Montblanc’s new Heritage Chronométrie Collection consists of five models, from collectors’ pieces to affordable complications. The collection honors the art of accurate timekeeping, defined by the Swiss as Chronométrie. Specifically, they are a tribute to marine chronometers, ultra-accurate instruments that helped 19th century ship captains navigate the seas. The collection is inspired by the exploration of Vasco da Gama, the first to find a southern seaway to India by rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Da Gama did not have a marine chronometer to guide him, but navigated using a nocturlabium, a primitive predecessor of the sextant that navigated according to the stars. For da Gama, finding a sea route to India was a trade issue: it enabled him to bypass Arabian, Persian, Turkish and Venetian middlemen, who had made it extremely expensive for Europeans to import valuable spices such as pepper and precious stones.
The collection was also inspired by a 1940s timepiece made by Minerva, the brand’s boutique movement maker located in Villeret in the Swiss Jura. Minerva was a pioneer of chronograph movements and still maintains a by-hand, pre-industrial workshop, making fewer than 1,000 watches a year, many of them bespoke.
The five models in this collection are outstanding for their range, including what may be some of the most affordable complications on the market from a luxury watchmaker. The pieces extend from the collectible to the highly affordable: from the Dual Time in steel to the Complete Calendar.
All of these timepieces are rated as chronometers according to Montblanc’s own in-house testing facility, where each watch undergoes the 500-hour Laboratory Test 500. Like most chronometry tests, it simulates daily wear and harsh conditions – in this case, the entire first year’s life cycle of a timepiece.
The Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time Vasco da Gama, with automatic Caliber MB 29.19, has a second time zone and day/night display. The date is linked to local time and can be changed forward or backward. The series is limited to 238 watches as an allusion to the Cape Point Peak lighthouse, which was built at 238 meters above sea level at the Cape of Good Hope.
The Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph, with Caliber MB R230. The ExoTourbillon escapement was originally developed by Minerva for its Villeret collection. Here, it has been integrated into Montblanc’s monopusher automatic chronograph caliber.
In this construction, the large balance is independent of the tourbillon cage. This means that the cage can remain smaller than the balance, therefore requiring 30% less energy. It also enhances the precision, which is the goal in a chronometer. The movement has a stop-second function for precision setting, one of only two or three tourbillons on the market to have this feature.
The Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Vasco da Gama Limited Edition of 60 pieces has all the features of the non-limited piece described above, but with the following extras.
It has an engraving of Vasco da Gama’s floating flagship, the São Gabriel on the sapphire crystal over the caseback.
The dial is much more embellished: the upper part is made of dark blue aventurine, a mineral with sparkling crystals. Set into it is a diamond polished into Montblanc’s patented cut. The date display subdial is decorated in a flinqué guilloché pattern. The series is limited to 60 watches in reference to the 60-man crew of the São Gabriel.
The Heritage Chronométrie Annual Calendar Vasco da Gama has a moon phase indicator that tracks the lunar phases for the Southern Hemisphere in tribute to Vasco da Gama’s exploration there. The series, with Caliber MB 29.18, is limited to 238 watches as an allusion to the Cape Point Peak lighthouse, which was built at 238 meters above sea level at the Cape of Good Hope.
The Heritage Chronométrie Complete Calendar Vasco da Gama is similar to the Annual Calendar except that it needs to be adjusted on months that do not have 31 days.
It contains the automatic Caliber MB 29.16, with a 42-hour power reserve. It also has a moon phase display featuring the phases in the Southern Hemisphere.
Each piece has an alligator-leather strap crafted by the Montblanc Pelletteria, Montblanc’s own leather manufacture in Florence, Italy.