chronograph gear train. Next, the one-second and 20-seconds counters are also driven by their own wheel trains positioned on either side of a single intermediate wheel driven by the barrel arbour. Finally, yet another separate train of wheels, also driven by the barrel arbour, drives the 10-minutes hands. In short, all of the hands draw power directly from the mainspring.

Forward Spiral

To average out the effects of gravity on the balance spring, a watchmaker may decide to construct a tourbillon carriage with which to protect the balance wheel and its spring, but this device makes regulation exponentially more difficult. Said watchmaker may also decide to split the flow of power into two sets of balance wheel and spring, interpolating their rates of precision with a differential, as seen with the timepieces discussed earlier by Audemars Piguet, Greubel Forsey, Roger Dubuis, and MB&F.

F.P Journe Centigraphe Souveraine

The F.P Journe Centigraphe Souveraine combines ultra-precise timekeeping with one-of-a-kind mechanics

While not quite as magnificent as the tourbillon, double balances are, in their own way, just as thrilling to admire. This places movements with double hairsprings one rung below the double balance when it comes to horological greatness.

Yet, it would not be fair to presume that such movements are inherently less complicated to make. The balance spring, a thing of beauty in itself, is something literally only a handful of watch companies can make in-house. To produce variants of the industry standard – Nivarox with Breguet overcoil – would be to call on a wholly different area of watchmaking expertise. At first blush, a double spiral looks deceptive simple, as it lacks the drama and fanfare of a tourbillon or a double balance system, but put it under the loupe and its beauty instantly becomes palpable.

Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater's Calibre 2928

Audemars Piguet Millenary Minute Repeater’s Calibre 2928 uses double hairsprings in one balance.

How does a double spiral system resist gravitational forces? Positioned opposite each other, the springs “breathe” alternately; when one expands, the other contracts. In addition, they each move in the opposite direction. So, when the center of gravity of the first balance spring makes a shift, the center of gravity of the second one moves in the exact opposite direction, thus compensating for the error and ensuring that the gravity center is always kept at the center of the balance wheel.

The theory behind achieving optimal rate accuracy using two spirals is not too different from that which uses two balances – components move in opposite directions to equal out the effect of gravity on the spirals. But having two spirals in one balance wheel reduces the need for additional components, thus making it easier to regulate the oscillator.

Audemars Piguet's Millenary Quadriennium

Introduced in 2015, the Millenary Quadriennium also comes with Audemars Piguet’s proprietary AP escapement and two balance springs

Before this year’s Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked, Audemars Piguet has presented timepieces with two spirals within a single balance wheel. The Millenary Minute Repeater with AP Escapement combines the proprietary AP escapement with a double spiral (flat terminal curve) and variable inertia balance wheel that oscillates at 21,600vph. Its vast expanse of a dial affords stunning views of the escapement as well as the regulator.

Likewise, the Millenary Quadriennium also boasts the AP escapement and a double spiral regulator oscillating at 21,600vph. According to Audemars Piguet, the movements are as precise as a tourbillon, since the AP escapement brings higher timekeeping efficiency and the double spiral compensates for potential poising flaws. While flat spirals typically do not breathe as concentrically as overcoil spirals, a double spiral construct renders this issue void because errors are effectively cancelled out when the springs take turns to breathe and in opposing directions.

H. Moser & Cie's Straumann double hairspring can be found in the Henry Double Hairspring, a watch named after the company's founding father.

H. Moser & Cie’s Straumann double hairspring can be found in the Henry Double Hairspring, a watch named after the company’s founding father.

The production of hairsprings is a regular milieu of a very select few watchmaking companies. There is literally only a handful of them, and H. Moser & Cie. might be considered the least likely to boast this capability on account of its ultra-niche branding and small production numbers. Its sister company, Precision Engineering AG, makes balance springs that are physically comparable to the Nivarox springs invented by Reinhard Straumann, which almost all companies today use. Nivarox consists of about 45 per cent cobalt, 20 per cent nickel, 20 per cent chromium, five per cent iron, and smaller percentages of titanium and beryllium, and so does the Straumann hairspring proprietary to H. Moser & Cie., so named in tribute to the inventor.

Note the set of two swan neck regulators under the balance bridge.

Note the set of two swan neck regulators under the balance bridge.

