Montblanc presents the first development of the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie and starts with new ideas into the next decade after celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the watch Manufacture Minerva in 2008.
Following Montblanc`s anniversary celebrations marking the opening of the completely renovated manufactory building in Villeret, the experts at the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie are now concentrating exclusively on their core tasks: on the one hand, the preservation and cultivation of the high art of horology in accord with the authentic Swiss tradition and, on the other hand, the ongoing development of innovative technologies and concepts to assure a bright future for watchmaking.
The Institut Minerva, that has been founded by Montblanc, is one of the last manufactures where a large portion of the traditional horological skills, with all their micromechanical refinements, are still meticulously performed by hand, almost as though each timepiece were individually crafted as a one-of-a-kind item. Traditions are upheld, but continual innovation is also indispensable to assure constant renewal and unflagging progress in the art of watchmaking, to set standards for quality and creativity in the future.
This legacy is especially present at the Institut Minerva, where the staff lives and breathes it in their daily work. The latest results of this striving will be shown at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva in January 2010, when the Montblanc Metamorphosis will number among the brand´s ticking debutantes.
With the founding of the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie, Montblanc has not only dedicated itself toward assuring the survival of a manufacture with a legendary chronographic tradition: the mission of the Institut Minerva is to foster young talents whose new ideas will enrich the art of watchmaking, which they´ll enliven with their innovative spirit and dynamism.
For this purpose, Montblanc created the “TimeWriter” concept, under which the company wants to introduce projects with independent creators that have great ideas and plan to establish themselves as independent watchmakers. It is foreseen to present a project every two years.
A complex industry such as watchmaking demands investments that are very often much too costly for young entrepreneurs to finance on their own, so through the help of Montblanc the Institut Minerva also contributes, both materially and intellectually, toward helping these ambitious individuals start their own business. Now, just two years after the founding of the Institut Minerva by Montblanc, its first remarkable project is ready for presentation. TimeWriter 1: Metamorphosis .
Montblanc Metamorphosis: A watch with two faces and two functions
The Metamorphosis embodies a creatively successful response to the following challenge: combining the principles of traditional watchmaking with the creation of something entirely new and unprecedented. This first project of the TimeWriter series, that is based on the Montblanc`s own chronographe calibre MBM 16.29 has set itself twin goals: to provide starting help to promising young talents and to combine tradition with innovation.
With this background in mind, the foundation council at the Institut Minerva was most strongly impressed by the ideas of the two young watch specialists Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny, who envisioned a wristwatch with two faces. Of course, a watch with different functions distributed across two dials is not novel per se, but the way in which the Montblanc Metamorphosis transforms itself has never been seen before.
By moving a slide down or up, this timepiece changes from a wristwatch with hour, minute, second display to a chronograph and vice versa. To achieve this metamorphosis in a purely mechanical manner, the two creators Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny were obliged to use all their skills as watchmakers and to borrow methods from the art of automatons construction – a traditional métier which, like watchmaking, has long been practiced in Switzerland´s Jura region. As a prefect blend of tradition and innovation, the revolutionary transformation mechanism is based on the magnificent, hand crafted chronographe calibre MBM16.29 .
The Face of Civil Time
Prior to its metamorphosis, the beholder sees a large and teardrop-shaped case with a dial that offers an unusual display of the ordinary time of day, also known as “civil time.” A regulator-style subdial with a lone hour-hand and a wreath of Roman numerals occupies the “12 o´clock” position, while a retrograde minute-hand sweeps its arc between the “8” and the “4” from the center of the main dial. A large seconds-hand, which shares this same central axis, completes one full circle per minute. A hand-type date display is located at 6 o`clock. The aforementioned hands combine to indicate the current civil time and the date. But as soon as an interested watch aficionado pulls the slide on the left-hand flank of the case downward from the “10” to the “8,” this extraordinary timepiece begins a metamorphosis which transforms it into a chronograph within approximately fifteen seconds.
As occurs between two consecutive scenes on a theater´s stage, here too on this watch´s dial an impressively quick change ensues during the metamorphosis. Four wings in the lower half of the face open, slide under one another, and finally disappear to the left and right beneath the dial´s middle bar. A similar sequence transpires with two wings on the regulator´s hour dial at the “12.”
After all the wings have opened, a subdial rises like the floor of an elevator at the 6 o`clock position, an aperture in this rising disk “swallows” the date-hand. The newly risen rotating disc is the minute counter of the chronograph. This fully mechanical, elevator-like function will no doubt evoke the admiration of aficionados of the fine art of watchmaking who witness this unprecedented transformation.
The Face of Measuring Short Intervals of Time
After its metamorphosis, this masterpiece of mechanical timekeeping presents a countenance devoted entirely to the chronograph function. The face for displaying civil time had a rather conservatively elegant appearance with Roman numerals and a classical black-and-silver color scheme; but after transformation, the chronograph´s dial relies on Arabic numbers and red accents to emphasize the sportily technical aspect of an instrument that´s built to tally short intervals of time. The hours are shown on a subdial at 12 o`clock such as before and the retrograde minutes are still shown from the centre.
