The dawning of a second bronze age at Montblanc

Launching today at the SIHH Geneva, Montblanc seals the vintage spirit of the 1858 watch collection for time immemorial inside bronze cases.

Montblonc 1858 Collection

The new Montblanc 1858 Collection is deliberately made to look old, reflecting the growing trend for retro and vintage-styled watches. Three new references – a chronograph with tachymeter, a dual time and an automatic watch – bolster the 1858 collection with their vintage credentials on display, fortified by bronze cases.

As serious about watchmaking as its famous pens, Montblanc is a relative newcomer to the watchmaking scene and didn’t start making watches until 1997. More recently, in 2006, Montblanc went one step further in its determination to become a serious player on the watch front and acquired the legendary Swiss watch manufacture Minerva, along with all its historical patina and manufacturing prowess dating back to 1858.

Davide Cerrato, the man who breathed life back into Tudor watches and gave the brand serious street cred among a new generation of watch buyers, is now behind Montblanc’s watch division, and it’s plain to see.

Montblanc’s 1858 Collection takes its design cues from historical references of the 1930s made by the Minerva manufacture. The large cathedral hands, Arabic numerals, vintage onion crowns and classic minute railway tracks on the dial are all in keeping with the spirit of Minerva’s historical watches. Another nice touch is the retrieval of Montblanc’s original logo from the 1930s. Representing the Mont Blanc Mountain, the typography and illustration take me back to the pages of a Tin Tin adventure.

To underscore the vintage soul of the watches, the cases are made from a unique alloy of bronze and steel that will develop an attractive patina over the years. A material from the annals of watchmaking history, bronze is more often associated with historical maritime clocks and instruments, but has resurfaced of late as a fashionable case material.

1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition watch
The vintage appeal of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter is reinforced with a bronze case housing a traditional manual monopusher chronograph movement (€27,500).

The Minerva manufacture was renowned for its chronograph movements and the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter, above, pays homage to this complication with a traditional manual monopusher chronograph movement.

The chronograph indications are displayed via a red-tipped central chronograph seconds hand and a minutes counter at 3 o’clock, while a classic tachymeter scale (used to calculate average speed or measure distance travelled) runs around the dial.

The 44mm bronze case is complemented by a champagne dial with sunray finishing and, as with all the watches in the new collection, the cathedral hands are filled with beige SuperLumiNova compounding the vintage aesthetic of the watches.

1858 Automatic Dual Time watch
Montblanc’s vintage-style 1858 Automatic Dual Time watch with a black dial comes with a useful dual-time complication for travellers (€4,990).

My favourite model is the Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time, above.  With its powerful black dial, the watch comes with a useful dual-time or GMT complication for travellers.

When travelling to a different time zone, the main hour and minute hands are set to local time while the second hour hand –skeletonised to distinguish it from the main hand – is used to indicate home time. To avoid confusion, the day/night indicator located under 12 o’clock is connected to home time hand and the date window at 6 o’clock is connected to local time.

With a price tag of €3,490, the Montblanc 1858 Automatic, below, is going to fly off the shelf. Like its brothers, the 44mm Automatic model shares all the vintage trims and is fitted with an in-house automatic movement. The only difference is that the caseback is sealed and features an engraving of the Minerva Manufacture in Villeret. All three watches are presented on leather straps made by Montblanc’s very own Pelleteria in Florence and are fastened with bronze-plated buckles. 

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