Using two Straumann hairsprings, H. Moser & Cie. made a double spiral for the escapement in a timepiece that paid tribute to its founding father, Heinrich Moser. Rather than a flat hairspring, the spiral is made with a Breguet overcoil to allow optimal concentric breathing, and like all H. Moser & Cie. watches, its entire escapement can be removed from the movement thanks to the interchangeable module design. The escape wheel and pallet fork are done in hardened gold, another key characteristic of an H. Moser & Cie. timepiece.

Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral

The Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral is classic on the outside, complex in the inside.

Speaking of in-house manufactured hairsprings, Montblanc not only produces them by hand at its Villeret manufacture, but it also managed to flaunt this exceptional mastery with a double cylindrical spiral in the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique. Introduced in 2011, this timepiece is linked to historical marine chronometers, which also tended to be made with cylindrical hairsprings. In this work of mechanical showmanship, the double cylindrical hairspring is paired with an extra-large variable inertia regulator balance wheel and a magnificent tourbillon carriage that is essentially three infinity signs fused in one. The tourbillon bridge also follows through with the infinity symbol motif.

Where there is a double hairspring that already works to cancel out the effects of gravity, a tourbillon regulator is arguably superfluous. However, the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique stubbornly combines both in this showpiece that offers a mere hint of watchmaking savoir-faire by Montblanc’s Villeret manufacture. The oscillator moves at a frequency of 2.5 hertz or 18,000vph, which is the traditional speed of all of Montblanc’s Villeret-made timepieces. Slow compared to even moderately paced movements, the manual-winding Calibre MB M65.63 was intentionally given this frequency so collectors could clearly admire the beauty of the spirals, the balance, and of course, the tourbillon.

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Who else also made a tourbillon with two spirals? Watchmaking independent Laurent Ferrier, which is known for its pure, understated designs that juxtapose with elaborately finished and decorated movements. In the Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral, the balance wheel oscillates with two inverted hairsprings that are mounted at the center. Once again, the double hairsprings increase the reliability of the regulating system by neutralizing the lateral displacement of the balance axis. At a frequency of 21,600vph, the entire regulating system is housed within a gorgeously finished tourbillon carriage. In addition, it rotates once every 60 seconds under a hand-decorated and hand-finished tourbillon bridge.

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique

Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique features two cylindrical hairsprings, one inside the other, within an extra-large balance and tourbillon carriage.

In their perpetual quest for timekeeping precision, watchmakers never fail to turn up new inventions that surprise and delight. This is where watchmaking becomes an art, not just a by-product of physics and mathematics in time telling. The beauty of two balance wheels oscillating to a classical cadence, the dance of two hairsprings taking turns to breathe, the elegance of two tourbillons rotating in unison… Less is not always more, especially in high watchmaking.

This article was first published in WOW.

Montblanc Augmented Paper

Montblanc Augmented Paper: Ode to Digital Luxury

What in the world is Augmented Paper and what does Montblanc have to do with it? Well, to begin with, let’s slow it down a little and go back to basics. Handwriting is an art much loved at the German writing instruments and watchmaking firm Montblanc but it is a decidedly analog love affair in an increasingly digital milieu. Well, with a dash of augmented reality, Montblanc is showing off an augmented notebook and pen set at IFA 2016 (it automatically digitizes handwritten notes) that has already won over a segment of the public.

Now, there is nothing inherently revolutionary about this, just as there was nothing truly special about Apple’s touchscreen mobiles when they came out. In the current case, real-world pens that can capture real-world notes and send them to a computer, tablet or smartphone screen are nothing new. LiveScribe has been successfully cultivating a loyal following of journalists and college students for many years with its clever pens that can save doodles and even simultaneously record sound.

Of course, most clever pens don’t speak at all to the values of traditional craftsmanship nor do they make aesthetic gestures towards cultivating an individual style. This, you might guess, is where the Montblanc Augmented Paper enters the picture.

It is essentially a modified Montblanc StarWalker ballpoint pen and an Italian leather bound notebook that come in their own folio, also in leather; Montblanc’s writing instruments are typically made in Germany but its leather workshops are in Italy.

In a neat coup, the company isn’t calling attention to next-gen pens or anything like that. Indeed the company is calling the system Augmented Paper rather than a smart pen because it is the smart leather folio – essentially a cunningly disguised graphics tablet – where most of the tech is hidden. Ok, so there is some leaden stuff in this approach for sure.

