Who would have predicted that the trend for vintage watches would become a consolidated sector of practically every watch brand with a history of more than 100 years? What started as a nostalgic trip down memory lane has entrenched itself as an enduring phenomenon. Dedicated collections are now the repositories of golden oldies, some more faithful to their ancestors than others, but all picking up the essential design language of watches made during the last century. Montblanc is no exception, and its 1858 collection is where you’ll find chronographs and monopusher chronographs inspired by models made by Minerva in the 1920s and 1930s. Released earlier this year along with a limited edition bronze version, this attractive Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph in steel proves that you can enjoy a retro Minerva-inspired monopusher without breaking the bank.
Montblanc’s 1858 collection was created in 2018, is named after the year the Minerva manufacture was founded, and takes its design and sometimes technical cues from vintage Minerva timepieces of the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps not the most illustrative of names evoking something more classic, there is also the Heritage collection just to make things a bit more confusing. In broad strokes, the difference between the 1858 and the Heritage collections is that the former takes inspiration from Minerva pilot’s and military models of the 1920s and 1930s, while the latter focuses on Minerva models from the 1940s and 1950s, with more elegant designs.
In 2006 Richemont acquired the historic and highly reputed manufacture Minerva (established in Villeret in 1858). The idea was for Minerva to produce high-end Villeret watches and revisit some of its famous chronograph movements for Montblanc. A way, if you like, of showing the world that Montblanc, largely associated with fountain pens, was a legitimate watchmaking enterprise.
Since its debut, the 1858 Collection has housed some stunning models like this 1858 Chronograph with a hand-wound Minerva movement, this 1858 Monopusher Chronograph and this simpler Heritage 3-hand Small Second model, also fitted with beautiful Minerva movements.
Having whetted the appetite of watch enthusiasts, Montblanc decided to stretch the appeal of Minerva further and produce watches that emulate Minerva models of the 1920s and 1930s, but without an eye-watering price tag. How? By evoking the designs of the past but equipping the models with perfectly decent contemporary automatic movements.
Case and dial
The design of this 1858 Monopusher Chronograph is a reinterpretation of the Minerva monopusher chronograph calibre 13.20 from the 1930s. First introduced in 1923 as a monopusher, calibre 13.20 was reconfigured to a bi-pusher configuration in the 1940s. Although we have already seen an exquisite rendition of this calibre on board this EUR 28,000 limited edition, be warned that the model we are reviewing today does not have a Minerva calibre.
To cater to today’s market, the stainless steel case has a contemporary diameter of 42mm and a height of 14.7mm. It is satin-finished throughout, the caseback is sealed and the water-resistance is of 100m, in essence, a sports watch with a strong vintage vibe. The integrated grains-of-rice steel bracelet exudes a vintage appeal but is not something you would have found on a 1930s pilot’s chronograph wristwatch. Again, it is a concession to comfort and displays contrasting polished links in the centre and satin-finished rectangular links on the edges.
Like the original model, the dial is black with a beige railway track, a telemeter scale and two counters at 3 and 9 o’clock, a nod to the bi-compax chronograph counters of the first calibre 13.20 monopusher Minerva models. The contrast between the black and beige elements enhances legibility, and the execution is excellent. The Arabic hour numerals are treated with beige-coloured Super-LumiNova as are the interiors of the cathedral-shaped hands. The central chronograph seconds hand and the hands in the two snailed counters (30-min elapsed chrono times at 3, running seconds at 9 o’clock) are white. To consolidate the vintage spirit of the watch, the Montblanc logo is from the 1930s, and a domed box sapphire crystal protects the dial.
Calibre MB 25.12
To keep the price in check, Montblanc has fitted this model with a technically complex automatic movement based on the Sellita SW510 with cam/lever architecture. Beating at 28,800vph/4Hz, the movement has a power reserve of 48 hours and has undergone Montblanc’s 500 Hour Test. You can read all about what this test entails in this article.
This Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph is a very attractive package for lovers of vintage Minerva watches who also value the perks of a contemporary movement, a practical (and handsome) stainless steel bracelet, a sporty water-resistant case for everyday wear and tear, and above all, a fairly reasonable price.
Availability & Price
The Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph in steel with a steel bracelet – reference 125582 – retails for EUR 5,100. It is now available from retailers and at the brand’s online boutique. A version on leather strap is also available for EUR 4,800.
More information at Montblanc.