Splendid! Let’s be clear from the beginning, this new watch from Montblanc is just splendid. Design-wise, MB again did a great job with the design of the new chronograph. It is vintage-inspired, beautifully balanced, luxurious yet sporty at the same time, elegant – and unfortunately limited to a very small production. We would already be very happy with only this, however there’s more, much more: the movement, calibre MB 16.29, is one of the nicest chronograph movements available on the market today. The new Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is comes with this stunning Minerva calibre MB 16.29 monopusher movement. And you’ll see, the devil is in the details.
Excuse this burst of enthusiasm, but here, at Monochrome-Watches, we have a thing for the Montblanc Villeret Chronographs. Throwback… 2006, the Richmont Group takes over an antique and iconic name: the Manufacture Minerva, famous for their chronograph movements, including the legendary 13-20 CH. 2007, Richemont Group affects Minerva to Montblanc – and here begins a story. The reason for this takeover was to offer Montblanc a real production capacity, instead of relying on out-sourced movements and to implement a high-end collection (now known as the Villeret collection). Well, this said, we could have expected Montblanc to create nice watches with newly developed calibres – and that’s (partially) what they’ve been doing. But they also add something superb to the collection: bringing back to life the mythical Minerva chronograph movements, with an almost untouched architecture (meaning one of the nicest ever) and with a matching Haute Horlogerie manual finish… Delightful. Examples of the work done since: the Montblanc Vintage Pulsographe for Only Watch 2011, the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Chronographe (which also is the ancestor of the one we’re about to review) or the recent Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Pulsograph with Minerva Monopusher Chronograph.
With the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, the brand looks back in the archives of Minerva and takes inspiration of a specific 1930’s pilot chronograph from the old manufacture. The whole concept is impressive and this watch could have been built in the 1930’s without any problems. Case, hands, dial, numerals, crown and of course movement, all of these elements are reminiscent of the 1930’s Minerva chronograph that served as inspiration – of course with a more modern execution. It is not a first attempt for Montblanc to do so however, as in 2012, they created another vintage-inspired chronograph (that shares the same movement) in the name of the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Chronographe. If the latter was more inspired by doctors or scientists watches, the one we have here today is clearly playing on the pilot watch trend.
Just like military / pilot chronographs from the 1930’s, the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter features so-called ‘cathedral hands’ (sort of skeleton hands used to have a large amount of luminous material but with a cloisonné architecture, due to the fragility of luminous material on larger surfaces at that time) and large Arabic numerals – again something we can find in the vintage Minerva pilot chronograph (you can see an example here) and that is emphasized by the use of a cream paint on hands and numerals. The hands of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter are all made of gold; only the central chronograph hand has a red painted end. The dial is said to be black, but in certain light conditions, it turns into a warm slate colour – again a nice vintage touch, reminiscent of patinated dials. As you can see, Montblanc brings some more consistency to this watch, not only by having a vintage design but also by printing an antique logo on the dial – a logo that was used by the brand also during the 1930s. One concession to modernity: a tachymeter scale, something that the old Minerva didn’t have.
There are two things that might tickle your attention on the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter. First of all, the large gap between the two subsidiary dials. Then, the large diameter of the case (made of 18k red gold) that measures 44mm in diameter. All of this indicates a really large movement – but we’ll get back on this soon. The older Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Vintage Chronographe was already large at 43.5mm but this one is even a bit larger. However, the feeling on the wrist is impressively elegant. The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is indeed 44m but it comes with short and downward sloping lugs and a narrower strap, that both respects the original proportions of the vintage watch and that also increase the comfort on the wrist, despite it’s hefty diameter. The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter never felt big on the wrist and remained pleasant and discreet. The reasonable 13mm height even creates a relatively slim profile compared to the diameter.
When looking at the profile of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, you can notice the onion crown with the single-pusher integrated. Now, keeping in mind this position of the chronograph pusher, but also the large diameter of the watch and the huge gap between the sub-dials, you should know now that this watch is not featuring the usual MB M13.21 movement (inspired by the vintage Minerva 13-20) that you can find in the Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Pulsograph. Indeed, the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter comes with something much bigger – and incredibly nice too. Just like the vintage Minerva Pilot Chronographs, the new Montblanc features a pocket watch movement that measures an impressive 38.4mm (approximately the diameter of the CASE of a Montblanc Heritage Chronometrie Ultra Slim). Now you know why the case measures 44mm and there’s such a gap between the sub-dials.
First of all, as said, the single chronograph pusher is located in the crown and not at 2 o’clock, like in the Montblanc Meisterstück Heritage Pulsograph. Then, you can see this HUGE movement that entirely fills the case (something that we regrettably do not see on many large modern watches with movements that are simply too small for the case). In fact, the calibre MB M16.29 of this Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter was inspired by the original chronograph movement of the vintage pilot chronographs, the 17.29 calibre, designed by Minerva in 1929. Consequently, and its components feature many similarities. And just like the vintage movement, the actual MB M16.29 is really old school in its technical architecture, style and layout – and the result is clearly a feast for the eyes.
Tradition obliged, this calibre MB M16.29 relies on a column-wheel to actuate the chronograph functions, activated by the single push-piece that is built into the winding crown – thus requiring a complex set of levers. Then, it features a horizontal coupling (again, not very modern compared to vertical coupling of actual refined movements). Continuing in the old school style, we can spot a large screw-regulated balance wheel and a swan-neck regulator. This movement comes with a single barrel providing 50 hours of power reserve and ticks at a slow frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour. Whether we talk about materials, components or technical solutions, we’re far from modernity here – but there’s absolutely no need for, as this movement is a stunning beauty.
The photo above sums-up the beauty of this movement, with two superb details: the typical V shaped bridge that holds the second and minute wheels of the chronograph and the arrow / devil’s tail shaped chronograph hammer – something that can be found in almost all the modern Montblanc / Minerva movements. All the 252 components are heavily finished, with bridges made of rhodium plated German silver, with Geneva stripes, polished beveled angles (including several internal angles, attesting of the hand-made finishing), rubies inserted in gold chatons, finished spokes on the wheels with chamfers, levers with straight graining and large polished bevelled angles, perlage on the main-plate, snailing on the barrel… When we said that the devil is in the details, it’s not only because of this arrow / devil’s tail shaped chronograph hammer (I know, but I’m in love with it) but also for all the rest. It’s superb. Period! This movement could potentially compete with a Datograph or a Patek Philippe 29-535 in terms of execution. Of course it’s a bit outdated technically speaking, but honestly, who cares…
Now that you know all about the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter – a superb, large pocket watch movement with exquisite finish, a large 18k red gold case, a nice dial… – what are expecting as a price tag? 50,000 Euros, 60,000 Euros? No, and that’s the incredible performance of Montblanc. While keeping the technical side based on the proven and reliable calibre MB 16.29, you can have haute-horlogerie finishings and a gold case for 30,000 Euros (including all the taxes, the VAT, the margin of the retailer… everything). However, you’ll have to be fast as only 100 pieces will be made. Our advice: RUN to the closest Montblanc boutique. www.montblanc.com.