As long as you write with the pen, on the notepaper, while it is on this folio, it can, according to the company, accurately recognize handwriting (in 12 different languages) and convert it into an on-screen font. The Montblanc Augmented paper set really only works as a set.

On the other hand, the system doesn’t need to be connected to a computer or other device to work. Simply start jotting and it can save up to 100 pages of notes internally. When it is time to empty the memory to start jotting again, there’s an app – the Montblanc Hub app – that can be used simply for storing and cataloguing or for sharing notes with others. This app has been met with some criticism, as apps are wont to encounter. Basically, as we understand it, the digitized handwriting is searchable once transferred via the Montblanc Hub app, which is amazing. Every new note gets its own page in the app, even if it is part of the same page in the notepad, which can be confusing; there is apparently no option to reorganize into folders and such. Check out The Verge’s comprehensive look at the Montblanc Augmented Paper for more on this.

The tech that does the saving and much of the heavy lifting here isn’t from Montblanc but Wacom and is essentially electromagnetic resonance. Basically, the folio generates a weak electromagnetic field, which is what the Montblanc StarWalker ballpoint pen interacts with. It is this interaction between field and pen that is captured so the entire process is actually a digital one, not one that moves from analog to digital. At the same time, what you produce with the pen on the notepad are of course proper handwritten notes; they can’t be digitally erased. Lenovo and of course Wacom feature this tech in their products and it is reportedly stable.

The batteries will last for up to eight hours and everything can be recharged via the bundled USB cables. The set will cost $725 when it goes on sale, exclusively at Harrods in London from mid-September. But for that fee, Montblanc is throwing in three ballpoint pen refills.

And for those that don’t live in Knightsbridge that are taken by Montblanc’s marriage of analogue luxury and digital practicality, the Augmented Paper will be going on sale globally via Montblanc boutiques and concessions, from October. We’re eagerly awaiting our shot at this in Singapore.

Franck Muller

9 Stealth All-Black Watches: Dark Beasts

All-black watches are cool. It is that simple. Whether they sport in-house power plants and are the result of internal research and development or use third-party solutions, these watches are captivating. As we show in this spread engineered (and published) by WOW (World of Watches), there are plenty of forms for these dark horses of space-time to take. How did it all start? Well we won’t bore you with the details but watches with black dials offered better visibility for wearers and less glare to unwittingly call attention to the wearer.

These qualities appealed to the military mind of course and so of course many aviator timepieces had black dials. It wasn’t until 1972 that an all-black watch – with case, dial and bracelet entirely in black – emerged. That was the legendary Porsche Design Chronograph 1. Here are nine watches proudly flying the black flag into the 21st century.

BulgariBulgari Octo Ultranero Velocissimo

Bulgari Octo Ultranero Velocissimo

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Automatic BVL 328 based on Zenith El Primero calibre
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Rubber
PaneraiPanerai Luminor 1950 10 Days

Panerai Luminor 1950 10 Days GMT Ceramica

  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, GMT, 24-hour hand, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 10 days
  • Movement: Automatic Panerai P.2003 calibre
  • Material: Black ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Buffalo, black
HYTHYT H4 Gotham

HYT H4 Gotham

  • Dimensions: 51mm
  • Functions: Retrograde hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 65 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding, HYT calibre
  • Material: 3DPT carbon
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters
  • Strap: Black rubber with integrated Nomex fabric
Franck MullerFranck Muller

Franck Muller Black Croco

  • Dimensions: 55mm x 39mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre FM 800
  • Material: PVD-treated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Crocodile, black
ChopardChopard Superfast Chrono Split Second

Chopard Superfast Chrono Split Second

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph with split seconds,
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin, black
BremontBremont ALT1-B

Bremont ALT1-B in DLC-coated steel; $9,000

  • Dimensions: 43mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre BE-54AE
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Calfskin, black
Bell & RossBell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forgé

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forgé

  • Dimensions: 45mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, chronograph
  • Power Reserve: NA
  • Movement: Automatic calibre BR-CAL.313
  • Material: Carbon, titanium and ceramic
  • Water Resistance: 100 meters
  • Strap: Alligator and grey rubber
MontblancMontblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed UTC

Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed UTC

  • Dimensions: 41mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, second time zone
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Automatic calibre MB 24.05
  • Material: DLC-coated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather, black
SevenFridaySevenFriday V3/01

SevenFriday V3/01

  • Dimensions: 44.3mm x 49.7mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, day/night indicator
  • Power Reserve: 40 hours
  • Movement: Automatic Miyota 82S7
  • Material: PVD-treated steel
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Strap: Leather, black

Story Credits

Photography Greenplasticsoldiers

Art Direction Joaelle Ng

This article was first published in WOW.

Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept

Review: Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light

Montblanc Ambassador and Chinese professional badminton player Lin Dan is an overpowering force, being the first and only player to have won all major titles in the sport, namely the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup, Thomas Cup, Sudirman Cup, Super Series Masters Finals, All England Open, Asian Games, and Asian Championships. A watch that Lin can wear at work and at play would have to survive the violent bursts of speed that badminton is known for; it would have to be very light to complement Lin’s swift play, and be tough enough for the tremendous forces and shocks generated by every move.

Part of the TimeWalker collection that combines high performance with a contemporary and sporty aesthetic, the Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept was built with Lin in mind. This begins with a case built with ITR² Kevlar/Carbon elements in the case middle, case back, bezel, and crown, and black DLC titanium for the horns, resulting in a timepiece that weighs a mere 14.88g.

A composite material charged with carbon nanotubes, ITR² (Innovative, Technical, Revolutionary Resin) is eight times lighter than steel and four times lighter than titanium. According to Montblanc, only a handful of specialists have the know-how to make watch cases out of ITR², and Montblanc is even combining it, for the first time, with Kevlar/carbon, a highly resistant synthetic fibre.

Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept

Montblanc TimeWalker Pythagore Ultra-Light Concept Caseback

To keep weight to the minimum, the titanium lugs are skeletonised, and mineral glass is used front and back in place of sapphire crystal.

Weigh savings go beyond the case: there is no dial to speak of; and the movement is largely skeletonised, exposing the handcrafted components to ready inspection. The mainplate is made of titanium, the seconds sub-dial is a ring of anodised aluminium applied directly onto it, while the minute track is merely etched on. The hands too, are of anodised aluminium. Bare as it is, Montblanc did not utterly forsake adornment, having engraved stars at eight and three o’clock to denote major championships Lin had won.

Beating within is the new manual-winding Calibre MB M62.48, which is inspired by a Minerva movement from 1943 that features straight architectural bridges of titanium that follow Pythagoras’s Golden Ratio for visual harmony, hence its name.


  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Power Reserve: 50 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding Calibre MB M62.48
  • Case: 40mm ITR² Kevlar/Carbon with DLC titanium lugs
  • Strap: Black nylon

This article was published in WOW magazine.

Luxuo World of Watches Rolex Daytona closeup 2016

10 Important Collector Watch Calibres

Car nuts rattle off engine codes as a special lingo that authenticates membership within the tribe; trump card hoarding schoolboys of an earlier age would memorise service designations of combat jets, as well as such vital stats as engine thrust and capacity armament. Watch appreciation too, has a nerdier aspect that finds parallel obsession with calibres, mainly addressed by their number codes: 2824, 2892, 7750, 4130, etc.

Calibres, or movements, are the hearts of mechanical watches and the very engines that divide the continuum of existence into consistent intervals that we might know when it is that we are meeting for lunch.

As has been widely reported, though there are myriad brands in the watchmaking business, at least where the Swiss are concerned, most of the movements come from a single source: ETA. A movement maker within the Swatch Group, ETA supplies movements that can be found in around seven out of 10 Swiss watches, never mind what brand it says on the dial. Of these, the 2824 and 7750 come to mind as being among the most ubiquitous. The self-winding 2824 found in three-hand watches, and the 7750 in automatic chronographs, pretty much cover the field. We will not be including these two movements in our list, as they belong more properly to “movements you already know about”. Rather, our list includes movements that are noteworthy, from a collector’s standpoint for their relevance to the brand or particular collection; or that they represent a milestone in the ever-progressing evolution of the mechanical movement. As a whole, this ensemble was also chosen as a broad survey of watchmaking, old and new.

