Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

Montblanc 1858 Small Seconds – Review with photos, specs and price

| By Peter Nievaart | 6 min read |

Towards the end of last year, Montblanc released a new collection: the Montblanc 1858 Collection. The “Meisterstück” of this collection is the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter in pink gold (ref. 112637) that houses the beautiful calibre 16.29 movement from the brand’s Villeret collection. The new 1858 collection also includes another model, named the Montblanc 1858 Small Second, which features the manually wound MB 23.03 movement. There are three stainless steel editions, one with a black dial and white indices, one with a blue dial, and a limited edition with a black dial and creme-coloured indices. The collection received high marks upon its introduction, and now again on the SIHH. Let’s have a closer look at the Montblanc 1858 Small Second and the limited edition that is limited to 858 pieces.

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The Inspiration – a Tribute to Minerva’s Birth

The collection is named after the year in which Minerva was founded by Charles Robert in Villeret. In 2006 Minerva was acquired by the Richemont Group to provide Montblanc with own manufacture capabilities. At the time of acquisition, Minerva focused on the development and manufacturing of high end mechanical movements. Minerva wasn’t the goddess of time, however the goddess of human wisdom, skill and invention, and many artisans chose Minerva as their patron goddess. The former Minerva brand, and manufacture, are now the Montblanc Villeret manufacture and they make full use of the magnificent heritage, and unique skills and crafts that are present.

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The Montblanc 1858 Collection is inspired by the vintage Minerva Pilot Chronographs of the 1930’s, and features a large half-onion-shaped crowns, a large case (44mm in diameter), black dial, so-called cathedral hands, and large luminescent Arabic numerals to increase legibility and operations. And there’s something new that we, here at Monochrome, absolute love: Montblanc’s decision to use the old Montblanc logo of the 1930’s with the Montblanc mountain. A small but important detail to stipulate the vintage appearance. The contemporary star is located in the crown.

The Movement – Montblanc Calibre MB 23.03

Although Montblanc uses their own caliber number for the movement (MB 23.03), it is in fact the tried and tested Unitas/ETA calibre 6498 that was used as base. These Unitas movements are known for their accuracy and ruggedness, amongst others because of the use of the Incabloc shock absorption system.

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When you wind the watch, you know that it is a pocket watch movement. Pocket watches are always a joy to wind! The calibre 6498 is a pocketwatch movement that was developed in the 1950’s, like its famous ‘sister’, the calibre 6497 that has the second hand positioned at 9 o’clock. The tools and related equipment for the Unitas 6497 and 6498 pocketwatch movements were acquired by ETA when the company did not survive the Quartz revolution that disrupted the Swiss watch industry. ETA retained the original caliber numbers.

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Without doubt, the movement is large (16.5 ligne), well designed and sturdy. It may not be the most elegant movement but it is functional and made to last (multiple) life times. That may explain the regained interest for the cal. 6497/6498. The movement is finished according to Montblanc specifications. The MB 23.03 movement has blued screws and decorated bridges. Simply said, the movement is simplicity-made-beautiful. The power reserve is approximately 46 hours, although mine kept running for more than 50 hours. The frequency rate is 21,600 vph and the movement features 17 jewels. The sapphire caseback reveals the movement with blued screws, decorated plates and the Montblanc name and calibre number. Do not expect the same finishing of high-end watches, like the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, however it is nice to see a decorated movement.

Case and dial of the Montblanc 1858 Small Seconds

The Montblanc 1858 Small Second has a stainless steel case with 44 mm diameter and 10.95 mm thickness, making it a large but not too thick sports watch (however the case is only water-resistant to 30 meters). The dial features a small second (on a subdial at 6 o’clock) and large, vintage-oriented cathedral hands – making it a watch reminiscent of antique military timepieces made by Minerva. Additionally it features a domed sapphire crystal, which gives the watch an extra vintage feeling. The use of superluminova makes it easy for the owner to read the time during the dark hours.

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The Montblanc 1858 Small Second Limited Edition can be distinguished form the unlimited version by the vintage (patina-like) colour of the hands and numerals, as well as the use of a leather black alligator leather strap with contrasting beige stitching. The unlimited version has white superluminova hands and numerals and a brown calf leather strap. Another choice for the strap is the stainless steel bracelet with triple-folding clasp. Despite its size the watch is comfortable to wear. It also looks beautiful on a woman’s wrist! Only 858 watches of the Montblanc 1858 Small Second Limited Edition will be delivered to the market.

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The birth of a new collection line?

The Montblanc 1858 Collection is a collection, not a single watch. While the current collection comprises 2 models, two types of dials (black and blue), and three versions of the Small Second (black dial, blue dial and limited edition), it is likely that more models and complications will be created. We are looking forward to it!

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Is the Montblanc 1858 Small Seconds a Pilot Watch?

One last thing that we like: Montblanc did not name it their “Pilot Watch”, and focused on the heritage aspect instead. This isn’t a pilot’s watch. Yes, the designers of the 1858 Small Second were clearly inspired by the Minerva Pilot Chronograph of the 1930’s. The large half-onion-shaped crown, the large case (it’s 44mm), black dial, with strong contrasting large luminescent Arabic numerals, and vintage-inspired cathedral hands remind of the Minerva pilot watches.

However since it has a sapphire pane in the case-back, it doesn’t comply with the requirements for pilot’s watches. Pilot watches have to be antimagnetic, and therefore they are often equipped with a soft-iron case that surrounds the movement inside the watch case; a so-called Faraday cage. You get it, with a soft-iron case around the movement, that sapphire pane in the case-back would not make much sense. And altogether it’s much more pleasant to look at the nicely decorated movement, AND enjoy the slim profile of the watch (such a soft iron case needs additional space, and thus the watch becomes thicker.)

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Specifications Montblanc 1858 Small Seconds

  • Case: stainless steel case, 44 mm in diameter, 10.95 mm thick, sapphire pane in the case-back, water-resistant to 30 meters, domed crystal glass
  • Dial: black dial (or blue), superluminova on hands and numerals (either white or creme-coloured, depending on the model), seconds at 6 o’clock, vintage Montblanc logo
  • Movement: hand-wound MB 23.03 calibre, 17 jewels, 46 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph (3Hz), off centre seconds
  • Strap: black alligator leather strap for the limited edition, or brown calf leather strap for the non-limited editions, stainless steel pin buckle, or steel bracelet, distance between horns 22 mm
  • Price: 3,125 Euros for the limited edition – 3,015 Euros for the standard edition on leather – 3,320 Euros for the standard edition on steel bracelet

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9 responses

  1. I love the design and the blue dial, it’s one of the most attractive watches from 2016 SIHH.

  2. This watch has quality in and out. It’s a watch that has its own unique style. The only disadvantage would be it’s water resistant rather than a screw down. However it’s not a diverse watch. I look forward to this watch one day being mine. In person this watch looks as good as watches twice the price.

  3. Those objecting to the price or movement should go and have a look at it in person. I mean, if Patek can charge 370,000 CHF for a 3-hander with some bells in it. If the finish is at a high level, I have no problem with it. Will be checking it out.

  4. update: I had a good look at this piece…..and bought a Tudor.

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