There are times when ideological opposites are found on two sides of the same company. The first thing that comes to my mind is Volkswagen and Porsche, a pair of car brands that have (or at least have had in the past) diametrically opposed goals and purposes for existence.
Volkswagen has long been known as an affordable, reliable, and relatively middle-of-the-road brand for people who just want a solid vehicle. Porsche not so much.
The Porsche brand originated as a manufacturer for Volkswagen components and after World War II shifted into producing cars of its own clearly intended for a higher-end audience wanting something beautiful. This morphed in the 1950s and ’60s into performance until Porsche was exclusively a sports car brand.
The next few decades cemented the idea of Porsche as a high-end performance car maker while Volkswagen continued producing solid vehicles designed for the average car buyer.
Even though in the modern era Porsche produces SUVs and more family-friendly vehicles (Panamera) – markets change after all – the brand is still synonymous with extremely capable and agile performance vehicles.
Volkswagen has produced some fun and sporty hatchback models and has a strong cult following in enthusiast circles, but to the average consumer it isn’t thought of as a performance leader. Yet the two are still part of the same automotive group (though were technically separate for most of their existence – until the last two decades) and represent very different market segments and attract very different clienteles.
The companies share manufacturing capabilities and components and today are intimately linked in how the automobiles are produced. This is a great example of how a brand can use shared resources to create surprisingly different products but share commonalities behind the scenes.
Coming back to the watch world this reminds me of Montblanc, a brand successfully crafting watches designed for the average entry-level luxury watch consumer alongside ultra-high-end collector pieces commanding six-figure prices.
Two new watches for 2021 are clearly from the latter group, representing the pinnacle of what Montblanc can create: the Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon and the Star Legacy Metamorphosis are both watches that might convince anyone that Montblanc makes only high-end mega creations. And with good reason: they are standout pieces from a brand normally known for more accessible luxury.
But make no mistake, these watches are incredible examples of horology. Let’s take a closer look.
Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon
The Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon is an updated edition of the original 2018 release and takes the concept into the cosmos with a dial made of deep blue aventurine, adding an out-of-this-world touch to a watch that already feels stratospheric.
The Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon is time-only (most of the really cool watches are, it seems) and keeps the focus on the awesome tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The Exo Tourbillon, a Montblanc high-end feature for more than a decade, is a unique configuration that brings the balance outside of and above the tourbillon cage so that the mechanism offers improved efficiency and energy usage.
Thanks to this arrangement, the balance wheel can be maximized in diameter to create a very traditional frequency of 2.5 Hz and provide quite a stately kinetic show. Meanwhile, the tourbillon cage is reduced in size, which reduces the mechanism’s inertia thanks to less mass rotating in the smaller cage. Less mass to move means less energy consumption, saving 30 percent compared to standard “balance-in-cage” configurations according to Montblanc.
The original Exo Tourbillon models used a bridge to support the tourbillon, but the Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon uses a large single-sided balance cock instead. This both provides a better view of the mechanism and adds a bit of difficulty to the construction since it needs to be extra precise and rigid to support the mechanism.
Fortunately, the reduced tourbillon cage mass helps out here, and the slim balance cock makes it look like the balance and tourbillon are just hanging there, suspended over the opening in the dial.
The tourbillon cage has a blued pointer to indicate the running seconds, which peeks out from just under the rim of the extra-large 14.5 mm balance wheel and extends to the small rim of the dial opening. The balance cock, mounted on the left of the tourbillon, is mirrored by an edition plaque that is basically mirrors the base of the balance cock before it extends over the tourbillon.
Spanning the dial is a small bridge that seems to cradle the hour-and-minute subdial, though aside from these features the rest of the expanse is filled by always-stunning aventurine.
Since the Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon is a Montblanc manufacture movement from the previous Minerva factory, which Montblanc acquired in 2006 and has turned into its high-end facility, the rear of the watch is just as incredible to look at as the front.
The bridges and plates are finished beautifully, and the wheels are a mix of gold and steel with a few different finishes to add texture. The mainspring ratchet wheel has a snailed finish and draws attention to the ratchet click, components that are among favorites of mine when done well. This version has an expertly shaped arrow pointer that catches the ratchet wheel, making it look like the rear end of a devilish animal.
Fancy clicks are always overkill functionally but I will never get sick of brands who put effort into simple things like that, which Montblanc’s Villeret division – as the Minerva factory is now called – definitely does.
The combination of this exquisite movement and incredible dial makes the Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon a fantastic update to a super cool model. But if a tourbillon isn’t enough for you, then let’s take a trip down metamorphosis lane.
Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis
The Star Legacy Metamorphosis is technically an Exo Tourbillon on steroids and all swapped around.
The basis for the Metamorphosis is a caliber with a mirrored architecture – the same bridges, wheels, fancy click, everything. But the front is wholly different.
The obvious difference is that the Exo Tourbillon is on top and obscured by a recessed dial. The balance wheel and seconds pointer are visible, but the tourbillon cage and wheels are all hidden.
The balance wheel is supported by a sapphire crystal bridge mirroring the steel bridge splitting the dial in half, subtly alluding to each other but providing a full view of the balance wheel and seconds. At 6 o’clock, a small hemisphere of the earth is surrounded by a 24-hour dial acting as a world time and day/night indicator. The small half-globe rotates once every 24 hours to show the passage of a day around the whole planet.
This is where the Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis kicks it into overdrive: the slider on the left side of the case activates a mechanism that opens or closes a set of shutters surrounding the Exo Tourbillon and the hemisphere at 6 o’clock. The Exo Tourbillon is then fully exposed in all its glory, and a hidden date indication is revealed to the left of the dial opening.
Down at the bottom of the dial is now a moon phase indication in the configuration of a miniature orrery, where the moon slowly travels around the earth showing its position relative to the sun represented by the Exo Tourbillon at the top of the dial.
The disk that the moon rests on is made of blue aventurine and boasts extra hand-painted stars to represent the night sky.
This reveal is pretty darn epic considering that most watches don’t have user-driven metamorphosis functionality changing the indications visible on a watch. As an updated version of the Star Legacy Metamorphosis, this may not be the first time we have seen this exact mechanical creation, but the aesthetic updates mesh well with the theme of revealing the night sky.
I have always loved Montblanc’s Metamorphosis, and as this is already the fourth edition the brand thankfully doesn’t seem to be done with it yet.
Also, the choice to use blue aventurine and change the dial color to a deep blue really ties it together with the Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon update as well, showcasing a clear through line.
Both pieces are limited editions (to be expected considering their complexity) and are likely to be highly sought after. Between the two pieces there are only 26 watches in total: 18 of the Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon and a scant eight pieces of the Star Legacy Metamorphosis.
If you are in the market for a piece like this, though, hopefully you are already on the list to be one of the select few to snatch one up. As for me, I simply hope to get a chance to handle these stellar pieces and appreciate these mechanical works of art before they are hidden away in collections.
For more information, please visit www.montblanc.com/en-us/discover/campaign/starlegacy.
Quick Facts Montblanc Star Legacy Metamorphosis
Case: 50 x 18.9 mm, white gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber MB M67.60, 50 hours power reserve, 18,800 vph/2.5 Hz frequency with one-minute Exo Tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, world time, moon phase, day/night indicator; metamorphosis function
Limitation: 8 pieces
Quick Facts Montblanc Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon Limited Edition
Case: 44.8 x 15.03 mm, white gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber MB M16.68, 50 hours power reserve, 18,800 vph/2.5 Hz frequency with one minute Exo Tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 18 pieces, boutique-only edition