Back at the SIHH 2019 last year, Montblanc introduced “Heritage”, a brand new collection of classic, slightly retro watches. Elegant, well-designed, available with desirable salmon dials, it was available from a simple 3-hander, to a surprising (and well-priced) Monopusher Chrono… And two limited but really attractive versions, a perpetual calendar or a Minerva chronograph. Now that the collection is well-established, Montblanc introduces with yet another winning combination, an ultra-limited version with steel case, salmon dial, great proportions and, the cherry on the cake, a new-old-stock, hand-finished and historic Minerva movement.
People tend to miss an important point with Montblanc. Certainly, the brand is first and foremost known for its fountain pens. But it also manufactures watches… And not fashion watches, but a full range of mechanical pieces, some relatively simple and equipped with out-sourced movements, some with impressive technical content and movements to die for. It may still take some time, but we have to accept the fact that Montblanc is a proper watchmaker too, just like many of the other brands owned by the Richemont Group.
Visually, this new watch, the Montblanc Heritage Small Second Limited Edition 38 – that number is not a reference to its diameter – is completely in line with the rest of the collection. In fact, when you look at it quickly, you could have imagined a new automatic small seconds version… A closer inspection of the dial reveals slight updates and, when you turn it over, you discover that it’s an entirely different story that is being told there.
Minerva is a name with an incredible aura in a small circle of highly educated watch enthusiasts. It is not as popular as some other big names but still enjoys huge respect. Minerva was founded in 1858 in Villeret and built its name with its large chronograph movements, including the Monopusher, used in multiple pocket watches, and later in pilots’ wrist chronographs. Minerva also manufactured several 3-hand movements, the most famous one being the Pythagore. In 2006, Minerva manufacture was acquired by Richemont and integrated into Montblanc as the production line for high-end “Villeret” watches, which also gave birth to multiple hand-wound chronographs with historical movements – such as this one or that one.
The recipe with the new Montblanc Heritage Small Second Limited Edition 38 is almost the same as with the 1858 Chronographs, yet with even more exclusivity. This watch is limited to 38 pieces only, for a good reason. Inside isn’t a newly manufactured movement, but something older and very desirable. When acquiring Minerva, Richemont also got its hands on stock left inside the building… And recently, a 38 new-old-stock hand-wound movements with small seconds was found.
Inside the Heritage Small Second is the Calibre MB M62.00, which had already been used by the brand some years ago in this series of watches. This calibre was produced in around 250 examples, prior to Richemont’s takeover, from 2003 to 2006. This specific calibre is pretty rare, yet it has some familiar roots, as it is an evolution of the older Pythagore calibre. The base components and architecture are the same – identical gear and energy train – yet the design of the bridges and the decoration are way more desirable.
Technically speaking, the Calibre MB M62.00 is an old-school hand-wound movement, running at a slow frequency of 2.5Hz (18,000 vibrations/hour), with a large screw balance and a swan-neck regulator – with the signature devil’s tail, a hallmark of all Montblanc/Minerva movements. It is quite powerful though, with a 50h power reserve. But talking specifications is almost vulgar with such a calibre. What really matters is design and decoration.
To start with, the bridges and plates are made from German silver and then rhodium plated. They are cut with multiple curves and a superb central bridge holding two gold chatons. A close inspection reveals hand-polished bevels with sharp internal angles, chamfered edges, circular graining, soleillage on the barrel and the ratchet wheel, polished and chamfered screw heads and classic but perfectly executed Geneva stripes – and the finishing extends even to the hidden parts of the movement. There can be no doubts about the pedigree of this calibre MB M62.00, which would alone justify buying this watch.
Having a superb movement is one thing… But it needs a beautiful watch too. In this area, Montblanc has a solid base with the Heritage collection. Well-designed, classic but not consensual, showing decent proportions and with nicely executed dials, the new Montblanc Heritage Small Second Limited Edition 38 benefits from what was successful on the standard collection and updates a few details.
The case, as you would expect from a 2020 exclusive watch, is made of stainless steel. Montblanc has decided to retain elegant proportions, with a 39mm diameter, short and tapered lugs, a thin bezel and, thanks to these old hand-wound movements, a relatively slender profile of about 9mm. The case is entirely polished and doesn’t differ in design from the rest of the collection – but once again, when something is good, no need to alter it.
The dial was the main point of enthusiasm when we discovered the new Heritage collection. First, there’s this trendy salmon colour, which has been seen quite often in the past couple of years, but admittedly still works really well in the context of an elegant, retro-styled watch in steel. The real point of interest, however, is in the execution of the dial itself.
As you can see, the dial is domed, which adds some charm to the watch in all angles. Then, it is treated with two-tone finishes: the chapter ring for the hours is grained and the central area has a classic sunray finish. This combination adds some depth to the watch and gives nice reflections depending on the ambient light. Finally, there’s this attractive combination of applied Arabic numerals and dots, with dark grey-coated Dauphine hands. Note that in this Heritage Small Second, all the markers are discreetly filled with luminescent material. Not only it is practical on a daily basis, but it also adds a bit of casualness to this piece. Finally, contrary to standard models with tracks and inscriptions in blue, this limited version relies on black printings. More discreet.
The watch is worn on a smart dark grey Sfumato alligator strap, coming from the Richemont Pelletteria in Florence, Italy. It is worn on a triple-folding clasp, which is the same as the base models. A classic but well-executed pin buckle would have been preferable – but it isn’t the hardest to change.
No debate, the Montblanc Heritage Small Second Limited Edition 38 is a great watch. Design-wise, it has great elegance without being overly formal either. The combination of a salmon dial and a steel case is hard to beat, so once again, no need to spend hours on that. The small evolutions on the dial add some exclusivity but clearly, this watch is all about its movement. And here, Montblanc knows its watchmaking, with an extremely desirable, lavishly finished historical movement. Something that will remain reserved for a few…
Price and availability
The Montblanc Heritage Small Second Limited Edition 38 (ref. 124781) is a limited edition of 38 pieces only. It is priced at CHF 19,400, EUR 18,100 or USD 18,900. More details at www.montblanc.com.