— The new Montblanc Replica Watches 1858 collection was presented for the first time at the SIAR in Mexico last Tuesday. WorldTempus was there.
Earlier this year, we asked Montblanc CEO Jérôme Lambert about the possibilities for reviving the wonderful heritage of the Minerva movements within the brand’s collection. He promised us that he was already working on it. Before the year is out, we can now see the first results in the new 1858 collection, which is inspired by the Minerva pilot’s watches from the 1930s.
The star of the collection is undoubtedly the red-gold chronograph with tachymeter. It is almost indistinguishable from its predecessors of 80 years ago thanks to a faithful reproduction of the Montblanc logo of the period (where the “Mont” and “Blanc” are separated by a depiction of the mountain of the same name), identical “cathedral” shaped hands, the railway-style minute track and even the vintage oversized crown that allowed pilots to operate the chronograph while wearing their gloves. A beige-coloured SuperLuminova provides the finishing touch to the overall vintage look.
But the true beauty of this piece is seen through the transparent case back in the form of the Minerva calibre 16.29. This pocket-watch sized movement fills the entire case and is inspired by the original calibre 17.29 chronograph movement, which dates back to 1929. The hand-wound mechanism in the new collection shares many similarities with its predecessor, including a monopusher integrated into the winding crown, a column-wheel mechanism and the V-shaped chronograph bridge that Minerva patented back in 1912. The large balance wheel, which oscillates at 18,000 vibrations per hour, is another distinguishing feature of the calibre. But as the eye lingers on the movement it is eventually drawn to the exquisite decoration that is characteristic of every Minerva movement, with all edges bevelled, including those of the numerous acute angle found in the movement. The hand finishing of just two small bridges on the movement alone requires around five days of work.
The level of work justifies the €30,000 price tag for this limited edition of 100 pieces, but for those looking for a more affordable vintage-style timepiece, Montblanc presents a stainless-steel model with small seconds. The same 44mm case houses another pocket-watch movement in the form of the MB 23.03 calibre (Montblanc’s designation for the Unitas 6497). This is also a limited edition, albeit a slightly bigger one with 858 pieces available, and starts at just €2,990 for the model with a black dial and leather strap. The same model is also available with Montblanc’s signature aged brown leather strap and a mesh bracelet.
This new collection will be available worldwide, but Mexico will have a three-month headstart with three new models that were presented only at the launch and which have not been communicated to the press. They all have a blue dial and include a separate 100-piece limited edition of the chronograph in a steel case (for €25,000), a small-seconds model with a matching blue leather strap (€3,290) or a mesh bracelet (€3,390).
Speaking to WorldTempus at the SIAR, Jérôme Lambert explained that the 1858 collection had been in the pipeline for two years but that other models had to take precedence according to his strategy. “We knew that we would not launch the cheap replica watches for two years because I first had to establish a classical offering. I also needed people to understand what we are doing in Le Locle and in Villeret and the difference between the two before I re-introduced the topic of Minerva because I think it would have caused too much confusion if we had done it earlier. Now everybody understands Minerva as the movement name and this will help us to leverage all other aspects of the brand. Minerva has a very strong and very substantial content. 150 years of history is a lot, but when it’s uninterrupted history it is even better and when you have all the archives and all the dials it’s even better. All this together is a great recipe for creating something different than anything else on the market.