Montblanc 1858 The Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph
A historic Minerva chronograph calibre inverted and visible from the dial in a new contemporary habitat.
Two years ago, Montblanc presented a chronograph with an inverted Minerva movement to showcase the fascinating mechanics of this historic calibre on the dial. In a departure from the solid vintage pilot looks of the Minerva Monopusher Red Arrow that was unveiled simultaneously, the two limited editions of The Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph were openworked iterations displaying Minerva’s famous MB16.29 calibre on the dial for the first time. For Watches & Wonders 2023, Montblanc releases a third version of its Minerva monopusher chronograph in a more contemporary distressed steel case.
The distressed steel finish of the 43mm diameter x 14.8mm case is a three-fold process. First, the case is given a black coating and then washed and brushed by hand using quartzite to produce an individual patina before finally being brushed and polished. As a nod to Minerva’s first fluted bezel of 1927, the latest iteration comes with a white gold fluted bezel.
However, the star attraction here is the dial, or rather the movement on the dial. Although some of the watch’s features, like its large 43mm case size, fluted bezel and cathedral hands, look and feel like a classic Minerva chronograph, The Unveiled Secret features an inverted movement. Developed by Minerva in the early 20th century, the large 37.5mm calibre MB16.29 was fitted with a column wheel and horizontal disc clutch. Unlike most skeletonised watches that whittle down bridges and create openings to reveal the mechanism of a watch, the MB16.29 calibre of The Unveiled Secret is turned upside down so that you can see the activation of the chronograph from the dial side. To pull this off, Montblanc’s technical team had to add about 21 parts to reverse the direction of the dial hands.
Signature features of the handmade Minerva movement can be spotted on the dial, including the arrows-shaped devil’s tail chronograph lever and the famous V-shaped Minerva bridge. Beating at a leisurely pace of 18,800vph, the manual-winding movement delivers a robust power reserve of 50 hours. The finishings are top-notch: the sanded German silver plate with circular graining and the silver bridges with Geneva stripes are coated with anthracite ruthenium to match the colour of the case, while the going train is gold-plated for contrast. Since all the action is dial-side, the caseback is sealed and features an engraving of the Minerva manufacture.
So as not to distract from the movement, the 30-minute chronograph counter and small seconds are relayed on two black openworked rings flanking a central ring with the Montblanc logo and the calibre reference. Beady-eyed readers will notice that the calibre printed on the central ring reads MB M16.26, although the calibre is the classic Minerva M 16.29. An in-house joke, the inversion of the 9 to become a 6 refers to the inverted movement. The hour indices on the flange are suspended above the movement and treated with Super-LumiNova, like the cathedral-style hour and minute hands and the central chronograph seconds.
Availability & Price
The Montblanc 1858 The Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph comes on a black nubuck alligator strap with white stitching and a distressed steel triple-folding clasp. It is a limited edition of 88 pieces and retails for EUR 40,000. For more information, please visit montblanc.com.
Montblanc and Minerva should probably be distinct brands. What they are trying to do in terms of branding is ineffective and even damaging.
Someone interested in a 40k watch would probably know about Minerva, admire their heritage and prowess and prefer their branding on the watch.
They are not yet at Cartier or Chopard average level.
Montblanc branded watches could start using simpler but in-house calibers and move up the market across a decade. Montblanc Minerva can be their higher end collection. Like Chopard do with L.U.C.