SIHH 2017: Hands-On with the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph, Dual Time and Automatic – Now in Bronze

Montblanc's 1930s aviator-style watches get a bronze facelift.

The copper alloy’s run as the metal du jour continues with Montblanc slated to unveil three 1858 Collection wristwatches in bronze at SIHH 2017 next month, including the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter in bronze (pictured above).

Modelled on pilot’s wristwatches of the 1930s, the 1858 Collection is characterised by large Arabic numerals and cathedral-style hands – the exact same design was used previously on the stainless steel versions of the 1858 launched earlier in 2016.

Montblanc relies mix of copper and aluminium for the bronze used in its watches, the very same alloy used by Tudor in its Black Bay Bronze. Instead of the untidy greenish patina that forms with ordinary bronze, the aluminium bronze alloy develops a more even bronze oxidisation on its surface. To match the patina of the case, the Super-Luminova on the dial and hands is beige to mimic the look of aged radium found on vintage watch dials.

All three additions to the 1858 line continue watch division chief Davide Cerrato‘s strategy of building a line of vintage-inspired sports watches – he is careful to point out they are not mere duplicates of vintage timepieces – that will be joined by a line of modern sports watches at SIHH 2017.

The top of the line bronze model is the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition. Limited to 100 pieces, the 1858 chronograph has a large 44mm case in brushed bronze, with a bronze-coloured titanium back. The case backs of bronze watches are inevitably titanium or steel since the bronze can cause a skin rash.

To match the case colour the dial is a pale champagne with a sun ray brushed finish, a shade inspired by the faded dials on vintage watches according to Mr Cerrato. With the exception of red accents at the quarters, the watch is almost monochromatic; visually striking despite being a pale colour.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Bronze Limited Edition 3

It’s a single-button chronograph, with the pusher for the stopwatch co-axial with the onion crown. To complete the retro look, the sapphire crystal is domed so as to mimic the domed Plexiglas found on vintage watches.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Bronze Limited Edition 4

Unusually the MB M16.29 movement inside has its bridges and base plate plated in red gold, instead of the typical rhodium plating found in most Montblanc Minerva movements, again an aesthetic inspired by watches of the 1930s.

Based on a pocket watch movement of the 1930s, the calibre MB M16.29 is hand-wound, large in size and classically styled, with the top notch finishing characteristic of Minerva, the watchmaker Montblanc acquired in 2008.

Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Bronze Limited Edition 5

The other two watches in the line-up are two-tone: stainless steel cases matched with bezels and crowns in bronze. Both are 44mm in diameter, with solid steel backs featuring a relief of the Minerva factory in Villeret.

The pair are styled in the same manner as the chronograph, with large Arabic numerals and cathedral hands. But hands on the automatic models are exactly the same as those used on the chronograph, despite neither having a scale to occupy the space on the edge of the dial. That leaves the minute hand slightly short of the railway minute track.

Montblanc 1858 bronze automatic and dual time

Montblanc 1858 bronze back

The entry-level model is the 1858 Automatic, a clean design with only hours and minutes. It’s equipped with the calibre MB 24.16, which is actually a Sellita SW200, a robust and low cost self-winding movement.

Montblanc 1858 bronze automatic

Identical in size and featuring the same base movement, but with the addition of a second time zone module made by Montblanc, the 1858 Dual Time features an additional hour hand to show a second time zone, as well as a day and night indicator located just under 12 o’clock. Being the same size, extra hour hand can be hidden under the main hand when not in use.

This also shows the date, which is linked to the local time display and can be set backwards and forwards as the wearer crosses time zones. Because the movement inside is the smallish Sellita SW200, the date window sits close to the centre of the dial, rather than on the edge where it should be.

Montblanc 1858 bronze automatic dual time

Nonetheless the quibbles are minor given the appealing design and affordable pricing of both 1858 automatics.

Price and availability 

Available starting April 2017, the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition (ref. 116243) is priced at €27,500.

