The Montblanc 1858 Collection certainly is one of our favorites here, at Monochrome. It indeed pays tribute to the military roots of the Villeret manufacture and the 1930s pilot watches produced at that time by Minerva (now part of Montblanc). Large diameters, highly contrasted dials, cathedral hands… all sounds perfectly vintage and faithful to the Minerva heritage. To even reinforce that vintage feel, the brand is about to introduce some new models in the collection, which for the first time will use bronze elements for the case, and this includes the stunning Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, that we already showed you several times.
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze next to a vintage 1930s Minerva military chronograph (which was the inspiration for the 1858 collection)
The Montblanc 1858 Collection and the introduction of Bronze
The Montblanc 1858 Collection can be seen as the vintage offer of the brand and a faithful tribute to the rich past of Minerva, the haute-horlogerie manufacture that Montblanc acquired a few years ago. During the 1930s and 1940s, Minerva was specialized in military and pilots’ chronographs, such as the one you can see below. The Montblanc 1858 Collection relies on historical design codes taken from the original 1930s Minerva chronograph, including large cathedral hands, with their cloisonné design filled with beige luminous paint, luminescent Arabic numerals, vintage shaped crowns and classic minute railway tracks that encircle the dials. Furthermore, this collection shows the return of Montblanc’s historical font and emblem (the Mont Blanc Mountain).
The Montblanc 1858 Collection was, until now, based on two watches: the 1858 Small Second with manually-wound movement and the stunning 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, which is powered by an historical chronograph movement, extremely close in conception and execution to the vintage Minerva calibres – a watch that exists in two versions, steel with blue dial and gold with grey dial. As of today, the 1858 collection expands and first, see the arrival of bronze options for the case and then, two new watches – an automatic and a dual time – will be offered too.
The new Montblanc 1858 Automatic Bronze and Steel
The main piece of news here is indeed the introduction of bronze cases (something that is quite of a trend since one or two years but that remains a first for Montblanc). The alloy chosen by Montblanc here is quite special, as offering a rather subtle and light color, far away from gold – some bronze alloy can be much darker or very close to gold. Here, the tone of the alloy is light, quite metallic, not too warm neither too showy. Of course, as all bronze cases, these Montblanc 1858 will gain patina over the time, which will create a watch unique to its owner and the way he will wear it, enhancing the vintage appeal of each timepiece.
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze
The first of the 3 watches that Montblanc presents in Bronze is the simply stunning 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, a watch that we already explained here, in its gold version, and here, in its steel edition (ps. the one that won the chronograph category at the GPHG 2016… a well deserved award). Why stunning? Well, this watch looks just superb, but that’s not the real deal. Turning it back and those who know will understand… It features what certainly is one of the top 5 chronograph movements ever. No less than that. We’ll go back on this a later.
In terms of style and design, Davide Cerrato, the recently appointed Head of Watches for Montblanc fortunately only changed the materials and colors, staying true to the design already seen in the gold and steel versions. So we find back the same 44mm case – yes, that’s large, but it fits the concept of a military chronograph and its actually faithful to the vintage watch that was used as an inspiration (see photo below) – which is now manufactured in a bronze alloy. This metal is used for all the parts – central container, bezel, lugs, crown, but not the caseback, which is bronze-plated titanium (bronze ages and in contact with the skin, it’s not very healthy. Usually, bronze watches have a steel or titanium caseback). As said, the alloy used here has a relatively cold and light color, thus clearly differentiating from gold. This Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze was almost unworn when photographed, so it was still very “bronzy” but it will change color, turning into a vintage green while worn.
Combined to this bronze case is a new dial and set of hands. Davide explained that he wanted a monochromatic look for this version, explaining the light champagne dial and the gold hands. The indexes retain the cream “faux-patina” paint, however here, they really blends into the dial, then again enhancing the monochromatic look. Contrast is not as good as the steel or gold versions for sure, however, no to be blamed either. Actually, it doesn’t really matter as this face is simply superb: warm and discreet, not screaming its noble origins, delicate, vintage enough… Again, what a watch!
On the wrist, the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze is a large watch, this is not debatable. I do have a small (really small) wrist and on the photos, you can see that it might feel a bit weird. However, again, this large diameter is part of the military / pilot chronograph concept and, even if large, the watch always felt pleasant on the wrist. The bronze case is combined to a hand-made, Italian alligator leather strap with a rich color. The overall look is rather subtle and much more understated than gold for instance. Even the steel version, with its bright blue dial, might be more visible on the wrist.
