In late 2015, Montblanc introduced the first version of the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter. Fitted with a Minerva/Villeret monopusher movement, we were instantly smitten. The initial 18k red gold edition was soon followed by a version in steel, and then a gorgeous bronze number with a champagne dial. This year, Montblanc continues the bronze theme with the introduction of its latest limited edition 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, this time paired with a striking salmon dial.
As you no doubt already know – and if not, you can surely guess by the name – Montblanc’s 1858 collection is all about taking inspiration from the past and paying faithful tribute to the rich history of Minerva, the Haute Horlogerie manufacture acquired by the Richemont group just over a decade ago. The aesthetics of the collection are very much inspired by classic design codes taken from the original 1930s Minerva chronographs, including luminescent Arabic numerals, cloisonné cathedral hands filled with beige luminous paint, classic minute railway track chapter rings and vintage-shaped crowns.
The watch designs are distinctive, extremely attractive and very well executed, which is one of the reasons why they have quickly become popular among the MONOCHROME team. The other main reason is, of course, the incredible movements inside, but we’ll tackle that in due course.
For 2018, the latest version of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter remains largely unchanged from its predecessor. It’s offered in the same 44mm case manufactured from a bronze alloy, complete with a bronze-plated titanium case back. There’s no doubt it’s a large(ish) watch and it definitely wears that way on the wrist, but this is in keeping with the military/pilot chronograph concept, which adds an element of authenticity that I – and many others, it seems – enjoy. Plus, it is still a comfortable watch to wear. Just don’t expect to be able to slide it away discreetly under your cuff. If you want the same kind of inspiration with a smaller watch, Montblanc also introduced the 40mm 1858 Monopusher Chronograph in steel with green dial.
What has changed though, somewhat noticeably so, is the colour of the dial. The first iteration of the bronze 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter was decidedly understated, which according to Davide Cerrato, Montblanc’s Head of Watches, was very intentional. He wanted a monochromatic look, hence the light champagne dial and the gold hands. This year, however, he’s playing a little more with contrast, with the introduction of a salmon-coloured dial and blued steel chronograph hands.
For many, salmon is one of those colours you either really love or really hate. These days it’s not a common colour in watchmaking per se, although we do see it used on dials from time to time. Some recent examples that spring to mind include the NOMOS Zürich Weltzeit Singapore Edition and the platinum Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision. In this case, however, I think salmon works really well with the bronze case and I am particularly curious to see what it will look like once the case develops its greenish patina.
Likewise, I think the use of blued steel hands for the chronograph indications was a good call. As you can see in the pictures, they stand out nicely against the dial for easy reading, whereas I think gold hands would have been lost. The layout of the dial is identical to all the previous models, with the time displayed centrally by large cathedral hands and the small seconds shown on a sub-dial at 9 o’clock, and it still features the beige “faux-patina” luminous paint to give it that aged, vintage look. The chronograph seconds are indicated by a red-tipped central hand while elapsed chronograph minutes are shown on the other sub-dial at 3 o’clock. A tachymeter scale running around the outside of the dial completes the indications.
The real highlight for fans and collectors though is found on the reverse side of the watch, where a sapphire exhibition case back reveals the staggeringly beautiful Minerva MB M16.29 movement. At 38.4mm in diameter, it occupies all available space in the case and presents the owner with a truly exceptional visual treat. A traditional style chronograph designed to emulate those produced by Minerva in its heyday, it runs at 2.5hz and offers a relatively modest power reserve of 50 hours.
All parts in the movement, whether visible or not, have been finished to an exacting standard using traditional techniques: gold chatons, internal angles, bevelled bridges and levers, hand engravings, continuous Geneva stripes, perlage, straight graining of the steel parts. With breathtaking depth and attention to detail, this is easily one of the top five chronograph movements in current production. So much so, that we’ve previously advised you to buy this watch simply for the movement alone!
If I’m being honest, of the two bronze versions I think I prefer the earlier champagne dial, but there is something about this new salmon dial that is undeniably attractive. Produced in a limited edition of 100 numbered pieces, the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter with salmon dial is priced at EUR 27,500 (the same as the previous bronze version). montblanc.com.