A watchmaker that was once a prominent maker of chronographs, Minerva is the star in Montblanc’s mountain. Since the pen-turned-watchmaker took over Minerva, it has launched several chronographs powered by Minerva calibres.
The flagship chronograph is arguably the mono-pusher split-second first launched in bronze two years ago. Montblanc has since rolled out several additional iterations, but in affordable alloys like titanium. Now the brand has finally unveiled the first precious-metal version, the 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition 18 in “Lime Gold”.
Two qualities often distinguish the great from the good in chronographs – a balanced, attractive dial combined with an intricate, good-looking movement – and all the better if the watch is priced well. The 1858 Split Second Chronograph is, by the two measures, a high performer.
Let’s begin with the aesthetics. While splendid looking movements with high technical content are rare, it’s even less common combined with good design on the front. That is why I appreciate the 1858 chronograph – the dial is well done, with the positions of the counters just right, giving it a rare finesse. And even though the dial is busy, the many elements are harmoniously arranged. Admittedly, the design is not new, it’s essentially a replica of early 20th century dials, but Montblanc reproduced it just right.
The movement is similarly well done, perhaps even better in fact. It is a traditional hand-wind, lateral-clutch chronograph, meaning the interesting interactions between the levers and gears are fully revealed. More impressively, it incorporates a traditional split-seconds mechanism, which adds even more dimensionality to the view. And just like the other Minerva movements used by Montblanc, the finishing is old school and impressive.
One downside of the watch is its size, 44 mm wide and also 15.2 mm thick. It isn’t a delicate, elegant watch, unlike many high-end split-seconds chronographs, but it excels at being what it is, a sporty watch with classic looks and a brilliant movement, making it a good choice for people who want a fine movement and substantial wrist presence.
Finally, the new 1858 chronograph is reasonably priced. At €49,500, it is at the affordable end of the spectrum as such things go. It does cost over 50% more than the bronze or titanium versions, but it is gold, which is fair enough.
The case is an 18k alloy Montblanc terms “Lime Gold”, which is more commonly known as green gold. A well known form of gold that is uncommon in watchmaking, green gold includes silver to give it a pale greenish tinge.
While the case metal is novel, most of the watch – namely the dial and movement – is modelled on Minerva watches of the 1930s. In fact, the cal. MB M16.31 is a modernised version of a pocket-watch movement, explaining its large diameter of 38.4 mm – making the movement alone bigger than many other chronograph wristwatches – as well as the evidently classical construction.
The movement’s appeal lies in its finishing. Most notable is the wide, hand-executed bevelling on the steel chronograph levers, which even include a few sharp, inward angles, exemplified by “devil’s tail”, a flourish that’s a nod to the Minerva arrowhead logo. Less obvious, but equally attractive are the polished teeth of the barrel ratchet wheel, a detail that is often overlooked, even in fine movements.
Key facts and price
Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition 18
Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 15.2 mm
Material: 18k Lime Gold
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: MB M16.31
Functions: Hours and minutes; split-seconds chronograph
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 50 hours
Strap: Alligator with pin buckle
Limited edition: 18 pieces
Availability: From Montblanc boutiques and retailers
Price: €49,500 (including tax)
For more, visit montblanc.com.
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