The 1858 Dual Time (ref. 116479) is €4,990, while the 1858 Automatic (ref. 116241) €3,490. These will be available beginning July 2017.

All three will be available from Montblanc boutiques and retailers.

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Photo Report: Vintage Rolex Asylum 3rd Anniversary – The Tropical Paradise GTG

One of the world's biggest vintage Rolex collectors' clubs just concluded its epic get-together in Bali and here's what happened.

Marking its third anniversary, the Vintage Rolex Asylum (VRA) just concluded its annual gathering of the tribe. This time it was a three day extravaganza on the resort island of Bali.

Since the first and second instalments of the event, the tribe has grown substantially, with the attendee tally at the latest event touching 100, bringing with them almost 250 watches.

People came from Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai and even as far as the United States – a journey of 24 hours – just to attend. Despite the diversity of people, all those present were bound by common cause. It was, literally, vintage Rolex from morning till night, or even early morning again.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-30

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-29

Founded three years ago by vintage Rolex enthusiasts in Indonesia, VRA has since become a significant group of collectors, which is why the latest get-together was a microcosm of the market. The entire ecosystem of the vintage Rolex world was represented, from collectors to cosmopolitan line-up of dealers as well as auction house specialists from both Christie’s and Phillips.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-21

Every strand of vintage Rolex collecting was amply represented. From GMT-Masters…

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-31

GMT-Master “Blueberry”

A GMT-Master “PCG” with gilt dial and chapter ring

To Milsubs…

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-32

Milsub 5517

To early Submariners…

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-33

The double reference 6536/6538 with red depth rating

Later Submariners…

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-4

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-15

And Daytonas…

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-10

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-12

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-27

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-42

And dials with that little bit extra.

An Oyster Perpetual Date gifted to army officers of the United Arab Emirates

“Serpico y Laino” – a Venezuelan jeweller that is still a Rolex retailer today

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-11

While the overwhelming majority of watches were sports models, a handful of triple calendars showed up, including various examples of the ref. 6062 as well as the ref. 6236 “Jean-Claude Killy”.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-41

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-20

While there were plenty of extraordinarily rare timepieces on show, some truly stood out from the pack. One was the Daytona “Oyster Sotto” or “RCO”, a million dollar watch thanks to a quirk of the lettering on the dial.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-22

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-23

And the one was the Yacht Master “Paul Newman” fitted with a prototype dial. Originally intended to measure countdown times for yachting regattas, this unicorn never made it to production and only three dials were made. It belongs to the noted Italian author of several books on vintage watches who writes under the pen name John Goldberger.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-24

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-25

The remarkable assemblage of watches illustrated a few salient points about the field. The obsession with colour change dials and bezels – which lose their colour due to sunlight breaking down the pigments in the lacquer – is entirely rational when confronted with an array of dozens and dozens of identical watches. The most heavily “tropical” dials instantly stand out, proving there is beauty in imperfection.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-1

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-9

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-13

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-14

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-35

The honeycomb dial of the Milgauss ref. 6541

“Glossy” dials – named after the shiny surface lacquer – are another obsession, and it’s not hard to see why given the unusual nuances of finish and age.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-38

An effect nicknamed “spiderweb” after the cracked surface of the dial lacquer

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-40

While the desirability for alluring flawed dials is obvious, the opposite is true for the external parts. Paradoxically the watch cases and bracelets have to be as close to factory original as possible, with all aspiring to the mythical “unpolished” state.

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-7

A bezel insert made of Bakelite, the fragile early plastic that rarely survives the decades making it notably valuable 

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-5

Despite the event being almost entirely Rolex-centric, some other brands managed to slip past security.

A late Heuer Autavia Skipper in almost new old stock condition

A lovely Breguet Type XX chronograph originally made for the French airforce

Rolex VRA GTG Bali 2016-18

A multi-scale Omega calibre 33.3 chronograph


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