Montblanc: A Winner In 2014
Surprisingly, Montblanc has entered the 2014 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). I say surprisingly because I know that Jérôme Lambert, who became CEO of the German-Swiss brand in 2013 – moving there from Jaeger-LeCoultre – is not fond of “beauty contests.”
Regardless of whether this was his decision, I am glad that Montblanc entered as I believe this may be a very good year for the brand, whether it wins in any of the categories it is entered in or not. In fact, 2014 is already an excellent year for Montblanc as the brand brought out so many incredible pieces at the SIHH that I – and many others – couldn’t help but be wowed.
“One person cannot make the game,” Lambert told me at the SIHH despite my assertion he had noticeably shaken things up at Montblanc. “The coach can change the game, but he cannot make the game. You have to have the competency in-house. Without it, nothing would have been possible.”
Montblanc’s SIHH 2014 offerings were thoroughly exciting and Lambert came across like a miracle worker to me. In the short year he has been in charge, the collection now boasts clear divisions into three main pillars, the top of the line obviously remaining Villeret.
“Functionally, Villeret is the place where we save, conserve, and develop tradition,” says Lambert. “It is fine watchmaking before industrialization.”
Heritage, but affordable
A major – and much-needed – addition to Montblanc’s entire range is the new Meisterstück Heritage line, which in addition to celebrating 90 years of the brand’s bestselling pen, stands almost as the missing link between the ultra-high-end, almost unique-piece character of the Villeret line and the mid-to-low-range TimeWalker and Star lines.
“[This new line] is about paying respect to our clients and opening the world of fine watchmaking even more, which is the mission of Montblanc,” Lambert continued. “We say our mission is sheer passion for fine watchmaking.”
This was definitely achieved with the new Meisterstück Heritage line, which begins with the Heritage Automatic Date for €1,990/$2,670 in stainless steel and continues through to the Heritage Perpetual Calendar for an unheard-of €10,000/$12,800 in stainless steel and €16,900/$21,600 in red gold.
According to head of watches, Alexander Schmiedt, “It doesn’t require a watchmaker to reset.” The remark is apt, as perpetual calendars are generally known to be difficult to reset once the movement has wound down.
“It is really quite important that we are integrating watchmaking competency through the whole line,” Lambert continues. “If not, you lose connection to the end client.”
A round collection
I would like to come back to some of these masterpieces in detail in the future, but for now I would love to just run through the round collection presented at the 2014 edition of SIHH.
Lambert told me back in January that his goal in terms of product was, “To nurture, feed and cross-breed the inventiveness that I have in all the categories, ending up with a very inventive and impactful technical program.” I would say that Montblanc is now well on its way.
Of the brand’s many standouts at this fair, the TimeWalker Chronograph 100 perhaps best exemplified a new cross-categorizational use of resources. This begins with its Villeret-manufactured movement, which is even now recognizable in the caliber name: Caliber MB M6025. “M” stands for Minerva.
The Meisterstück Heritage Pulsograph’s movement likewise comes from the Villeret manufacture. This is more or less visible in the delectable vintage look of its pulsometer chronograph dial, though the caliber name, MB M13.21 definitively gives it away.
This timepiece is housed in the new Meisterstück Heritage family’s case. Each of these is slightly different in size depending on the movement it houses, and this one comes in at 41 mm. Like all Montblanc timepieces powered by Minerva/Villeret movements, it boasts a Montblanc-cut diamond (shaped like the star in the brand’s logo) at the 6 o’clock position between the lugs, a sort of secret marker for the initiated.
Finally, there is the Homage to Nicolas Rieussec. This line pays homage to the man previously thought to be the inventor of the chronograph; in 2013, it was proven that the actual inventor was Louis Moinet.
This doesn’t change the interesting character of the chronograph line powered by movements manufactured at Montblanc’s Le Locle facility. However, this new timekeeper’s most interesting element is not the movement or even the distinctive design of the chronograph that pays visual homage to Rieussec’s invention, but rather a dial element that is brand new.
At first glance, the hour subdial seems to only carry a minuterie, though the hands inlaid with Super-LumiNova forecast what happens when the watch is viewed in darker conditions: Arabic hour numerals unseen during the day light up to take center stage. This is made possible by the ultra-interesting dial’s hybrid ceramic permeated with Super-LumiNova pigments. It is limited to just 565 pieces in stainless steel and 193 pieces in rose gold.
Montblanc will definitely experience stiff competition at the GPHG in all four of the categories it has entered, but watch out for them anyway. The TimeWalker Chronograph 100 competes in the chronograph category, while the Villeret ExoTourbillon Rattrapante is in the tourbillon category. The highly affordable Meisterstück Heritage Perpetual Calendar naturally falls in the calendar category, while the Meisterstück Heritage Moonphase has been entered into the petite aiguille. Good luck to all!
For more information on watch entries at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, please visit www.gphg.org/watches/en/grand-prix-dhorlogerie-de-geneve/2014/PAR. For more on Montblanc, please visit www.montblanc.com.
Also published on Medium.