This year, Montblanc commemorates 1821, a year which saw both the chronograph’s birth and Nicolas Rieussec’s first usage of his newly invented “time writer” for official timekeeping at a horserace.
The exclusive Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter is 33 cm tall, 33 cm wide, 22 cm deep and weighs 19 kg when fully equipped. The table clock has one face for the ordinary time of day or night, a chronograph with separate clockworks, and a watch-winder that’s pre-programmed to wind self-winding Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronographs. The entire ensemble is ensconced inside a metal case with vertical satin-finishing on its front. The case is kept under a glass dome to protect its mechanisms against dust and other environmental influences.
An 18 carat rose gold wristwatch from the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic Limited Edition completes the ensemble. The anniversary set, consisting of tabletop chronograph, wristwatch chronograph and watch-winder, will be released in a strictly limited edition of only nineteen specimens Montblanc’s core competence is wristwatches, so it sought a partner for the Horological TimeWriter. The manufacture found the optimal collaborator in the Erwin Sattler clock manufactory, which is very likely the world’s most competent specialist for this type of timepieces. Their cooperation resulted in the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter: a unique tripartite homage, which naturally begins with the chronograph function.
1. The Nicolas Rieussec Tabletop Chronograph
As in Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronographs, so too in this tabletop chronograph, rotating disks and motionless hands indicate brief intervals of time. A bow-shaped bridge bears the disks and holds the hands. The disk for 60 elapsed seconds rotates at the left, and the minute counter at the right can tally up to 60 elapsed minutes – just as was originally done by Nicolas Rieussec’ ink-droplet chronographs. Short intervals are measured purely mechanically by separate clockworks of the noblest sort. The gleaming golden gears are manufactured in an elaborate successive process, whereby each tooth is individually milled from the solid brass disk. It takes several minutes to mill each gear.
This is followed by time-consuming finishing, e.g. deburring, abrading the wheel’s surface and the flanks of its teeth, and coating the entire gear with gold to protect it against corrosion. The large barrel amasses enough power for 360 hours (i.e. fifteen days) of continuous measurement of short intervals. The barrel gradually transfers its reserve of power via a chain and fusee mechanism, which compensates for the steadily declining torque in the long mainspring. The gradual release of stored energy is regulated by a screw balance with a blued hairspring of the kind used in marine chronometers. The balance oscillates at the leisurely classical frequency of 2.5 hertz (18,000 A/h).
The tabletop chronograph is well protected beneath its glass bell, but the chronograph mechanism can nonetheless be started, stopped and returned to zero without removing the glass. The button to start and stop the chronograph is at the left, the return-to-zero button at the right. The first time the start button is pressed, the brake-lever disengages from the balance, setting into motion both the balance and the two chronograph disks on the dial. The next time this button is pressed, the balance is halted, which stops the disks and ends the measurement of the brief interval. The balance resumes its motion the third time the button is pressed, and so forth. The button at the left activates the double heart-lever, which returns both chronograph disks to their starting positions. The restart can also be triggered during an ongoing time measurement, in which case the tallying disks hurriedly return to zero and immediately begin measuring a new interval, i.e. the classical flyback function.
2. The Course of Time
The display of the ordinary time of day or night is styled in unmistakable “Nicolas Rieussec” design on the clock’s dial and is powered by separate clockworks which work independently of the chronograph’s clockworks. As in the chronograph’s movement, here too we find elaborately crafted brass wheels, as well as a cam and a cable to convey the mainspring’s force while maintaining a constant level of torque throughout fifteen days of power autonomy. It would be a pity to conceal this fine craftsmanship and elaborate technology, so the case offers a lateral view, which reveals the steadily paced activity of the gold-plated wheels and the two large screw balances with their blued hairsprings. The time is shown on the large central dial, which proudly reaffirms the unmistakable style of Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronographs.
Clou de Paris guilloche surrounds the wreath of black Arabic numerals; another guilloche pattern encircles the inner black minute-circle. All hands are made of blued steel; the hour- and minute-hand are bossed and blued; the leaf-shaped power-reserve display is slightly bossed; the chronograph’s two elapsed-time hands are flat and each has an elongated triangular shape. The dial is first blasted with glass beads, then plated with silver and finally inscribed in black lettering with the name of this anniversary timepiece: CHRONOGRAPH NICOLAS RIEUSSEC.
