The Watches and Wonders watch fair in Hong Kong has inspired several watch brands to introduce rather impressive new timepieces. And when we say “new” , we really mean new, not just a visual touch-up. Montblanc has really outdone themselves and introduce THE new pinnacle in mechanical chronographs, the ExoTourbillon Rattrapante.
The ExoTourbillon was already a pinnacle for tourbillon watches, with its brilliant construction that allows a huge balance wheel, much larger than any other tourbillon, to rotate outside the tourbillon cage and a smaller hair spring inside the rotating cage. This construction has the advantage of the large balance wheel, being stability in chronometric rate, while it also has the advantages of a tourbillon in not being influenced by gravities forces. The Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 comprises all things beautiful from the old Minerva manufacture and this new ExoTourbillon Rattrapante is the perfect example of that. Just look at the elegantly shaped bridges, levers and column wheels. Only the old Minerva, and now Montblanc’s manufacture in Villeret, can design a complex movement so superbly elegant.
The ExoTourbillon Rattrapante offers not only one of the most complex AND clever tourbillon mechanisms, but also the most interesting in the field of mechanical chronographs, being a rattrapante or split-seconds chronograph. It takes almost 70% more components for a rattrapante, than for a conventional chronograph mechanism. This only gets more interesting when you consider that fabrication at Montblanc in Villeret occurs almost entirely by traditional manual craftsmanship, so significantly more time and labour are required. This meticulous work happens under the patronage of master watchmaker Demetrio Cabiddu.
A rattrapante chronograph (French: rattraper – the act of recovering, recapturing), also called split-second chronograph or split chronograph or double chronograph.
A rattrapante chronograph is a watch that includes two separate stopwatch mechanisms in order to estimate two separate events of different durations. It has two seconds hands; one hand is superimposed over the other.
While one hand moves continuously, the other one can be either stopped, started or reset to zero. The first push releases both hands. While one continues registering the time, the other hand can be repeatedly stopped. In order to stop and bring both hands to zero the watch has a return pusher placed inside the crown. The position of the pusher, controlling the split-seconds function, is at the 2 o’clock position.
The movement, caliber 16.61, is a handwound movement that measures 38.4 mm in diameter and 11.9 mm in height. It comprises 411 individual parts and all these parts together deliver 55 hours of power reserve to drive the off-center hour and minute hand, the split-second chronograph, the small seconds hand, a second time zone with 24-hour display and a four-minute tourbillon.
The large screw balance has a diameter of 14.5 mm (which is HUGE, especially for a tourbillon) and ticks the time away at a steady pace of 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour (2.5 hertz). Rotating inside the tourbillon cage, which makes one full rotation every four minutes, is a hair spring (made in-house!!) with a Phillips terminal curve.
The complex movement is finished to the high standards of Montblanc’s Collection Villeret. This means that the main plate is made in Rhodium-plated nickel silver (also called German silver) that is adorned with circular graining on both sides. All edges are hand-chamfered, yes also those of the main plate. All bridges are also made in Rhodium-plated nickel silver, however these are adorned with côtes de Genève one the visible side and circular-grained on the other side, and all edges are again hand-chamfered (and polished). The wheels are gold-plated, circular-grained, chamfered, jewels set in gold chatons on both sides and all pinions feature polished faces and toothing and burnished pivots. Of course there’s much more to say about the finishing, but we leave it at this for now.
The ExoTourbillon Rattrapante features a central hour and minute hand, a small seconds sub dial at the 9 o’clock position, a second time zone display with hour and minute hand and a small off-set 24-hour hand at the 6 o’clock position, centrally placed split-seconds chronograph hands and a 30-minute register for the chronograph function.
The upper part of the dial gives stage to the magnificent ExoTourbillon that makes a slow dance and rotates once every four minutes.
All this comes in an 18-carat white gold case that measures 47 mm in diameter and 17.5 mm in height. The -carat gold dial is adorned with “grainé” décor, and features applied scales in grand feu enamel on gold for the continually running seconds, the hours, the 24-hour display and the 30-minute chronograph register.
It will have a serious price tag, but in all honesty, this is as good as it gets. A pure celebration of ultra Haute Horlogerie, limited to just 18 pieces (and 18 lucky new owners).
More information can be found through the Montblanc boutiques and the Montblanc website.