Today, 19 January 2015, is the first day of the 25th edition of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or short SIHH. In the coming week we’re going to show you a plentitude of new timepiece, including some of the finest high-end timepieces on the market. In this first article of the week we’ll focus on what we see as one of the most promising watch brands of the moment, and on one of their most spectacular timepieces: the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph. Read on to find out everything, from specs to retail price, about this sumptuous timepiece and enjoy our photos.
Its name already reveals that we’re dealing with a watch that features a chronograph and an extraordinary tourbillon. The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph (yes, that a mouthful) features no normal tourbillon, but the in-house developed and built ExoTourbillon. This tourbillon was first introduced in 2010 and in 2013 they introduced the mouthwatering ExoTourbillon Rattrapante, which is one of the most beautiful chronograph ever to be created. The movement of the new ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph might not look as that of the ExoTourbillon Rattrapante, however for less than a fifth of that price (it will retail for € 38.000 Euro!!) you’re treated on an abundance of horological sweetness.
What we actually have here is the ExoTourbillon (I’m referring to the regulating organ) that is integrated in the mono-pusher chronograph movement of the Nicolas Rieussec. Together that makes a great combination of two very attractive complications; a tourbillon and a chronograph. As we already said, this is no ‘normal’ tourbillon, it is the so-called ExoTourbillon.
The ExoTourbillon explained
The very idea sprouts from the motivation to strive for the best timekeeping. The larger the balance wheel, the bigger the inertia and the better the chronometric stability. So to get a watch that runs very precise, you want a large balance wheel. However, in a tourbillon the entire escapement, that comprises among others the balance wheel, rotates in the tourbillon cage. The larger the balance is, the larger the tourbillon cage has to be. But rotating the tourbillon cage costs energy, and the larger it is, the more energy it costs.
Montblanc’s watchmakers developed a tourbillon with a large balance, that is outside the tourbillon cage. This also requires the balance spring (also called hair spring) to be outside the balance! By keeping the tourbillon cage small, with the balance spring inside, the rotation will cost less energy than when the large balance wheel is inside. This means the balance spring and balance wheel are on a different level. This innovative construction derives its name from the Greek prefix “exo”, which means “outside” or “external”.
The small tourbillon cage, despite the large balance wheel, and the tourbillon cage that does not have to carry the weight of the large balance wheel, saves approximately 30% of energy, when compared to a traditional tourbillon construction.
Two models and the prices
Now before I go on about the technicalities of the chronograph (for the connoisseurs: with single pusher, column-wheel and vertical coupling) you need to know that there are two different models! The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Vasco da Gama Limited Edition 60 (now that REALLY is a mouthful) is the white gold limited edition of 60 piece, which retails for € 45.000 Euro. This version features an aventurine dial (upper part) that depicts the nightly sky with a Montblanc diamond at “12 o’clock” and vertical satin-finished on the lower part of the dial. The non-limited edition is the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph that is executed in 18K red gold that comes with an ivory grainé and vertical satin-finished silver dial. This non-limited edition retails for € 38.000 Euro, which is not only very impressive, but also makes it the most affordable tourbillon chronograph on the market.
As you can probably imagine, all this makes us very enthusiastic about Montblanc. Last year they introduced the most affordable perpetual calendar on the market, this year they already introduced a very affordable (and beautiful) worldtimer, and now this spectacular timepiece. They’re on a roll!
The Chronograph and more
The movement, calibre MB230, is taken from the Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph – except the escapement that has been replaced by the ExoTourbillon – and features a mono-poussoir (single pusher) chronograph with a column-wheel and vertical coupling. The vertical coupling of the gear train and the chronograph wheels is a more efficient and precise coupling, than the often used horizontal coupling. Similarly the column-wheel is a more precise way to actuate the chronograph functions (start, stop and reset to zero.) This automatic-winding movement has two main spring barrels that stores 50 hours of autonomy, when fully wound.
And there’s more… there’s a stop-second function that directly halts the screw balance by means of a tiny spring (in the photo below you van see it ‘touching’ one of the regulating screws on the balance rim). This allows you to set the watch precise, to the second. This method, is again a superior method, because it prevents the “after-swing” that would be the result of halting the tourbillon cage (another possible method, albeit inferior, to stop the second hand of a tourbillon.) In order to precisely adjust the time, the tourbillon cage wheel has a red arrow-shaped marker, which serves as the watch’ second hand.
And there’s more… the date is indicated by a hand that is on the same axis as the hour and minute hand. A very useful feature is that the hour-hand can be reset in hourly increments, which is very easy for quick and uncomplicated time setting when travelling. When doing this it has no effect whatsoever on the minute- and second-hand, so the precise time is always preserved.
The chronograph counters are semicircular, with hands of different lengths (one end is white, the other red) to match the appropriate sectorial scales. The left counters is for the seconds, the one on the right-hand side is to tally elapsed minutes.
While other models in the Heritage Chronométrie Collection feature a flat bezel, the Montblanc ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph has a slightly concave bezel, which not only looks good, but also protects the bezel against scratches. The facetted lugs are satin-finished on the inside and polished on the outside. Montblanc’s emblem, as relief atop the crown, is a distinguishing feature of the entire collection. And te leather strap is made at the Montblanc Pelletteria, their own leather manufacture in Florence, Italy.
This Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph comes in a 44mm case in 18K red gold, while the Vasco da Gama is a limited edition of 60 pieces in 18K white gold.
Specifications Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph:
- Case: 44mm 18K red or white gold case, polished with satin-finished inter-lug, concave-shaped bezel, domed sapphire crystal with antireflective treatment on both sides, case-back with inset pane of sapphire crystal (on the limited edition with Vasco da Gama’s flagship, the São Gabriel)
- Movement: Self-winding movement with double barrel, 50 hours of power reserve, one-minute patented ExoTourbillon with stop-second mechanism, single-pusher chronograph with column-wheel and vertical coupling, 296 components, 44 jewels, screw balance with a diameter of 9.7 mm and the moment of inertia is 12 mgcm2 (!!), 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
- Strap: black alligator-skin strap crafted at the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence with 18 K red or white gold pin buckle