On display in Montblanc’s museum at Villeret, Switzerland, is a 46 mm Minerva military mono-pusher chronograph from the 1930s. This timepiece, with a black dial and luminescent elements, served as the main inspiration for the entire Montblanc 1858 collection. The new Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Origins Limited Edition 100 is a re-edition that pays tribute to this historical timepiece.
In the 1930s, Minerva – a specialist in the fabrication of professional watches and stopwatches – had developed the mono-pusher chronograph for the military. Its large 46 mm case, rather unusual for the time, was specially developed for this wristwatch to accommodate the 19-09 calibre – a movement with 19 lines and developed in 1909 to power pocket watches. This functional demand led to an ergonomic case with a distinctly modern look.
Functionality also determined the design of the dial. As it was intended for military use, its black dial with bi-compax counters and cathedral-shaped hands coated with Super-LumiNova were all chosen to maximise readability both during the day and night.
The new Origins limited edition, while paying tribute to this military mono-pusher chronograph from the 1930s, goes beyond a simple re-edition. It features some of the key elements of the original model, while also integrates some new elements.
The Origins watch has a 46 mm case like its inspiration, with a height of 14.50 mm, but is made of a special alloy of bronze which, we are told, will obtain an “attractive patina” over time. The bronze case, reminiscent of the exploration tools used in the past, features polished and satin finishing. The fluted crown, also in bronze, has the signature Montblanc emblem in relief, and has the chronograph pushers integrated into it. The case is topped by a domed, box-shaped sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating.
The black dial has been paired with contrasting rose gold-coloured cathedral-shaped hands and numerals. Both have beige Super-LumiNova for greater legibility at night. Luminescence is also found on the Arabic numerals and on the hour and minute hands. As a nod to the original chronograph, the dial has a Minerva logo above the 6 o’clock marker, and symmetrically below the Montblanc logo at 12 o’clock. Other vintage details include bi-compax counters with large small seconds and minutes chronograph, as well as a railway minute track reproduced from the original design.
To honour the pocket watch origins of the 19-09 calibre – which in turn gave the military chronograph its distinctive case design – Montblanc has incorporated an “officer” case-back cover in bronze-coated titanium, just like in traditional pocket watches.
The outside of the “officer” case-back cover features the head of the Minerva Goddess. Montblanc has used an innovative three-step technique to render the image in 3D, with depth and realism. The titanium is engraved by laser to first produce the relief of the drawing. Then the laser is used to produce the desired finish (matt and shiny). Finally, the colours are created by laser-generated oxidation. It is the level of oxidation that determines the final colour obtained. Montblanc is one of the first to use this technology on such a large surface.
The inside of the cover bears the inscription “Ré-édition du chronographe militaire Minerva des années 1930 doté d’un calibre fait main dans la pure tradition horlogère suisse” (Re-edition of a Minerva military chronograph from the 1930s equipped with a hand-made calibre following the Swiss watchmaking tradition).
The case back cover opens to reveal the chronograph calibre MB M16.29 through the fully transparent window. The movement is an authentic reconstruction of the Minerva chronograph calibre 19-09. However, for this limited edition, the main plate and bridges have been left in raw Maillechort (also called “German-silver”), a high-end traditional material used in Minerva movements in former times. The Maillechort gives a slightly yellowish finish, rather than the more common rhodium coating.
Like on the original chronograph calibre, the MB M16.29 features the iconic V-shape bridge, a column wheel, and horizontal coupling. It has a traditional frequency of 18,000 A/h. As a tribute to historical movements, the Minerva arrow is visible at the extremity of the chronograph “blocker.” Traditional finishings such as Côtes de Genève, inner angles, circular graining, and bevelling are all performed at Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret.
The Montblanc Originals come with a brand-new, vintage-style, matching brown Sfumato alligator strap with beige stitching and bronze-coated stainless steel pin buckle. This timepiece, we are informed, will be “strictly limited” to 100 pieces.