Montblanc has created a High Artistry collection to honour the first ascent of the Mont Blanc summit by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard in 1786. Titled “The First Ascent of the Mont Blanc,” this collection comprises five limited-edition models.
Rising out of the Alps to a height of 4,810 metres on the border between France and Italy, the Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Western Europe. Its shimmering glaciers have always inspired awe and fascination. On 8 August 1786, an unlikely duo set off to conquer Mont Blanc. One was Jacques Balmat, an ambitious young hunter and crystal collector, and the other was Michel-Gabriel Paccard, an alpinist and physician with a passion for botany and minerals. This achievement is generally considered to be the start of modern mountaineering as a sport.
The First Ascent of the Mont Blanc Limited Edition 333
The solid gold rhodium-coated skeleton overlay adorning the cap and barrel of this model, limited to 333 pieces, traces the shape of the Mer de Glace glacier near Chamonix. The overlay’s engraving depicts a monster based on a legend that the glacier resembles a giant monster hugging the northern slope of Mont Blanc. Visible beneath the overlay, specially treated to create a frosted surface, is the translucent glacial blue lacquer that recalls the icy blue colour shades of a glacier.
The cap top, cap ring and nib are also crafted in rhodium-coated solid gold. The cap top is crowned by the Montblanc emblem crafted out of granite originating from the Alps, the mountain range where the Mont Blanc is located, and is embedded in polished black onyx.
The cap ring is engraved with the date ‘8 Août 1786.’ The handcrafted nib is embossed with an edelweiss flower, once a highly coveted flower of every alpinist. As a token of the area’s cultural history, the cone is engraved with a traditional pattern from the Chamonix valley.
The First Ascent of the Mont Blanc Limited Edition 86
In reference to the year of the first ascent of Mont Blanc, this model is limited to 86 pieces. The forepart of the solid yellow gold model is engraved with a depiction of the Mer de Glace glacier, along with an engraving envisioned as the monster associated with it. The yellow gold clip ring is engraved with the date ‘8 Août 1786’. The alpinist’s essential tools, alpenstock and axe, are miniaturised in the clip.
Balmat’s diary bound in durable leather, among the few belongings the duo would have carried with them. Inspired by these diaries, the barrel of the writing instrument is made of vegetable tanned leather embossed with an excerpt from Balmat’s handwritten account of that historic day in 1786. Mountaineering shoe rivets inspire the decorations on the yellow gold fittings.
A nod to wood carving, one of the traditional art forms of the Alps, a walnut wood cap is artfully carved with images of alpine ibex and chamois in their native habitat on the slopes of Mont Blanc. The handcrafted yellow gold nib is embossed with a 3D relief depicting the edelweiss flower.
A granite cabochon is set into the yellow gold cone, while the white symbol of the maison is embedded in polished black onyx. The cap top features smoky quartz that can be detached to reveal the Montblanc emblem made of mother-of-pearl.
The First Ascent of the Mont Blanc Limited Edition 10
This model features granite sourced from the Mont Blanc itself, which is then refined with a lacquered engraving of ‘JqB 1786’ – the initials of Jacques Balmat and the year of his ascent. Encircling this natural rock surface is a white gold overlay with a three-dimensional depiction of the Mont Blanc massif.
Brilliant-cut diamonds set into the rock surface trace the historical route to the summit. The date of that event, ‘8 Août 1786’, is engraved on the yellow gold clip ring. The essential tools used by alpinists, alpenstock and axe, are miniaturised in the clip.
After the first ascent of Mont Blanc, a medallion was created bearing Balmat’s portrait in enamel with the alpenstock and axe crossed above a scenic view of Mont Blanc. This portrait is the inspiration behind the detailed handcrafted micro painting on the cap. The circular frame, crossed tools and mountain scene are hand engraved into yellow gold-coated onto solid white gold.
