The watchmakers at the Montblanc manufacture have achieved a remarkable symbiosis by combining the rebirth of the traditional chronograph principle of the Nicolas Rieussec chronograph with the most modern material: silicon. Montblanc thus proves once again that unique results are possible when the joy of technical innovation is united with the love of tradition. Modern measurement of brief intervals of time had already celebrated a comeback with the debut of the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph in 2008.
Two years later, the brand´s developers again outdo themselves by presenting a new limited-edition model encasing a movement in which the lever and escape-wheel are made of silicon, a material that embodies state-of-the-art horological artistry. The Montblanc watch manufacture thus unmistakably underscores its intention of setting new accents in the technical inner lives of timepieces.
Through its use of rotating discs and motionless hands to indicate the duration of brief intervals, the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph conforms to a principle initially employed by the watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec, who registered the world´s first chronograph for a patent on March 9, 1822.
Montblanc augmented this unique chronograph display in 2009, when it introduced the Open Date model, in which the dial and the elapsed-time discs are partially skeletonized to offer unobstructed views into the depths of the movement. Now the watchmakers in Le Locle have gone one step farther: they proudly present a new limited-edition wristwatch with innovative components at the heart of Montblanc´s manufacture Calibre MB R 120: the lever and escape-wheel are crafted from silicon.
Silicon, which had previously been known primarily from its applications in semiconductor technology, also began to make inroads into the world of micromechanics a few years ago. Like microprocessors for computers, certain components for watches can be etched from paper-thin silicon wafers.
The DRIE (Deep Reactive Ion Etching) method and the inherent properties of the material offer optimal preconditions for manufacturing tiny components for watch movements. Silicon is 60% harder and 70% lighter than steel, highly resistant to corrosion and entirely nonmagnetic. When silicon is processed by the DRIE method, the resulting surfaces need no post-processing because they´re already absolutely smooth and scratch resistant.
These are precisely the qualities that watchmakers and engineers have always sought – because such attributes significantly improve a watch´s rate and long-term reliability. The fact that the lever and escape-wheel of a movement which oscillates at a pace of four hertz must be alternately accelerated and halted 28,800 times each hour makes it clear how crucially important it is to reduce the masses of these components. In a watch with lever and escape- wheel made of steel, the escapement alone absorbs more than 60% of the energy.
Reducing the mass by 70% means that the escapement requires significantly less energy, so more power is available to maintain the stability of the balance´s amplitude and to lengthen the power reserve. The nonmagnetic properties of silicon, on the other hand, are important in a world that´s becoming increasingly permeated by the electromagnetic fields associated with modern communications and entertainment electronics. And silicon´s inherent hardness reduces wear and improves long-term reliability.
The further specifications of the Montblanc Calibre MB R120 are already well known from Calibre MB R110. This hand-wound movement indicates the hours and the minutes, displays the current date via a rotating disc and a motionless hand, and indicates the chronograph´s functions on a counter for 60 elapsed seconds at the “7 o´clock” position and a counter for 30 elapsed minutes at the “4.” The chronograph is operated by pressing a pusher in the flank of the case at the “8”: this button acts via a column wheel to trigger the start, stop and return-to-zero functions.
Thanks to nearly wear-free vertical coupling, the chronograph can remain permanently switched on, if desired. The remaining power reserve is displayed on the rearward side of the watch, where it can be viewed through the sapphire crystal in the back of the case.
The new movement and its innovative silicon escapement are ensconced inside an 18 K red gold case that measures 43 mm in diameter and has sapphire crystals above the dial and in the back. A readily grasped, knurled, red gold crown is inlaid with the Montblanc emblem and can be used to wind the mainsprings and to set the time and the calendar display.
The dial recalls the unmistakable look of the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph, with an eye-catching bridge for its elapsed-time counters that magically brings a smile to the face of the watch´s owner. This elegant timepiece is worn on a brown alligator-leather wristband, which is secured by a double-folding clasp crafted from 18 K red gold.
The new Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Silicon Escapement is admittedly a most desirable horological artifact, and it will also always remain a rare and avidly coveted collector´s item because Montblanc´s first wristwatch with silicon components will be available in October 2010 only in a strictly limited series of twenty five individually numbered pieces.