Additional indicators are (from left to right): a 15-day power-reserve display for the clockworks that power the ordinary time of day; a counter for 60 elapsed seconds beside a 60 elapsed-minute counter for the chronograph function; and a 360-hour power-reserve display for the chronograph’s clockworks. Two apertures in the dial (at the “9” and the “3”) facilitate the task of winding the barrels of the two clockworks.
3. The Watch-Winder
Serenely enthroned above all this is the third function of the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter: a watch-winder which periodically rotates self-winding wristwatches so that their mainsprings remain sufficiently taut, even if the timepieces haven’t been worn for a longer period of time. Only the best is good enough for the tabletop clock’s two clockworks, and the same high standards apply to the watch-winder. Its intelligent electronics calculate the correct winding interval for each watch movement entrusted to it, thus assuring that both the Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronograph, and any other automatic wristwatch, always operate in the optimal range of their barrels’ tension. Furthermore, after each winding interval, the wristwatch is automatically halted in the precise “12 o’clock” position to assure optimal legibility.
The winder is programmed on the movement side for the winding cycle of an automatic Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronograph, but thanks to a built-in USB connection, it can also be appropriately reprogrammed for other models and watch brands. Top quality is likewise evident in the electrical motor, which is produced by the same manufacturer that NASA commissioned to provide motors for its two Mars rovers: despite violent vibrations at lift-off and landing, a 200-million-km journey and temperatures as low as –130° Celsius, all of these motors continued to function reliably for many years. The wheels that power the watch-winder have the same quality characteristics as their counterparts in the clockworks: here too, the teeth are sequentially milled and the gears are elaborately finished.
A Masterpiece under Glass
To protect this laboriously crafted tripartite artwork of table clock, chronograph and watch-winder from dust and other adverse environmental influences (e.g. sudden changes in temperature or humidity), a dome-shaped glass bell covers the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter. This copula must be lifted regularly to wind the barrels of the clock and the chronograph, so the manufactory devised a clever and practical solution. The weighty dome of mineral crystal is lifted and lowered by spindles which, in turn, are powered by an electrical motor and drive belts.
A touch sensor, concealed inside the case, issues the corresponding command. To enable the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter to work without an unsightly and permanently installed electrical cable, a rechargeable gel battery in its pedestal supplies energy to the watch-winder, to the mechanism that lifts and lowers the glass dome, to the LED lighting and to the triggers of the chronograph’s buttons. This weighty battery simultaneously gives the timepiece a low center of gravity so that it stands with optimal stability.
Time-Writing on the Wrist
The anniversary wouldn’t be complete without a matching wristwatch, so an 18 carat rose gold version of the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic Limited Edition completes the ensemble. This wristwatch chronograph, which measures elapsed intervals via rotating disks rather than via conventionally rotating chronograph hands, has developed into an avidly sought classic during the nearly three years that have transpired since its debut. Because the Limited Edition model belongs to the Horological TimeWriter, the wristwatch is equipped with an automatic manufacture Caliber MB R200. Its mono-pusher chronograph movement combines traditional column-wheel control and modern disk coupling.
Equipped with two barrels which together amass a 72-hour power reserve, the wristwatch has a power-reserve display, an indicator of the time in a second time zone with a day/night display, and a date indicator. The timepiece’s face boasts a typical Nicolas Rieussec dial with a slightly off-center hour-circle, an exclusive chronograph group and grain d’orge guilloche; a viewing window in the back reveals the full beauty of classical chronograph mechanisms and traditional horological decorations, as well as a power-reserve display. All this is tidily packed inside an impressive 43-mm case made of 18 carat rose gold and affixed to a brown alligator-skin wristband with a rose gold folding clasp, by means of which the watch can be strapped onto its wearer’s wrist or into the watch-winder of the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter.
The Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter with integrated watch-winder and rose gold wristwatch from the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic Limited Edition celebrated its premiere at the SIHH 2011 in Geneva. Only nineteen specimens of this anniversary set will be produced – and they are already in extraordinarily strong demand in advance of their world premiere. Anyone who doesn’t have the good fortune to acquire one of these remarkable artifacts will have no other choice but to wait until the first specimens appear in the catalogues of international auction houses.