This year, Montblanc enriches its “Collection Villeret 1858” line with the new Vintage Tachydate model to pay tribute to the turbulent first decade of the 20th century that left a mark on the world that would remain for generations.
Albert Einstein published his “General Theory of Relativity” in Bern in 1916, for which he earned a Nobel Prize four years later. Meanwhile, forty kilometers to the west in Villeret, watchmakers at the Minerva manufacture were equipping their chronographs with dials on which everything revolved around speed. World War I was raging and military officers needed trustful timepieces for tactical purposes.
Chronographs with telemeter scales enabled a soldier to precisely determine the distance between his own position and that of the enemy’s artillery by timing the interval between a flash of fire from the muzzle of an enemy cannon and the sound of its blast. Tachymeter scales let military men calculate the speed of the enemy’s convoys from a safe distance. Incidentally, the same year in which Albert Einstein published his standard work about the relationship between space and time, a stopwatch was built in Villeret that could split seconds into 100 precisely equal parts.
The new Vintage Tachydate commemorates this bygone epoch, during which Minerva (now known as “Montblanc Manufacture Villeret”) first equipped its wristwatches with its superior chronograph mechanism. The current debutante is the first chronograph in Montblanc’s Collection Villeret 1858 with a date display, for which the new manufacture Caliber MB M16.32 was developed. Faced with the question of whether this model should show the date in a window or via a designated hand, the watchmakers decided that the latter variant would be preferable because it makes an explicitly technical impression.
Occupying a separate subdial at “6 o’clock,” the date display joins with a counter for thirty elapsed minutes at “3 o’clock, a small continually running seconds display at “9 o’clock” and a double tachymeter scale to create the convincing aesthetic of a precision instrument. The lively, solid gold dial draws viewers under its spell thanks to the attractive three-dimensionality that results from slightly inset displays at the “3” and the “9” combined with a hand-type date display on three separate levels.
Chronographic responsibilities are entrusted to Caliber MB M16.32, which is activated via a monopusher in the crown. Its nickel-silver plate and bridges, as well as its manually integrated steel parts, proudly present themselves through a pane of sapphire crystal in the back of the screwed case. Its 14.5-mm-diameter screw balance has a high moment of inertia (59 mgcm2) and oscillates at a frequency of 18,000 A/h (2.5 Hz). The hairspring terminates in a Philips curve and can be finely adjusted with the aid of a swan’s neck fine adjustment mechanism.
Rounding out the pretty picture are Minerva’s typically V-shaped chronograph-bridge, the most meticulously manually beveled and hand-finished chronograph-levers, classically horizontal wheel coupling, and a column-wheel to control the chronograph’s functions. As in all of this manufactory’s movements, here too the manual polishing of the chronograph levers to tolerances of 1/1,000th of a millimeter – the so-called mise en fonction – requires many hours of undivided concentration.
The wristwatches in Montblanc’s Collection Villeret 1858 always embody the authentic art of Swiss watchmaking at its highest degree. The new Vintage Tachydate will accordingly be manufactured only in a strictly limited series. As an allusion to 1858, i.e. the year when Minerva was founded, Montblanc will build fifty-eight chronographs in 18-carat white gold and another equally limited series in 18-carat red gold 5N.
Both watches have dials made of massive gold. A silvery white grained texture finish is given to the dial of the white gold watch; ivory-colored lacquer coats the face of the red gold timepiece. The hour circle consists of black painted numerals. The tachymeter, which is based on units of a thousand, is designed as a double scale with an outer circle calibrated from 1,000 to 60 and an inner scale marked from 60 to 30. The red color of the trotteuse shows its direct relationship to the tachymeter scale.
The designers chose a well-balanced baton shape for the blued hand on the counter for thirty elapsed minutes and for another blued hand above the subdial for the continually running seconds. The hours and minutes are indicated by blued feuille hands on the red gold model and by white gold feuille hands on the white gold watch. A blued arrow with a red tip points to the current date at “6 o’clock.”
The 43.5-mm-case is fitted with a concave, high-gloss polished bezel, a grooved crown with a built-in chronograph button topped by mother-of-pearl intarsia depicting Montblanc’s emblem, and a screwed back with a pane of sapphire crystal through which watch aficionados can admire the full beauty of the elaborate chronographic mechanisms.
Elegantly shaped horns securely hold an alligator-skin wristband: black leather is used for the strap of the white gold watch, brown leather for the wristband of the red gold model. The pronged buckle on each strap is made from the same gold alloy as the case.
The Vintage Chronograph Tachydate will be available for purchase starting in the spring of 2012 in Montblanc boutiques and at selected jewellers.