Now it’s time to talk about the real deal: the movement. This Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze features a manual-wind, monopusher, column-wheel chronograph movement which is almost equal in every aspects to a vintage Minerva engine. And that is just brilliant. I don’t have anything against modernity and I can properly enjoy a nice, integrated, modern automatic chronograph. But this Minerva MB M16.29 is just out of this world. For sure, technically speaking, it is old school. It doesn’t have a vertical clutch, it runs at 2.5Hz and it has a power reserve of “only” 50 hours. But look at it. What a layout, what a depth, what a finishing.
First, this movement is 38.4mm diameter (yep, the average dress watch size) when an ETA 2824 is 25.6mm. Thus, there’s a real joy when looking at a movement filling the entire case. Then, there’s the design of the bridges and levers. The chronograph levers on the upper half of the movement, the Y shaped bridge, the large balance wheel, the visible chronograph gears… All of that is part of a now forgotten conception of horology, and it’s so pleasant to see it here. Minerva obliges, the movement features the arrow shaped lever or “devil’s tail”.
While technically somehow “outdated”, this is a real finishing masterpiece. All the parts (visible or not) are finished in the traditional way: gold chatons, internal angles, bevelled bridges and levers, hand engravings, continuous Geneva stripes, perlage, straight graining of the steel parts… What a feast for the eyes. In order to end with the monochromatic idea, the movement of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze has been gold plated. This movement alone deserves to buy this watch.
The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition Bronze will be limited to 100 pieces and will be priced at 27,500 Euros (and consider the movement you have in it and you’ll understand that it is a real bargain).
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time
The second watch to be introduced in the vintage collection is the Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time. It is actually an entirely new watch, as this complication has never been used in the collection before. What we have here is a pilot watch with a second time-zone display, a function that certainly fits the concept of the 1858 Collection very well – and somehow reminds us of the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time of Patek, both in style, in display and complications (even if the Montblanc is much more accessible and functionally simpler).
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time is a 44mm watch, with a two-tone case, not a full bronze case like the chronograph. The central container as well as the caseback are steel, while the bezel and the crown are bronze. It feels like an appropriate two-tone watch, with a much more subtle look than a steel / gold combination. The dial is classically black with cream Arabic numerals (highly legible, highly contrasted), with the usual and stylish cathedral hands of this collection. The display also includes a small second at 6 and a date (which might feel strange at first but that is actually a need for a dual-time watch).
The main interest is of course the display of a second time-zone. It consists of two elements: an additional hour hand on the central axis (the skeletonized one), which rotates in 12 hours, and not in 24 hours like some other GMT Watches. Thus, this watch had the need for a day / night indication, in order to differentiate whether the second time zone you track is AM or PM. The dual time function comes into play while travelling as the user can set the local time hour hand to the new destination time zone without affecting the home time hour hand. The minute hand and the second hand also both continue to run uninterruptedly during this setting process. All the setting operations are done via the crown.
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time is powered by the Calibre MB 29.19, basically a Sellita base movement with an in-house developed and produced dual-time module on top. That’s the recurring way at Montblanc, which uses the reliability and affordability of out-sourced base movement and adds on top their own modules, to create the display they really want (same concept as the 4810 Orbis Terrarum, with its own in-house world time module). The movement is not visible and hidden behind a nicely engraved steel caseback (not that bad, considering the small diameter of the movement compared to the large case of the watch).
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time comes on a nice, vintage-style Cognac aged-calf leather strap. It will be priced at 4,990 Euros (not limited).
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic
The last of the three novelty is a rather classical but accessible offer, an simple but pleasant automatic watch: the The Montblanc 1858 Automatic. The idea is the same as the Dual-Time; a 44mm two-tone case (steel with bronze bezel and crown), a black dial with military / pilot style (Arabic numerals, cathedral hands), the use of the vintage Montblanc logo and aged luminous paint. It features the same vintage strap as the Dual-Time version.
Inside the case is the Calibre MB 24.16, a classical 2-hand automatic calibre, with 4Hz frequency and 38 Hours power reserve (most likely a Sellita base). The caseback is also plain and features a nice engraving. The price for this Montblanc 1858 Automatic is 3,490 Euros.