Perhaps one of the most significant milestones in Montblanc’s 114-year long history is its decision to take over the former Minerva production facilities in 2007. Based in Villeret, it has become Montblanc’s inventing room for high horology watches, like the Montblanc Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon Skeleton LE8 watch. The timepiece boasts an 18k rose gold case, a skeletonised manual-winding movement that can be viewed from every angle, and a tourbillon that has had its balance wheel removed and relocated to the outside of the cage.
Montblanc watches fitted with Minerva movements have always been on the large size. That’s because their movements are descendants of some of the original Minerva pocket watch engines. Minerva was established in 1858 and built a name for itself by crafting chronograph movements like the Monopusher, which powered the company’s many pocket watches and pilot’s watches. When Montblanc acquired the company as part of Richemont, high-end Villeret watches continued in production, with Montblanc building on Minerva’s historical mechanics and watchmaking traditions.
Measuring a diameter of 44.8mm, the Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon Skeleton watch is fitted with an openworked MB M18.69 movement, which allows for the tourbillon to be viewed from every angle of the watch. The movement is capable of a 50-hour power reserve and has been elaborately decorated. Its 188 individual hand-assembled components boast a mix of bevelled inner angles, mirror-polished surfaces and circular graining carried out by Montblanc’s highly skilled artisans. Each of the MB M18.69 calibre’s 420 inner angles requires the steady hand of a craftsman, along with his own blend of tools and techniques in order to achieve the desired level of decoration.
The suspended Exo Tourbillon mechanism can be viewed from top to bottom and is fitted with a tourbillon bridge equipped with one stainless steel arm that supports a raised balance wheel. Elevating the balance wheel outside of the tourbillon cage is not just for aesthetical purposes either. It serves to improve the performance of the movement since it grants Montblanc the freedom to craft an impressively large balance wheel whose weight is no longer an issue for the cage. The one-rotation-per-minute (and now subsequently lighter) cage requires less energy to turn, plus this unusual layout just so happens to add a visually interesting quality to the watch.
The original patented Exo Tourbillon Complication took a total of three years for Montblanc to design at the company’s Villeret-based manufacturing facilities – its name “Exo” referring to the Greek word for “external”. The new version required a further 18 months of research to perfect. Elements like the main plate and bridges have been completely openworked for visibility through the front and back of the watch’s polished 18k rose gold case. Underneath the watch’s domed anti-reflective sapphire glass is an off-centre dial for the main hour and minutes. The ivory “Grand Feu” enamel surface features 18k rose gold leaf-shaped hands and an Arabic numeral hour track. Forming a figure-of-eight shape, the tourbillon and circular sub-dial offer a balanced and symmetrical layout.
Built from the ground up at the company’s Villeret watchmaking facilities, the Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon Skeleton LE8 watch certainly puts some of Montblanc’s most complex techniques on show.
The watch is priced at EUR 138,000 and completed on a brown Sfumato alligator leather strap sourced from Italy’s handcrafted leather Pelletteria factory in Florence.
More details at www.montblanc.com.