Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Automatic reviewed

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This year Montblanc celebrates the 190th anniversary of the chronograph with an anniversary edition of the Nicolas Rieussec. Monochrome had the chance to wear a Nicolas Rieussec Automatic for some weeks and brings you a full review with live photos.

Montblanc is not only known for their beautiful fountain pens, leather bags and jewellery, but also for watches. The distinguished Montblanc style can be recognized in all their products, including the wristwatches. The dial, case and crown, featuring the Montblanc logo, of the Nicolas Rieussec are a perfect example of Montblanc’s classy style.

At the Salon de Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) 2011, Montblanc released a Nicolas Rieussec anniversary edition of 190 pieces in red gold, 90 pieces in white gold and 25 pieces in platinum, featuring the in-house developed and manufactured hand-wound caliber MB-R110. This was Montblanc’s first manufacture movement and in the Nicolas Rieussec collection we find beside the MB-R110, the automatic caliber MB-R200. Based on specifications, looks and performance of the movements, Montblanc has grown to become a serious player in the world of Haute Horlogerie. Below is a photo of the anniversary edition in red gold. Topic of this review is the steel version of the Nicolas Rieussec with automatic MB-R200 movement as pictured above.

Overall appearance

Thinking about Montblanc as a brand the words classy and quality always come to mind and this was no different when wearing the Nicolas Rieussec. These words or words of similar meaning also reflected in the reactions and comments we received while wearing the watch. The Nicolas Rieussec wears very nice and since it’s not a small watch, you’re aware of wearing a luxurious timepiece. It has lots of wrist presence and doesn’t go unnoticed, even not to people who aren’t much aware of (luxury) watches in general. The real watch aficionado probably already knows about it and is eager to get a closer look.

We feel that the Nicolas Rieussec looks great with a business outfit (suit with or without tie) and equally great with a casual outfit. A shirt with cufflinks might not be the best option due to the size and thickness of the watch. Left is a photo of the anniversary edition in platinum.

Before we go any further we like to tell a bit more about the name and main functionality of the watch. The Nicolas Rieussec is a chronograph that features a very unusual positioning of the chronograph registers; this is why…

In 1821 the first chronograph, or time-writer, was presented by the watchmaker of the French royal court, Nicolas Rieussec. Hence the name. Nicolas Rieussec created this time-writing device for the horse races, a popular pastime in those days (and even today it still is).

The time-writing device was a wooden case containing a watch movement that powered two enamel dials, positioned above the movement. The two enamel dials had scales for the seconds and the minutes. Above these dials was a slender hand with ink-filled nibs attached to its tip. At this time-writer the dials turned, and not the hands! During the race the timekeeper could press a button the instant a horse crossed the finish line, thus triggering the hands (with ink-filled nib) to touch the dials and leave little ink marks on them.

The running times of the individual horses and the time differences were literally written on the dials, and for the first time ever, the timekeeper could reliably capture the running times of all participants in the race without having to take his eyes off the sporting event to glance at his watch whenever one of the horses crossed the finish line. This was the first time in the history of horology that an instrument could measure precise short time intervals. However, Rieussec not only invented a new segment in watchmaking – he also gave it a name. He called his invention “Chronograph”.

Features

The Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec features a chronograph with monopoussoir (or single button pusher), a second time zone, a date and a day/night indicator. When the features are summarized like this, one might feel it’s not that special, but that is certainly not the case! We already told you how this watch got its name, however Montblanc was also inspired by the way the chronograph of that first chronograph works. As on the original chronograph from 1821, the chronograph hands do not rotate above the dials; instead, they remain in place while the seconds-disk and minutes-disk turn underneath them.

In the same register where the hour and minute hand display the time, is a second hour hand placed underneath the other hour hand. The hour can easily be adjusted, via the crown, to another time zone. The hour hand that was underneath the upper hour hand, is made of blued steel and will indicate the home time. The hour hand that is adjusted will indicate the local time for the person wearing it. The date will adjust to this new time zone and the adjustments can be made either clockwise or anti-clockwise!

At the left side of the dial, an indicator will tell you weather it’s day or night in the home time zone. This way it’s easy to know whether to call your family or let them enjoy a good night rest. Very practical for people traveling around the world… and their loved ones.

Dial/hands

The Rieussec chronograph is the first chronograph where the time display does not overlap the chronograph function and this provides a great legibility of both indications. Besides that it really gives the watch its own strong and unique look.

The hours are printed on a steel ring, with on the left and right side and in the middle of it, a grey dial. The lower end of the dial has a thin steel overlay, finished with côte de Genève striping. The two chronograph registers have a very nice sun-ray finish and the chronograph hands are held in place by a V shaped bridge. The date window is to the right side of the dial and on the left side the day/night indicator shows either blue (6 PM – 6 AM) or white (6AM- 6 PM) indicating whether it’s day or night (in the home time zone).

