Today we’re going to show you yet another spectacular piece that Montblanc created to celebrate their 110th anniversary. The brand with German roots and Swiss made timepieces shows its prowess in the world of high-end watches again. Yesterday we showed you one of the most affordable, if not THE most affordable, tourbillon watch in the world of high-end watches, the Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim. Today we’re introducing the Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Pocket Watch 110 Years Edition. That’s right, a pocket watch, and it comes with a superb cylindrical balance spring inside its tourbillon, and it is limited to only eight pieces.
For the third consecutive year, Montblanc impresses with technical feats and complications that used to be exclusive to the absolute high-end (price-wise) for reasonable prices. Take this year’s 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim that we showed you yesterday, which is the most affordable tourbillon on the market today and has an in-house developed and manufactured movement. Or take last year when they introduced a world-timer that immediately became a favourite – we reviewed it here. Or a whole host of annual calendars. The year before that Montblanc introduced the most affordable perpetual calendar on the market. This year we can’t complain with their offering either! The oh-so-lovely 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter; a limited edition featuring the magnificent oversized chronograph Calibre MB 16.29 that was available for only €30k. Yes, that is a bargain for a watch with this kind of movement and finishing.
Back to the pocket watch featuring the impressive tourbillon with cylindrical hairspring. While the name does not immediately give it away, some of you might recognise the dial (and complications) from the Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geospheres Nightsky that was introduced last year. This year the Maison choose to create a pocket watch that features the same magnificent tourbillon, and the same domed globes on the dial that are used to indicate the world time on both the northern and the southern hemisphere. Moreover, the movement, Calibre MB M68.40, is the very same movement as Montblanc used in aforementioned Tourbillon Cylindrique Geospheres Nightsky.
A Tribute to the Ocean Liners of the early 20th Century
The inspiration for the Montblanc Collection Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Pocket Watch 110 Years Edition (now, that is a mouthful of words) resides in the marine chronometers used by the ocean liners crossing the Atlantic during the early 20th century. The chronometers were vital instruments in nautical navigation, requiring sturdiness and precision. During those days the best passenger ships competed again each other for the Blue Riband Award. The liner with the fastest crossing westbound against the Gulf Stream won the Trophy. The chronometers, featuring cylindrical hairsprings, were used to determine longitude via celestial navigation. See this Wikipedia article for some background.
As if 8 unique pocket watches are not enough, Montblanc also launches a Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Pocket Watch & Navigator 110 Years Edition. In a limited edition of one (1) piece. No, this is not a typing error. Only one version will be produced.
The Movement – Montblanc Calibre MB M68.40
Calibre MB M68.40 features a 91-part tourbillon mechanism with a cylindrical hairspring, known for both their beauty, their complexity and finally, their precision. Like a conventional balance-spring, a cylindrical balance-spring is a concentrically wound elastic metal wire. However, instead of being wound side by side, at increasing distances from a common centre and all on the same plane, its individual turns are all of equal diameter and are wound one atop the other. This eliminates the slight eccentricity of the centre of gravity, which has always been the Achilles’ heel of the conventional balance-spring. Cylindrical hairsprings are more complicated to produce but their accuracy over long periods of time is better, allowing mariners to better determine the exact longitude at any given time. The main challenge was to make the hairspring smaller to such proportions that it would fit in a wristwatch. The watchmakers were also able to include two Philips overcoils. These curves at the end of the spring improves the balance spring’s breathing regularity which improves isochronism. A watch is isochronous if it runs at the same rate regardless of changes in its drive force, so that it keeps correct time as the mainspring unwinds or chain length varies (source: Wikipedia).
The tourbillon itself features a balance wheel that measures a huge 14.5mm diameter. It ticks at 18,000 vibrations per hour, or 2.5 Hz, ensuring a power reserve of 48 hours. As most of the indications and parts are located on the dial side, the movement remains quite simple in its layout – even if finished with Haute Horlogerie standards (bridges with hand-polished angles, sun ray pattern on the ratchet, perlage on the main-plate…). The true blast comes from the awe-inspiring tourbillon bridge, with its typically Montblanc shape and a superb mirror polish on rounded and domed parts.
One would almost forget that the Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique also provides triple time zone indication to its fortunate owners. Local time is indicated by two 18K red gold hands in the centre. The home time is indicated by a Fleur-deLys hand sweeping around the compass rose at 12 o’clock. The worldtime is represented by the thrreedimensional globes. The 24-hour worldtime and day/night indicators rotate fully in 24 hours around the (fixed) globes. The disc for the Nothern Hemisphere runs clockwise, the other one counter-clockwise. The meridians depicted on the globes help determining the time in each part of the world.
Operating the Pocket Watch
Indicators are set via the crow and the two inset correctors on the case’s side at 2 and 10 o’clock. Pulling the crown enables the owner to set local time and simultaneously adjust the worldtime display. The correctors are used for fine adjustment in the centre and the home time in the compass rose at 12. Once all indicators are synchronised, a new local time in a different time zone can be set by pressing the inset corrector at 2 o’clock (in single hour increments).
Dial and Case
Pocket Watch dials should be made with enamel dials. In this case a Grand Feu enameled dial. Grand Feu enameling is a process that bakes several layers of enamel powder pigments through multiple heatings. Temperatures can approach 1000 degrees Celsius. It results in consistent colors and durable quality. The technique requires great skill and is difficult to master. Needless to say that the watch is beautifully decorated and polished by hand. The main plate behing the tourbillon cage is decorated with a traditional circular graining pattern, also done by hand in Villeret. The hemispheres are hand-painted. The engraving extends to the bridges in the movement and, as said, the main plate.
The 60mm case is made of white gold. The limited edition number is hand-engraved just below the shackle on the case back.The choice of producing just eight pocket watches refers to the year number that the former Minerva Manufacture was founded: 1858.
Some words on the Navigator edition
This edition combines a nautical clock with a pocket watch that can be placed in a dedicated compartment for display. The navigator structure measures 93cm in height and is composed of a 56cm granite base for stable installation. The 64cm case is made of nickleplated brass. A warning in case you are able to get this piece for your library or yacht: don’t take the bike to get it as it weighs 120kg. A suspension system is used to keep the clock stable even when the ship rolls over.
The clock was developed with the famous Erwin Sadler Clock Manufacture, who made the base of the Navigator. The clock has a diameter of 15cm and a height of 9.5 cm and is driven by a hand-wound movement indicating hours, minutes, seconds, time in 24 times zones. It has a 15-day power reserve.