Patek Philippe Calibre 240Patek-Philippe-Calibre-240

Sitting at the pinnacle of fine Swiss watchmaking, Patek Philippe is renowned for its elegant high complication watches. Such a feat would not be possible were it not for movements like the 240, a trusty, self-winding ultra-thin movement designed to take on more modules for ever more complications, while still looking svelte, and gala-ready. Unlike most self-winding movements sporting a full-sized rotor, the 240’s is a micro-rotor, not stacked on top of the movement (thus adding height) but recessed on the periphery, hence contributing towards a slim profile. At the same time, it does not obscure the beauty of the wonderfully decorated 240 when viewed through a crystal case back, though the rotor too is a thing of beauty in itself, a solid piece of 22K gold.Patek-Philippe-Calibre-240-automatic-movement

Dating from 1977, the 240 has been updated over the years and today features the Spiromax (silicon) balance spring, which offers precision in operation and manufacture as well as resistance against magnetic fields. At its simplest, the 240 drives several of Patek Philippe’s time-only watches such as the Ref. 7200R ladies’ Calatrava.

That said, the 240 was designed as a base calibre to accommodate complication modules while retaining a slim profile. In Patek Philippe’s present catalogue, there exists no less than seven variants with an impressive array of complications, from the 240 HU with world time and day/night indication, 240 PS C with date hand and small seconds, up to the 240 Q offering moon phase and perpetual calendar! With the latter, the number of components had grown by more than 70 per cent, to 275 parts, and movement height increased from 1.61mm to 3.88mm. Because of the added energy required to drive these added components, power reserve had also dipped, but remains at an agreeable minimum of 38 hours.


Automatic movement beating at 3Hz, with silicon hairspring and 48-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 27.5mm x 2.53mm

Number of parts: 161

Rolex Calibre 4130Rolex-Calibre-4130

Even in the relatively dignified realm of luxury watch collecting (high expense and a Britannica’s worth of technical history and cult lore promotes sobriety), there are fanboys, and the objects of their fevered affection falls upon Rolexes, not a few. Lusted after at a higher pitch even in this company, is the Cosmograph Daytona, and this was recently demonstrated once again at BaselWorld 2016 when the announcement of a new steel cased Daytona with white dial and black ceramic bezel sent the watch press and enthusiast community into another fit of ecstasy.

Why is this? Some credit surely accrues to the movement behind the silvered/lacquered face: the Calibre 4130.Rolex-Calibre-4130-Daytona-Movement

The Daytona wasn’t always mated to the 4130. Introduced in 1963, it was driven by a hand-wound Valjoux movement till 1988 when it was cased with Zenith’s self-winding El Primero movement (also featured on our list). However, Rolex famously detuned the movement from its native 5Hz to a more conventional 4Hz, while swapping out more than 50 per cent of the El Primero’s original parts. Major surgery; but still, not a Rolex movement. That would come in 2000, in the shape of the 4130, ticking all the right boxes: self-winding, column wheel control, vertical clutch for smooth starts, and Parachrom hairspring designed to perform well against magnetism, temperature variation, and shock. Rolex even reduced the number of parts enough that it could fit in a longer mainspring to achieve an impressive 72 hours of power reserve. It is a chronometer too, naturally.


Automatic chronograph movement beating at 4Hz, with 72-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 30.5mm x 6.5mm

Number of parts: 201

Audemars Piguet Calibre 3120Audemars-Piguet-Calibre-3120

Often banded together with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin as the “Big Three” of high watchmaking, Audemars Piguet is phenomenally plugged into pop culture while remaining firmly anchored in high watchmaking orthodoxy. Like no other, its long resume of firsts in watchmaking innovations and high complications sits very comfortably with associations on the funkier end of the cultural spectrum, being a perennial favourite of sports and rap royalty. Part of this comes from dynamic thinking, like in 1972, when Audemars Piguet practically created a new genre of the luxury sport watch when it introduced a steel watch, finished to the standard and priced accordingly, as one of gold: thus the Royal Oak (RO) was born. Together with the burlier Royal Oak Offshore (ROO) chronograph that came on the scene in 1993, and in an almost unlimited arsenal of limited editions in various colour combinations, the RO and ROO are wont to steal the thunder from the company’s arguably more accomplished collections. The movement that unites the handsome duo, is the self-winding Calibre 3120.Audemars-Piguet-Calibre-3120-movement

Like Patek Philippe’s 240 described above, the 3120 is also a base calibre meant to accommodate more modules for additional complications. What’s different is that the 3120 was not made thin, but robust, including a balance bridge that anchors the oscillator securely on two points, wound by a full-sized solid gold rotor. Its thickness is suited for the masculine, sporty RO and hulkier ROO. In the latter’s case, because the chronograph is a module stacked above the 3120, the date display looks recessed – a quirk that has done nothing to dampen its popularity.


