Montblanc honored the ingenious French watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec in 2011 with a jubilee wristwatch to celebrate the 190th anniversary of the invention of the chronograph. Rieussec, watchmaker by appointment to the king in Paris, publically showed his “time writer” with turning disc and ink-writing hand for the first time in 1821 and received a patent for it in 1822. His trailblazing innovation catapulted him into the Olympus of the watchmaker’s art.
In 2008, Montblanc launched its first Nicolas Rieussec chronograph, which not only paid homage to a famous name in watchmaking, but also highlighted Rieussec’s decisive element: rotating discs for the elapsed seconds and minutes under fixed hands. The tribute was well-deserved, especially when one considers the importance that chronographs have acquired in the world of fine watches in recent years. The brand continues this tradition by introducing a new model this year: Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Open Hometime featuring a new caliber.
Most chronographs look more or less alike. Each one usually has a crown on the case’s right-hand side, flanked above and below by buttons to control the chronograph’s functions. The dial typically has a large elapsed-seconds hand and one or two subdials to tally elapsed intervals. But the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec chronographs, the family of which gains an attractive new member in the guise of the Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Open Hometime, are entirely different.
Rather than two buttons flanking the crown, this watch has a single push-piece at “8 o’clock”: as a “monopusher” chronograph, it relies on a single button to sequentially trigger the start, stop and zero-return functions. This lone button is positioned on the left-hand side of the case, where it is both conveniently operable with the thumb of the right hand and well protected against inadvertent triggering should the watch be struck against the edge of a desk or other hard object.
Furthermore, unlike most other chronographs, this one has no large elapsed-seconds hand at the center of its dial, but pays homage to the first Rieussec chronographs from 1821 with a pair of rotating counter discs, one of which counts the elapsed seconds in the lower part of the dial at “8 o’clock,” while its counterpart tallies up to thirty elapsed minutes at “4 o’clock”.
When the elapsed timed interval is over, the number of seconds and minutes in the time span can be read from these discs by comparing the position of each halted disc with the immobile indices directly above them. The twin discs on the new Rieussec chronographs are held in place by a bridge that’s plated with red gold and into which ruby bearings are inserted to accept the tips of the staffs of the elapsed-seconds and elapsed-minutes hands.
In addition to all this, the anthracite-colored and amply pierced dial also boasts idiosyncratic, instantly recognizable styling on its upper half, where an off-center subdial shows the ordinary time. This subdial has circular apertures inside its hour-scale, behind which the partly skeletonized twelve-hour disc rotates to show the hour in a second time zone. Here too, the display relies on Rieussec’s principle of a rotating disc rather than a hand: a small red triangular index labeled “HOME TIME” points to the hour in the wearer’s home time zone, while the larger hour-hand and minute-hand keep track of the time in whichever zone the watch’s owner is presently staying. This complex interplay of three rotating discs is an interesting technical solution which gives the watch an unmistakable aesthetic and uses the dial as an integral part of the movement.
Synchronized with the home time, a day/night display moves through an arcing window shaped like the tail of a comet at “9 o’clock.” The date, which appears in a window at “3 o’clock,” shows the date in the local time zone. Another aperture in the dial, positioned between the two chronograph discs, invites connoisseurs to admire the low-wear vertical coupling, the screw balance with its spirally coiled hairspring, and the escape-wheel with its characteristically shaped teeth.
When the wearer leaves one time zone and enters another, he or she can quickly and conveniently reset the hour-hand in hourly increments by turning the crown until the hour-hand points to the present hour in the local time zone. During this resetting process, the hand is uncoupled from the watch’s movement so the watch’s rate remains unaffected by the readjustment.
The several time, date and chronograph indicators are wreathed by gorgeous barleycorn guilloche, also known as grain d’orges, which continually changes its shimmer depending on the incident light. Two cartouches at the dial’s periphery are labeled “CHRONOGRAPH” and “NICOLAS RIEUSSEC.” The dial’s classically beautiful styling contrasts fantastically well with the technically modern impression made by the movement’s components, which can be viewed through generously proportioned partial skeletonizing between the chronograph’s two elapsed-time discs.
This face, which is as elegant as it is unmistakable, lies above Caliber MB R210, a new movement which uniquely combines classical chronograph mechanisms and modern technical solutions. A new feature is the display of the time in a second zone via a rotating disc rather than a second hour-hand: visible through circular apertures in the dial, this disc is skeletonized so that nothing remains of except its wreath of teeth with an hours scale along the rim and slender spokes emanating from its center.
This new caliber, which was likewise designed and built by Montblanc, impressively confirms the watch brand’s status as a full-fledged manufacture. The chronograph’s functions are controlled in time-honored tradition by a column-wheel. Force is conveyed to the chronograph-wheel via modern disc coupling: this prevents the elapsed-seconds hand from making an undesirable jump when it’s started and also reduces wear so significantly that the elapsed-seconds disc can be allowed to run uninterruptedly as a continually running seconds-hand.
The balance is nearly ten millimeters in diameter, bears weight screws along its rim and guarantees the rate regularity with a high moment of inertia and a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 hertz). Being alimented by a double barrel with 72-hours power reserve it guarantees a favorable torque curve with correspondingly stable amplitude. All these are ideal preconditions for a highly accurate rate, even when the watch has been left unworn and motionless throughout an entire weekend.
The case’s screwed back includes a transparent pane of sapphire crystal, through which one can admire the artistic finishing lavished on the movement, as well as the famed column-wheel, but only when this latter component is not momentarily covered by the winding-rotor. The case, which is made of 18-carat red gold 5N, is a little masterpiece in its own right: it’s simultaneously sporty and elegant thanks to a smoothly polished bezel, straight and finely stepped horns, and a grooved, readily grasped crown inlaid on its top with Montblanc’s emblem in mother-of-pearl.
The gold used to make the case weighs circa ninety-five grams, which gives this watch solid weight and high value. The worth is further increased by twenty-five grams of red gold in the clasp. A pane of sapphire crystal, treated antireflective on both of its slightly cambered surfaces, covers the dial and accentuates the noble look of Montblanc’s new Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Open Hometime. A black alligator-skin wristband with large quadratic scales is affixed to this exclusive wristwatch. The strap and its 18-carat red gold clasp combine to form a comfortable ensemble that opens easily and closes reliably.
The new Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Open Hometime will be available in Montblanc boutiques and at selected dealerships starting in the autumn of 2012.