Back in 2014, right after Jérôme Lambert was appointed CEO of the brand (and who is now COO of almost all the Maisons at Richemont Group), Montblanc introduced the Heritage collection – a line-up of classical, elegant watches with a clear vintage appeal, in both the design and the use of complications. There was some Minerva inspiration, yet with the usual “affordability” the brand is known for. Alongside the below-10k perpetual calendar (a watch that sounded like a blast at that time) was another watch, the
Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph, and here, it’s not only inspired by Minerva, but features true Minerva watchmaking skills. Why talk about this watch today? Well, just look at the photos and you’ll understand. A throwback to this watch is for pleasure only…
When he joined Montblanc in 2013, Lambert infused a new energy into the brand. First of all was the concept of “accessible luxury“, so dear to him (he started it at JLC, but really made sense at MB). The idea was to offer a wide range of complications – from simple calendars, moonphases or ultra-thin watches – that covered almost the entire spectre of watchmaking, including the impressive Heritage Perpetual Calendar, which in steel, was back in the days, the most affordable QP on the market (below EUR 10,000). This was the technical part. In terms of style and design, Lambert also brought back classicism and elegance, by infusing a bit of vintage appeal into the watches, although not the vintage style usually seen these days in 1960s-inspired sports watches. Montblanc and its Heritage collection were looking at the classic style of 1940s dress watches.
Among these watches, most of them powered by ETA / Sellita movements and priced reasonably, was a sort of UFO, a true collector’s piece as a flagship for the collection, a watch that shared many elements in terms of style and inspirations, however with a completely different technical approach: the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph (even if, in fact, the “accessible luxury” concept was not entirely forgotten here). It features the same 1940s style, same design clues, same overall look, yet the Heritage concept was pushed miles further here… Just because of what was ticking inside the case: a historically relevant and vintage-constructed Minerva monopusher chronograph movement. This watch was clearly intended for the more mature collectors around, as limited to 90 pieces only and visually far from demonstrating, it is a hidden beauty!
Today, we wanted to take a look back at it, for our own (and we hope your) pleasure. This watch was not the first Minerva-powered watch. Since Richemont acquired the old manufacture in 2006 and affected it to MB in 2007, we have seen many impressive watches – and we continue to see some. However, the Minerva-powered “Villeret” collection was almost a sub-brand inside Montblanc, with extremely complex and – not surprisingly – highly priced pieces (see the ExoTourbillon Rattrapante or the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique). The Heritage Spirit Pulsograph was different, as bringing Minerva into a standard MB collections – something that has become quite usual now, with for instance the military-inspired Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter. No more 6-figure prices, no more highly confidential production, Minerva was back under the spotlight thanks to this Pulsograph watch. In fact, it can be seen as an important watch in Montblanc’s recent history.
What we have here basically is a watch that shares the overall design of the Heritage Spirit collection, meaning an elegant and clean case, with a flat polished bezel, tapered lugs and design inspired by the 1940s dress watches produced by Minerva. No ultra-fancy features, no complex design elements, just a classically-shaped watch with a rather large case (41mm diameter) and stronger lugs than the rest of the collection. The sides are brushed and overall, the case feels very pleasantly executed, in a nice and warm 18k red gold alloy. A discreet crown and the one and only pusher complete the package.
The dial of this watch is also very classical and elegantly vintage-inspired. A two-tone silver plate, matte on the outside where the pulsometer scale stands (again an old-school feature), brushed with a sun-ray pattern in the centre. On this dial are applied some facetted batons, some Roman numerals (at 12 and 6) and all give echo to the equally finished dauphine hands. The bi-compax layout is in the vein of the rest of the watch: classical, elegant, balanced and slightly retro-inspired. The sub-dials are well-proportioned and the 30-minute counter features a nice arrow hand. Finally, this dial is relatively understated in terms of literature and feels just superb…
While the design of this Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph feels surprisingly in line with the rest of the “accessible” Heritage watches, the watch, however, stands out in terms of execution and quality. On the wrist, it is larger than the old Minerva watches, yet it keeps a certain elegance and distinction. It’s not shockingly large, nor outrageously thick… but it’s modern with a vintage twist. Yet, how nice this watch is, it is mainly what’s inside that justifies its very existence. It could have been a Valjoux-powered watch, but it isn’t… Really not!
As mentioned, with the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph, it was the first time that the work of both of MB’s manufactures was merged: a Montblanc-only signed watch with a movement from the Minerva/Villeret-based manufacture. Back in 1923, Minerva created one of the first chronograph movements especially for a wristwatch, with the calibre 13.20. Inside the Heritage Pulsograph is its worthy heir, the Minerva calibre MB M13.21 – and yes, it is faithfully based on the 90 years old architecture of the 13.20… A piece of history, brought back to life, slightly modernized for the occasion and extensively decorated, in the traditional Haute-Horlogerie style.
Old movement means a traditional solution. With the calibre MB M13.21, we have a state-of-the-art chronograph, with column-wheel and visually exquisite horizontal clutch (maybe not as good as a vertical clutch in terms of precision, but so much nicer to look at…) It also features a large screwed balance that oscillates at the classical pace of 18,000vph (2.5Hz). It boasts a comfortable 55-hour power reserve after complete winding. And the good thing is that here, on the contrary of vintage watches, this movement can be admired from the back – and indeed, there is a lot to admire.
First is the look and shape of this calibre MB M13.21, with the classical V-shaped chronograph-bridge, the depth of the movement, the intertwining lines created by multiple levers or the “icing on the cake” that is the small pointy arrow at the end of one of the levers – at Minerva, the devil really is in the details. After that, there’s the finishing. The plate and bridges are fabricated from rhodium-plated nickel silver; the bridges are bevelled by hand, and the chamfered surfaces are then manually polished. Classical Geneva stripes embellish the planar surfaces of the bridges, while the main plate is adorned with perlage. The levers are all straight grained and bevelled too, and so are the spokes of the wheels.
About the decoration of the MB M13.21 found in this Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph, our editor-in-chief Frank said back in 2014 that “The finishing is of the very highest degree, and without saying it’s unparalleled, it finds its equals among the very best watch brands with abbreviations like PP, VC and AP. This is classic Haute Horlogerie…” And believe us, he was right. This watch is Montblanc/Minerva at its best.
The Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph was introduced back in 2014 and was a limited edition of 90 pieces. It is priced at EUR 29,900. In all fairness, that is quite an impressive price for a Montblanc. Yet, keep in mind the heavy gold case, the superb dial, the fully hand-decorated and historically relevant movement and you end up with a watch that is quite a bargain… And while Montblanc said it was sold-out shortly after the SIHH 2014, in fact, some pieces (less than a handful) are still available somewhere around… Just like this example number 40! More details on montblanc.com.
Specifications – Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph Calibre MB M13.21
- Case: 41mm diameter x 11.8mm height – 18k red gold case, polished and brushed – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre MB M13.21, in-house produced in Minerva/Villeret – hand-wound – 2.5Hz frequency – 55h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, mono-pusher chronograph – balance and hairspring, which ends in a Philips terminal curvature, manufactured and manually-adjusted in-house
- Strap: black alligator with 18k red gold pin buckle
- Reference: 111626
- Limited Edition of 90 pieces, launched in 2014
- Price: EUR 29,900