The cap top is crowned by a detachable rounded rock crystal with the shape of the Mont Blanc massif artfully worked out of the centre. The space created within the mountain massif is occupied by an unrefined chunk of solid yellow gold as a reminder of Balmat’s search for gold in the mountain. The solid yellow gold cone of this model is set with a green aventurine, a mineral native to the Alps, and covered by sapphire glass.
The forepart is engraved with the depiction of the Mer de Glace glacier decorated with the monster engraving inspired by ancient folklore. Below this icy creature, the solid yellow gold barrel is hand-engraved with traditional ornamentation from the Chamonix area and set with brilliant-cut diamonds. The handcrafted solid yellow gold nib is engraved with a 3D relief depicting the edelweiss flower.
The First Ascent of the Mont Blanc Limited Edition 5
Limited to just five pieces, this model unites precious metals and gemstones with skilled marquetry work in a symphony of subtle tributes to the history of alpinism on the Mont Blanc massif. The majesty of the mountain winds itself around the cap in rare artisan marquetry work that echoes the natural beauty of the landscape using a colour palette of seventeen different shades and materials. The materials used to create artistic depth and dimension range from delicate parchment to shimmering mother-of-pearl, leathers and a selection of precious woods.
The fine woodwork on the barrel combines seven different types of wood in a pattern inspired by the Savoy rosette – a traditional decoration of the region – set with cognac-coloured tourmalines. The clip features miniature replicas of the alpenstock and axe. In reference to the geological treasures of the Alps, the cap top is crowned with smoky quartz that opens to reveal the treasure within: a skeletonised ‘Mont Blanc massif’ set with a diamond of approximately two-carat above an engraving of the Montblanc emblem. The clip ring is engraved with ‘8 Août 1786.’
The forepart of this solid rose-tone gold writing jewel bears an engraving of the route taken by Balmat and Paccard set with brilliant-cut diamonds. The fittings are also made of solid rose-tone gold, with fine rows of brilliant-cut diamonds adorning the rings. A malachite cabochon under sapphire glass is set into the end of the cone. The nib is handcrafted from solid rose-tone gold decorated with a three-dimensional edelweiss flower and a cognac-coloured sapphire. Just as rare as the blossom itself is the quality of the three-dimensional decoration, as the special technology used to create it is only used for exceptional high artistry collections.
The First Ascent of the Mont Blanc Limited Edition 1
This one-of-a-kind limited edition depicts the Mont Blanc massif in a handcrafted miniature grisaille enamel painting that encircles the solid white gold cap. The enamelled mountain top scene displayed in masterful colour and detail, is framed by vibrant ribbons of alternating sapphires and diamonds. The lower part of the cap is densely bejewelled with diamonds in mixed settings and mixed cuts that artfully transition in a graduated effect from a crystalline base upwards into a light blue sapphire atmosphere.
At the top of the cap, a rounded rock crystal opens to reveal a skeletonised ‘Mont Blanc massif’ holding the high-value centre stone resting atop an engraved Montblanc emblem. The Swiss naturalist who offered a prize for the first successful expedition to the summit, Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, also invented the cyanometer to measure the intensity of the sky’s blue colour at varying altitudes. A special visualisation of this device, made of diamonds and blue lacquered colour fields, adorns the cap.
The solid white gold barrel is artistically set with diamonds in mixed cuts and mixed settings to evoke the reflective awe of the snowy and icy Mont Blanc peak in the sunshine. Further diamonds, as well as sapphires, adorn the solid gold fittings and the cone, which culminates in an azurite cabochon encased in sapphire glass.
A hand-engraved depiction of the Mont Blanc mountain, set with brilliant-cut diamonds, decorates the forepart, drawing the eye towards the handcrafted solid white gold nib bearing a three-dimensional relief of the edelweiss flower and a diamond in its centre. Just as rare as the blossom itself is the quality of the three-dimensional decoration. The special technology used to create it is only used for exceptional high artistry collections.