Automatic movement beating at 3Hz, with
60-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 26.6mm x 4.26mm

Number of parts: 280

Zenith El Primero Calibre 400Zenith-Primero-Calibre-400

A rock star among movements in more ways than one, the El Primero was unleashed to the world in a relatively low-key press conference in January 1969, which belied its ground-breaking specs. Not only was it the world’s first automatic integrated chronograph movement, it also featured an escapement that blitzed along at an unprecedented 5Hz which offered better chronometry and the ability to measure elapsed times to an accuracy of a tenth of a second. An engineering coup; but Oscar Wilde hit the nail on its head when he complained that people knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. In 1975, Zenith’s then-American owners decided to focus on making quartz watches and ordered the El Primero’s production equipment dismantled and sold as scrap. Instead of complying, an intrepid employee spirited away the El Primero’s technical plans and tooling bit by bit after work. Thanks to Charles Vermot, the El Primero resurfaced in 1984.Zenith-Primero-Calibre-400-movement

Today, the El Primero remains among the fastest beating mechanical movements at 5Hz, in the company of a few brands that have caught up with high beat movements in recent years. Though it started life as a chronograph, El Primero can now also be found in Zenith’s time-only watches such as the Synopsis, which drops the chronograph function but features an updated escapement with silicon wheel and lever visible through an opening on the dial. It has also made its way into the watches of Zenith’s sister brands within the LVMH group: TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Bulgari.


Automatic chronograph movement beating at 5Hz,
with 50-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 30mm x 6.6mm

Number of parts: 278

A. Lange & Söhne Calibre L951.6A-Lange-Sohne-Calibre-L951-6

The beautiful images and videos about Lange’s watches and movements belie a much more dramatic history that the Lange manufacture shares with its home city, Dresden. Towards the end of World War II, the city was obliterated by aerial bombing. Lange too ceased to exist after it was nationalised together with other companies into a watchmaking consortium to serve the needs of the Eastern Bloc. But both Dresden and Lange have since regained their place in the world with the end of the Cold War. The former, rebuilt brick by brick – from original rubble, in the case of the magnificent Frauenkirche church; while Lange has shrugged off the mass market tickers it made in the Communist era to return to the high watchmaking of its roots. It is history that informs the ethic at Lange, and the difference this makes is amply demonstrated in Lange’s interpretation of the ubiquitous wristwatch chronograph: the Datograph Up/Down.

While the field is largely divided between sports chronographs made for everyday practicality and ruggedness or daintier dress chronographs meant to add a dash of dynamism to a formal getup, the Datograph is a little different in approach. On the outside, it is almost austere in its devotion to function, driven by visual clarity and balance without anything superfluous. Yet, turn the watch over and the Calibre L951.6 astounds with baroque richness. Lange doesn’t seem to care about ease of manufacture, since the L951.6 has got more parts than many perpetual calendars, all finished with stoic patience and consummate skill. At the same time, it brims with technical innovation: unlike most chronographs where the elapsed minutes is a dragging hand, that on the Datograph jumps from marker to marker, making for much clearer readings. It’s just one of a series of instances where Lange spares no effort in creating innovative solutions to easily overlooked issues, while remaining well within the old school realm of mechanical craft. Moreover, not only is the L951.6 an in-house movement, Lange is also in the even smaller class of companies that make their own hairsprings. No shortcuts.


Hand-wound chronograph movement beating at 2.5Hz, with big date and power reserve indicator (60 hours)

Dimensions: 30.6mm x 7.9mm

Number of parts: 451

Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 854/1Jaeger-LeCoultre-Calibre-854-1

In an industry where most watch brands source their movements from other companies, Jaeger-LeCoultre is the technical superpower with more movements than we’ve got fingers to count them (more than a thousand different calibres, in its 180-year history, with hundreds of patents shepherding the evolution of mechanical watchmaking), and distinguished names on its client list include the likes of Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and Cartier. Jaeger-LeCoultre today boasts a most expansive catalogue that showcases its deep expertise in diverse disciplines, covering high complications, artisan craft, and gem-setting. Of these, its most iconic watch is the Reverso; and even here, this venerable model exists in countless iterations, from petite quartz models for ladies, to high complication models with perpetual calendars, triple dial faces, repeaters, and multi-axis tourbillons spinning in cage within cage. Do we pick the movement one ought to know by drawing movement numbers out of a fish bowl? No. If we have to choose, we’d pick the Calibre 854/1.Jaeger-LeCoultre-Calibre-854-1-movement

The original Reverso was created in 1931 in answer to complaints by British army officers stationed in India over having their precious wristwatches smashed during energetic games of polo. With the Reverso, simply flipping the case over protected the fragile crystal and watch dial, while the metal case back that now faced the outside could be engraved with unit insignias or loving words. Outside the polo experience however, we think it more practical to have a second dial in place of bare steel, tracking a second time zone.

