A year ago, at the SIHH 2015, Montblanc surprised us by introducing a watch featuring both a tourbillon and an automatic, column-wheel, monopusher chronograph for less than 40,000 Euros – and that’s really impressive! This watch, the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph, will soon see its movement used in the TimeWalker collection, with the new, more conceptual and bolder case and a display that will please the seekers of sportiness. Let’s have a look in the flesh at one of the SIHH 2016 novelties of Montblanc, the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph LE100.
The TimeWalker is the urban, modern (and quite sculptural) collection of Montblanc, a watch that is easily recognizable from its lugs, hollowed in the center and adorned with the Montblanc logo to the edges – see some examples of normal TimeWalker watches here and here. Recently, the highly-productive brand showed a massive evolution (that can be called a huge modernization) of this collection, with a concept-watch called the Timewalker Chronograph 100. Montblanc must have found that this newly designed case deserved to be properly commercialized – and what a better movement than the new ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph to promote it.
If the normal case of the TimeWalker is already quite a piece of design, this new iteration is a proper sculpture. Bold, sharp, extremely modern… It’s even surprising to see a rather conservative brand like Montblanc playing such a score. The main idea of the hollowed lugs with the Montblanc logo at the edges is still in place but the lines are much more cutting and straight, for a resolutely sporty and masculine result. Not only the design is modern but the materials used are also high-tech, having the 2 side-pieces made of brushed titanium, a bezel in micro-blasted titanium coated in black DLC and a central container made of titanium sheathed by a cocoon of carbon fibre, with an unusual horizontal striped pattern rather than the more common mesh motif. Several dozen layers of carbon fibre, with the fibres in each layer oriented at 90° to those in the preceding stratum, are fused together with artificial resin at high temperature with a pressure of 10 tons. This produces a compact carbon-fibre block.
This case of the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph LE100 measures a quite hefty 44m but this diameter participates to the concept of the watch itself – and the use of short and curved lugs should help it to be balanced, even on smaller wrists. To continue in this modern design, we also note an oversized crown (as usual with the Montblanc logo inserted) and a large, sharply designed single pusher, place in the caseband at 8, to start, pause and reset the chronograph function.
Looking at the dial of the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph LE100 and you’ll find a rather familiar display, not only close to the 2015 Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph (which shares the same movement) but also close to the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec – which will easily give you some clues about the provenance of the base movement… So we found back the off-centred hour / minute dial, in the upper-half of the watch, with a indication of the date via a pointer and two chronograph sub-counters in the lower-half of the dial (the one on the left for the seconds and the one on the right for the minutes). The originality of these sub-dial is that they are cut in the middle. To make them readable, Montblanc found a solution, with a double hand, with the white longer side running on the white outside track and the red shorter side running on the inner red track. Why such a layout? Mainly because of what proudly sits in the lower part of the dial: the one-minute ExoTourbillon.
The strength of Montblanc ExoTourbillon is to combine, in an extremely well priced watch, a tourbillon and an automatic, column-wheel operated, monopusher chronograph (look at the competition and you won’t find such complications reunited under 100,000 Euros). How is that possible? In fact, the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph LE100 (like its 2014 sibling) uses a movement based on the Nicolas Rieussec watches, without other major modification than the regulating module (balance wheel, hairspring and escapement). The rest of the movement remains the same: same gear train, same chronograph mechanism, same barrels… The main modification comes in the lower-half of the movement, where the tourbillon is now placed.
The ExoTourbillon was developed entirely in-house by the watchmakers at the Montblanc Manufacture. The Exo in the name is derived from the Greek for external or outside and refers to the screw balance, which is positioned outside of the tourbillon’s rotating cage. This original patented architecture allows the cage to be smaller in size and free of the weight of the balance, saving 30 per cent more energy than a conventional tourbillon. A useful feature of this movement is its stop-second mechanism, which directly halts the screw balance by means of a tiny spring, and allows the user to also set the seconds precisely. It also features a fast-adjusting hour hand, that allows setting the hours by 1-hour increments, without troubling the rest of the chronometry.
This movement comes with rather interesting technical choices, especially concerning the chronograph function. It has a monopusher architecture, meaning that only one pusher is required to start, pause and reset the hands. Then, it features a column-wheel and a vertical clutch (known as the finest combination for a chrono). The rotor features a small aperture in its center to free the view on the column wheel. Finally, it features 2 barrels for 50 hours of power reserve. The movement is finished with Geneva stripes, blued screws and chamfered angles. Don’t expect the same level of finish than a Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter with Minerva movement… but considering what you get for the price (a tourbillon + a complicated chronograph), you can’t have it all.
The Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph LE100 is another impressive piece from Montblanc, that demonstrate how productive and interestingly positioned in terms of price the manufacture is. Then again, you won’t find such a level of complication under 100,000 Euros, except at Montblanc. The official retail price will be revealed during the 2016 edition of the SIHH, but expect it to be under 40,000 Euros. It will be a limited edition of 100 pieces. More details on www.montblanc.com.