Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis Limited Edition 8: Familiar Concept With Out-Of-This-World Surprise – Plus Video
Consider the butterfly.
The butterfly is one of the strangest creatures in the animal kingdom because it isn’t born as a butterfly, but arises from something like a pod of goo. A butterfly has four life stages, the first being an egg that hatches into a larva, commonly known as a caterpillar. That caterpillar eats constantly until it grows big enough for its next life stage, the pupa. Fully grown, the caterpillar discards its last skin and is left with a hard “shell,” a chrysalis. At this point it wraps itself in a cocoon and biological magic takes place: metamorphosis.
The caterpillar literally digests itself from the inside out and turns into a large mass of undifferentiated imaginal cells, sort of like stem cells in humans, which can turn into anything. At this point the butterfly is formless and resembles none of the other life stages.
While you and I grow from a small version of a human into a full-size version, a butterfly has to fundamentally cease to exist as one thing before it can morph into something new. The process of metamorphosis (scientifically known as holometabolism) takes the imaginal cells and, with the handywork of DNA and time, forms them into a structurally distinct new creature.
It really is stunning to think that butterflies, and more than a million other species of insects, undergo complete metamorphosis process to become adults – and have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years.
Luckily, not every metamorphosis takes place behind a cocoon of secrecy or results in the complete disintegration of the initial form. Some happen right in front of our eyes and are a splendor to behold. A great example is the latest installment in the Montblanc Metamorphosis concept named the Star Legacy Metamorphosis.
Metamorphosis 1 & II
Montblanc’s Metamorphosis concept originally came from a chronograph introduced at SIHH 2010, with the chrono’s elapsed time displays hidden from view underneath the dial. Conceived by independent watchmakers Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny, this first Metamorphosis was introduced as the first of the then-new TimeWriter series, whose timepieces were developed in conjunction with the brand’s Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie.
The goal of the Minerva Institute was to preserve and cultivate the art of high watchmaking as well as work with young independent watchmakers to develop innovative technologies and concepts.
The Minerva Institute has meanwhile been scrapped in favor of (rightfully) adding the Minerva name back into Montblanc’s standing repertoire of timepieces. But the interesting technical ideas developed at that time still exist.
Activating the slider on the left side of Metamorphosis I’s case begins the metamorphosing process, opening two windows on the top and bottom of the dial to expose a chronograph minute counter disk (bottom) and a variation of the hour dial (top).
Even more impressive, in the lower window the minute counter disk rises, swallowing the date hand on display and completely changing the purpose of that lower dial.
Metamorphosis I was an athletically styled watch with a bit of a belly whose lower subdial area caused the case to bulge out.
The Metamorphosis II of 2014 was a completely redeveloped version of the concept with the same general chronograph and dial-change function but packaged much more classically in a round gold case with no bulge, guilloche-pattern dials, and little in the way of extraneous colors. And while it was a fundamentally new movement, the function was nearly identical.
But not so with 2019’s Star Legacy Metamorphosis: this watch takes a large step to the side and plays with different functions and complications.
Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis
This entirely new watch moves away from the chronograph function that made the first two so impressive and looks to the sky for inspiration. While it does feature the same slide activator opening two windows in the dial, the functions have pretty much completely changed: in the center of the watch we now find the hours and minutes, whereas before it was minutes and chronograph seconds.
At the 12 o’clock position, an oscillating balance seems to hover above the dial. But look closely and you will spy a small second hand continuously counting around a delicate set of second numerals. Since the hand and the balance wheel are concentric, this should give a hint as to what might lie underneath the metamorphosing cutaway once the slide is activated.
At 6 o’clock the date displays of the previous versions have been replaced by a globe representing the northern hemisphere and a 24-hour day/night and world time indication that correlate to the position of the globe as it rotates.
Just like on the previous Metamorphosis models, when the slider on the left side of the case is activated two windows open to reveal some mechanical magic below.
The upper dial exposes the fact that the second hand is actually mounted on Montblanc’s one-minute Exo Tourbillon, an awesome mechanical feat that allows the large balance to oscillate above the tourbillon cage. The Exo Tourbillon is fantastic on its own, but when combined with the “reveal,” it compounds our understanding of just how novel it is in the world of tourbillons.
The balance, and by extension Exo Tourbillon, are supported by a sapphire crystal bridge, a characteristic feature of the Metamorphosis pieces. Inside the revealed window we also find a small cutout that shows a jumping date indication, meaning this watch didn’t “lose” that useful function from the previous model, it’s only been relocated.