Enter the Reverso Duoface of 1994, refreshed in recent years with an ultra-thin and special edition blue dial versions, displaying time on each of its two sides. The GMT function is among the most practical of complications in this global village century, and while every other GMT watch in the business shows home time either via pointer, or window on one dial, the Reverso is alone in spacing this out over two. It may not be as efficient as checking dual time zones in a single glance, but the clarity can’t be beat. And because the Duoface sports contrasting dials, e.g. silvered dial and black on the reverse, it is essentially two watches in one, able to match near a complete range of dress codes and occasions. All this is made possible with the hand-wound 854/1, a single movement driving two time displays. Time can be set normally by pulling the crown, or when passing time zones, the hour hand in the second display can be advanced in one-hour jumps by pushing the flat pusher on the case side.


Hand-wound movement beating at 3Hz, with dual time zone and 45-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 3.8mm thick

Number of parts: 180

Montblanc Minerva Calibre 16.29Montblanc-Minerva-Calibre-16-29

There is a logic to progress that is unflinching, almost ruthless in its efficiency. Making much more of something in shorter time, for much less, is an advantage that is very hard to pass up. For this reason, mass produced commodity is stamping out the niceties of artisan production everywhere. Yet, thanks to companies like Montblanc, industrial prowess is sometimes lent towards preserving precious pockets of artisan production so that future generations may yet wonder and actually acquire heritage objects of rare beauty.

Montblanc churns out timepieces by the tens of thousands a year from its facility at Le Locle. It also has a manufacture at Villeret (formerly Minerva SA before it was acquired by the Richemont Group in 2006 and turned over to Montblanc) that produces only around a couple of hundred timepieces a year – that’s about as many as possible, doing things the old way, everything in-house, with classical tools and machines, largely by hand!Montblanc-Minerva-Calibre-16-29-movement

Minerva was best known for its chronographs, and the Calibre 16.29 that is used in the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is a gorgeous sample of classical watchmaking. Based on a movement made by Minerva in the 1930s, the 16.29 is huge, filling up the 44mm watch case. There’s a column wheel, lateral coupling instead of vertical clutch favoured by its modern brethren, and the huge balance with weight screws oscillates at a stately 2.5Hz for maximum visual drama. But classical architecture is not the 16.29’s sole merit: lush finishing aside, the serpentine profile of its bridges and levers, including the signature devil’s tail of the chronograph hammer, makes many other chronograph movements
look ungainly in comparison.


Hand-wound chronograph movement beating at 2.5Hz, with 50-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 38.4mm diameter

Number of parts: 252

Chopard L.U.C Calibre 98.01-LChopard-LUC-Calibre-98-01-L

Some companies just have the knack for juggling diverse competencies. Among these, Chopard could have been content with the knowledge that its haute joaillerie collections are no strangers to red carpet galas, while its Happy Diamonds watches are extremely popular as everyday luxury. But the latter can no more lay claim to “authentic watchmaking” than could the Swatch watch, though both are phenomenal success stories for their respective companies. To address this, Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele established the Chopard Manufacture in 1996 to create “serious” watches fitted with movements designed and manufactured in-house. Since then, Chopard Manufacture has kept the steady pace of a long-distance runner, creating no less than 10 base movements with some 60 variations, cased in beautifully finished, classically styled watches of varying degrees of complication under the L.U.C label, the initials of the original company founder.Chopard-LUC-Calibre-98-01-L-movement

Of these, Chopard’s 8Hz is a dazzler for sure; but for us, the L.U.C Calibre 98.01-L beating inside Chopard’s Quattro watch is more in character with the company’s bold gambit and tireless consistency. Quattro is Italian for “four”. In the 98.01-L, which was introduced in 2005, that refers to the movement’s four mainspring barrels coupled in two stacks – a world’s first! According to Chopard, each mainspring is 47cm long, and it’s no small feat to squeeze four of them into a 28mm movement that is just 3.7mm thick. As such, the watch boasts a power reserve of nine days when fully wound. What is noteworthy is that this is achieved despite having the movement beat at a relatively quick (and energy-hungry) 4Hz. Moreover, while accuracy can suffer in watches with long power reserves as the energy wanes, the 98.01-L manages to be a COSC-certified chronometer. Add to that, quality and provenance validated by the Geneva Seal, and no room is left to doubt Chopard’s intent and capability in authentic watchmaking.