The continuous seconds hand has become the central chronograph hand, and the risen turning disc at “6” offers an unusual detail: it bears an elapsed-minutes scale calibrated from 01 to 31. A motionless index on the dial´s central bar indicates which minute is presently being tallied. The reason why this scale is calibrated for 31 minutes is not due to a technical consideration, but simply because its designers opted discreetly to allude to the fact that a date scale can occupy this position too.
The future owner of this unconventional timepiece will no doubt appreciate precisely such details, especially when he or she sees that each of these two displays acts with complete mechanical independence of the other. While the elapsed-minutes disk turns continuously, the date-hand moves “semi-instantaneously.”
Micromechanics of an Entirely New Sort
The moment its wearer triggers it to begin its transformation, plenty of action gets underway in the Montblanc Metamorphosis. The mechanisms that perform this choreography are so new and innovative that they´ve been registered for patent protection. They combine to form an organism of wheels and pinions with a built-in metamorphic function; they power the cams that guide the process; they alternately open and close ten thin lamellar wings to reveal and conceal the “stage”; they regulate the speed of the transformative events; and they stop all the components after the completion of the metamorphosis. All this occurs in a 4.3 mm-slim subassembly consisting of 80 individual parts.
The two inventors of this mechanical microcosm were also extremely challenged by the necessity of adapting all components of the metamorphic mechanism which includes a separate barrel, a centrifugal-force regulator and a large number of tiny parts, many of which are entirely unprecedented – to harmonize with the existing construction of the MBM Calibre 16.29.
Although the chronograph mechanism on the bridge side remained largely unaltered, the elapsed-minutes counter had to be completely revised so that it could occupy its new location at “6 o´clock.” The traditionally V-shaped chronograph bridge was eliminated. The minute-hammer was extended from the column-wheel through the plate on the dial side because the heart-wheel of the minute-counter is positioned on the dial side.
The entire Metamorphosis complication concatenates 315 individual parts, which are added to the 252 components of the chronograph Calibre 16.29. This yields the impressive sum of 567 individual components and makes the Montblanc Metamorphosis one of the most complicated contemporary timepieces. As is also true for the other watches in Montblanc´s Villeret 1858 Collection, it goes without saying that all of these 567 parts satisfy the exacting demands for quality, aesthetics and predominantly manual construction that distinguish the centuries-old Swiss horological tradition.
The movement is ensconced inside a teardrop-shaped gold case, the design of which recalls the Grand Tourbillon Heures Mystérieuses from the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858. Only 28 pieces of the Montblanc Metamorphosis will be manufactured. Its technical achievements, which remain the intellectual property of the two watchmakers Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny, write an important chapter in the still-brief history of the newly founded firm of Télôs Watch SA, which is under the direction of these two inventive men, whom it will serve as a channel through which to bring their ideas and expertise to the market.
For their first creation, the Metamorphosis, Montblanc made available to them all the necessary developmental and technical resources at the Institut Minerva in Villeret, and is providing the requisite financial investments and rendering the moral and administrative support that these two young businessmen need in order to realize their ambitious projects and afterwards continue to ply their trade at their own Télôs Watch SA.
Now that this project is well on its way toward public presentation in Geneva, the experts at the Institut Minerva have begun turning attention to their next supportive project, which they plan to conduct during the ensuing eighteen months – because development must never be allowed to stand still!
The Inventors of the Montblanc Metamorphosis
Johnny Girardin is movement constructor and engineer who specializes in watches and worked for various renowned manufactories. In his most recent previous position, he was responsible for innovative projects. Franck Orny is a construction-engineer specialized in horological fabrication who had formerly been responsible for individual production divisions at the world´s largest manufacturer of assortments. He also served as chief of production at a manufactory which has attracted attention in recent years thanks to its unusual and elegant horological complications.
For the Montblanc Metamorphosis, these two watch specialists developed ideas which enabled them to construct, on the basis of the Minerva chronograph Calibre 16.29, something entirely new and independent that had never before existed in this form. The creative impulse came from the inventors´ children, who adore action toys known as “Transformers” – robotic figures that can morph from humanoid shapes into cars, aircrafts and other objects.
Why not create something similar for a wristwatch, which would appeal to the playful instinct in adults? Asking that question the watch designers devoted themselves to a project that would ultimately result in the creation of the Montblanc Metamorphosis. Since the Institut Minerva approved their project, Montblanc made available to Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny the manufactory´s material, financial, horological and technical support so that the components and functional groups required for the Montblanc Metamorphosis could be designed and constructed, and the necessary manufacturing processes could be developed and implemented.
The Metamorphosis watches will be crafted at the manufacture´s ateliers in Villeret, where the idea of the inventors will be brought to live by the profound know-how of the Institut Minerva´s experienced master watchmakers. The delightful results will no doubt captivate a select audience of specialists who will witness the never-before-seen transformation at the SIHH in January 2010.
At the end, there will be twenty- eight lucky watch aficionados, each of whom will have the privilege to wear a Montblanc Metamorphosis on his wrist and to present, whenever he desires, one or the other of the two dials, whichever best suits the momentary situation.