But the pièce de résistance is found at 6 o’clock where the day/night indication gives way to an orrery that displays the moon phase and its relation to the sun. A small hemisphere moon, dark on one side and polished on the other, rotates around the globe over the lunar period of 29.5 days while rotating on its own axis to the same synodic period.
While this isn’t technically astronomically accurate (the difference between a sidereal and lunar month), it keeps the dark side of the moon always pointing away from the sun, which is represented by the Exo Tourbillon. That orientation shows the actual way that moon phases function from a heavenly or exo viewpoint.
The function is achieved by a planetary gear system that allows rotation around a central axis (the globe) and its own axis, and is so named because it mimics the motion of the planets. The miniature moon rides above a blue aventurine disk with golden stars applied for extra radiance.
Consistency for the moon phase display is on par with many quality moon phases at 122 years before being off by one day. But the accuracy isn’t the star of the show here, that honor belongs to the reveal.
As any good magician, film editor, or game show host will tell you, for the best emotional payoff it’s all about the reveal. Activating that slider and watching as two hinged wings fold out of the way to reveal a miniature orrery-style moon phase is pretty dramatic in the world of watchmaking.
The metamorphosis may not result in a component that rises from the bowels of the movement like previous models, but it does provide a tiny window into the cosmos, something that man has sought for millennia.
Results of effort
And since nothing has to rise out of the movement, I would wager that this movement would be much more robust and reliable than the previous Metamorphosis caliber as the components can be more securely held in place. I haven’t specifically heard about any issues with past movements, but I know that the more moving parts, the higher probability of issues.
Given the amount of time spent engineering the previous two versions and the three years spent on this new MB M67.60 caliber, the robustness is sure to be as good as ever.
But with pieces like this, sturdy reliability isn’t the main pursuit. You don’t push the edges of what has been done unless you want to amaze and astound. The first two versions surprised watch lovers with the transforming dials and components rising from below, and this version relies a bit more on aesthetic choices and astronomical inspirations.
As a moon phase (and all things astronomy) lover I always appreciate when a brand takes a crack at a unique moon phase and combines it with something else it does very well.
In this case, that’s the Metamorphosis and the Exo Tourbillon. Two inventions synonymous with Montblanc and Minerva and shown here in all their technical glory. And yet the watch itself is understated given its complexity and mechanical brilliance.
Even more so than the Metamorphosis II, the Star Legacy Metamorphosis is fairly subtle when it isn’t in its open position. No tourbillon, no orbital moon phase, only a small globe poking out from the dial and a visible balance.
The average observer might only afford it a glance. And that would be a shame for something of this magnitude. But it falls in line with the concept of modest luxury and inconspicuous consumption, albeit with a hefty diameter and price tag to match.
But concept watches like this can’t be accounted for in normal terms. It is a practice of asking “can we?” and hoping the answer is yes.
I am glad that Montblanc continues to put resources into creating pieces like this. While it isn’t going to make or break the brand, it shows that creativity and passion still exist inside, and that is something I hope is true everywhere.
I guess I just must let it be . . . and move on to the breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.5 As usually happens when a brand makes something amazing related to the moon it gathers a huge wow from many, and that combined with the metamorphosis is superb!
- Late Night Lust Appeal 95» 931.632m/s2 The metamorphosis of this watch can transform your soul! Or at least your sleeping patterns as you lust after this watch into the early morning hours!
- M.G.R. * 71.2 Inching very near a perfect score, the movement inside the Star Legacy Metamorphosis is a brilliant work of horological skill!
- Added-Functionitis * Significant There are a few added functions that take this beyond the regular watch. I would say you need prescription-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the astronomical swelling.
- Ouch Outline * 10.4 Alcohol in a fresh paper cut on your tongue! This hasn’t happened to me, but given my past experience with both alcohol and cuts I can imagine I wouldn’t volunteer for the experience. That being said, I would probably jump at the chance if it meant getting the Star Legacy Metamorphosis on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * What does that slide do? Whoaaa! Seriously, one use of that slide and you are on your way to city hall!
- Awesome Total * 742 Multiply the number of watches that will be made (8) with the number of years in development (3) and add the number of components in the movement (718) for a metamorphically awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.montblanc.com/en/collection/watches/montblanc-star-legacy.
Quick Facts Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis Limited Edition 8
Case: 50 x 18.9 mm, white gold
Movement: in-house manual winding Caliber MB M67.60 with one-minute Exo Tourbillon, 50-hour power reserve, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, blued balance spring, Montblanc Laboratory Test 500
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, 24-hour day/night indication, world time, moon phase
Limitation: 8 pieces