Hand-wound movement beating at 4Hz, with four barrels and nine-day power reserve

Dimensions: 28mm x 3.7mm

Number of parts: 223

Cartier Calibre 1904 MCCartier-Calibre-1904-MC

Cartier has an enviable history of supplying the most exquisite jewellery to royalty, and commercial success as a luxury purveyor to, well, the whole world. Its timepieces, too, have staked their place in watchmaking history. The Santos created in 1904 is one of the earliest true wristwatches (as opposed to pocket watches bound to the wrist by leather straps) for men, originally made for Alberto Santos-Dumont who flew the first true (powered) aeroplanes.

Still, for too long, Cartier hadn’t gotten the respect it deserved, not least for its Parisian (not Swiss) address, and that its most dazzling timepieces and complication creations, particularly those produced between 1998 and 2008 under the “Collection Privée Cartier Paris” (CPCP) label, used movements from companies like Jaeger-LeCoultre and Piaget, though Cartier did the finishing.Cartier-Calibre-1904-MC-movement

The sniggers stopped when Cartier introduced its first Geneva Seal watch in 2008, the Ballon Bleu Flying Tourbillon. However, it is a more mundane watch that is the real hitter into the heartland of Swiss watchmaking: the Calibre de Cartier, launched two years later. Though a humble three-hand with date, it is as pivotal as first love, containing Cartier’s first self-winding manufacture movement, designed, developed and made in-house: the Calibre 1904 MC.

Cartier now has a base movement from which to venture into higher complications, while broadening its reach tremendously, in bringing to market reasonably priced watches with authentic manufacture movements. To this end, the 1904 MC was engineered for reliability, ease of service, and efficient mass production. Performance also factored prominently in its design – though the 1904 MC boasts two mainspring barrels, they are arrayed in parallel, achieving only a modest power reserve of 48 hours, but energy delivery is made more consistent over a broad spread of its state of wind, contributing significantly to accuracy. The 1904 MC is also used in 2014’s Calibre de Cartier Diver, which meets the ISO 6425 international quality standard for diver’s watches.


Automatic movement beating at 4Hz, with twin barrels and 48-hour power reserve

Dimensions: 25.6mm x 4mm

Number of parts: 186

IWC Calibre 52010IWC-Calibre-52010

Even among storied brands, IWC stands out for how deeply it has written itself into watchmaking history. Timepieces for air force pilots just as air power was gaining traction among military planners, watches for scuba diving, timepieces for engineers as we turned a corner into the modern technological age – individuals engaged in pushing boundaries on land, in the air, and under the sea need wristwatches and IWC has enriched its own heritage and know-how by making purpose-built wristwatches for them. For a dressier pick, the Portugieser is among the most iconic and best loved. The original introduced in the 1930s was borne from the need for a marine-chronometer grade wristwatch, then only possible by casing a large, high-quality pocket watch movement in a wristwatch case.IWC-Calibre-52010-movement

This collection has been characterised by large cases and IWC’s largest movements ever since, including 2000’s Portugieser Automatic with a 50000-calibre movement that boasts seven-day power reserve and a highly efficient Pellaton winding system. The calibre 52010 featured here is a 2015 update with further technical enhancement and better finishing. Ceramic parts have been added to the winding system, making it virtually impervious to wear and tear; the faster balance now beats at 4Hz for better accuracy. Moreover, 52010 has two mainspring barrels to supply the same seven days’ power reserve with greater consistency for improved chronometry. IWC also partly skeletonised the rotor so the improved finishing of the movement is more readily evident.


Automatic movement beating at 4Hz, with two barrels and power reserve indicator (seven days)

Dimensions: 37.8mm x 7.5mm

Number of parts: 257

This article was first published in WOW.