As a watch journalist I’ve visited (quite) a number of manufactures and every time I look for unique properties of that specific manufacture. The manufactures that I visited most are Montblanc’s manufacture in Villeret – that’s the old Minerva manufacture – and their other facility on Le Locle. Both are very different! The manufacture in Villeret always feels like you’re traveling back in time, while the other manufacture is a state-of-art modern facility, located in a beautiful old villa. I was amazed to see more testing and checks than I’m used to see, when I visited Le Locle, so during last week’s SIHH I talked about this with Montblanc’s director of watches, Alexander Schmiedt.
The old Minerva manufacture in Villeret is without a doubt my favourite, simply because it feels like you travel back in time when you walk through the front door. It’s an old building, but that doesn’t make it unique. What does, are the huge machineries from the early 1900’s, the workshops with old creaking wooden floors and workbenches overlooking beautiful meadows in the valley. You immediately get the feeling of how it used to be in the old days. And still, they do have computers with CAD/CAM and multiple-axis CNC machines. On the other hand, the manufacture in Le Locle is located in such an incredibly beautiful old Villa, entirely in Art Deco style, and I’m every time surprised by the amount of quality checks.
Of course, most watch brands have quite strict testing procedures. And let’s be honest, that’s what we may expect from Haute Horlogerie brands, and nothing less. However some brands go that extra mile to test and check the quality, before their beautiful creations will be send to the new owner. Some use the Geneva Seal, some just the COSC certificate. Other have created their own testing and certifying procedures, like Patek Philippe, and like the brands who together created Qualité Fleurier. And also like Montblanc!
Montblanc has been performing their 500 hour test for quite some years now. These test were done only on the Nicolas Rieussec and TimeWalker TwinFly watches, which featured Montblanc’s in-house chronograph calibers. As of this year the entire test will be performed on all watches mentioned before, plus all watches from the new Montblanc Hertitage Chronométrie collection.
Besides this 500 hour test, Montblanc also performs a vast number of quality checks, between each and every step in the production process. This has impressed me, right from the first time I visited the beautiful historical villa in Le Locle, and today I sat down with Alexander Schmiedt, Montblanc’s director of watches, to talk about the testing procedures, called the Montblanc Laboratory Test 500.
- Test No. 1 – Winding Performance and Assembly Control (4 hours) – Checking the winding performance of the watch and the correctness of the watch’s final assembly
- Test No. 2 – Continuous accuracy control (80 hours) – Ongoing monitoring of the rate in all positions
- Test No. 3 – Functions Control (336 hours) – Testing the overall functioning of the watch
- Test No. 4 – General Performance Test (80 hours) – Testing the momentary rate and the functions in all positions
- Test No. 5 – Water Resistance Test (2 hours) – Testing the water resistance