At first we thought the dial was quite busy, which could influence the ease of reading time. However because the hour/minute sub-dial is positioned on the upper half of the dial and the chronograph registers on the lower half, reading the time is actually very easy. After wearing the Nicolas Rieussec for just an hour, our eyes instantaneously focus on the upper part of the dial to see how late it is. We loved it… there’s quite a lot going on on the dial, however this does not disturb the ease of reading time, checking the date or any other function. Visually ergonomic :-)

Case/strap

The photo above, showing the black dial version, shows how nice the Nicolas Rieussec fits on the wrist. Although the case is relatively large with a diameter of 43 mm, it wears comfortable and does not look too big. The crown is embellished with an inlaid Montblanc emblem in mother-of-pearl. The non-screw-down crown has three positions:  

  • Position 1- without pulling the crown – winding
  • Position 2- crown is pulled out one click - quick set of the hour hand and date. The hour hand is adjusted in one hour increments forwards or backwards and the date changes accordingly. 
  • Position 3- crown is pulled out two clicks - both the minute hand and blued home time hour hand can be adjusted.

The chronograph’s pusher (only one because it’s a monopoussoir) is positioned at 8 o’clock. The case is polished and so are the lugs. The sapphire crystal is domed and has a double anti-reflective coating.  The Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec comes on a hand-sewn alligator leather strap with double folding clasp. Some specifications:

  • Diameter: 43 mm
  • Height: 14.8 mm
  • Distance between horns/clasp: 22/20 mm
  • Water-resistant: 3 bar (30 m)

Movement

We really like the Nicolas Rieussec, but we just love the movement. Montblanc released their first in-house or manufacture movement in 2008 and they immediately set the bar very high. Not many watch brands develop their own chronograph movement. Most brands use the Valjoux 7750 or an ETA movement with Dubois-Dupraz chronograph module and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Developing your own movement is very difficult and takes a lot of time, knowledge and effort. A chronograph movement could well be the most difficult movement to develop, because using a chronograph sets free lots of energy at once and this negatively influences the movement’s rate. The fact that Montblanc debuted with a chronograph movement is very impressive. We’re not 100% sure, but we think that Montblanc is the first watch brand ever to make its debute with an in-house chronograph caliber.

The 3/4 bridge rodium-plated and is finished with côte de Genève stripes and the sides are beautifully beveled. From underneath the bridge, some of the gears are partially visible.  The gear train has special toothing for a more efficient power transmission. The part not covered by the bridge shows the escapement with a large balance wheel (diameter: 9.70 mm) with screws  and a flat hairspring.

The movement comprises of 292 individual parts and measures 31 mm (or 13 3/4 ligne) and is 8.46 mm tick. Caliber MB-R200 oscillates at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) and the two main springs store enough power for 72 hours of power reserve.

The chronograph is activated through a column wheel with vertical disk clutch, which prevents wear when the chronograph function is activated for a longer period of time. The column wheel can be seen through an apperture in the bridge and through the Montblanc logo in the skeletonized rotor. Love those details…

 
The verdict – pros/cons

The Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Automatic is immediately recognizable as Montblanc. The look, the feel, everything about it screams Montblanc. And that’s very impressive when you think of how many different products Montblanc makes and still manages to keep their own style, imago and recognizable looks.

This watch offers a lot for the price. Really a lot An in-house chronograph movement with column wheel and vertical clutch, two main springs delivering 72 hours of power reserve, a second time zone, date and day/night indicators. With it’s looks and functionality, this makes a perfect watch for business men who have to travel a lot. With a list price of just below $ 10,000 USD Montblanc offers a very attractive watch in a very attractive price range.

One more photo of the Nicolas Rieussec Anniversary Edition in platinum. The typical Montblanc style… you either like it or not. But let’s be honest, what’s not to like about such a beautiful watch?

For more information, you can have a look at the Montblanc website, official Facebook page or you might want to check out the Nicolas Rieussec iPhone App.

mono

Frank has been a watch aficionado for more than 10 years and started Monochrome in 2006, after being active on many watch forums. He has a special interest in Independent Watchmaking and Haute Horlogerie. The beautiful technique and finish is what makes his horological heart beat faster.

View all articles by mono

3 Responses to “Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Automatic reviewed”

  1. maninder pal singh says:

    wow

  2. amir says:

    montblanc is coolest in eveything watchs, pens, jewelry, valets,…. itas really cool.

  3. Olivier says:

    This is now irrelevant since it has recently been discovered that in fact Louis Moinet (1768-1853) invented the first chronograph 5 years before Nicolas!

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