Montblanc, the Famous Creator of Pens, Also Makes Fine Watches
You may know Montblanc as makers of premium writing instruments, but the German luxury goods company is also a venerable watchmaker. The connection to watchmaking exists in Minerva, the watch workshop in the Saint-Imier valley founded in 1858.
Now, Minerva is no ordinary workshop for, in its hallowed halls, many firsts were created in the world of watchmaking. These include pocketwatches that could be wound without a key, the earliest stopwatches that could measure 1/5th of a second, and the first high-frequency movement that could measure 1/100th of a second, among others.
“Montblanc owns Minerva, one of the key contributors to what we call today the chronograph. [It is a] unique watch brand with a history of 160 years,” reiterates Davide Cerrato, managing director of Montblanc watches, in an interview with Esquire Philippines.
The Minerva manufacture was founded in 1858 in the Saint-Imier valley.
Montblanc is banking on, as Davide describes, the “powerful watchmaking story and knowledge” of Minerva to create its timepieces today. In fact, the company most recently launched its 1858 collection, a group of ruggedly handsome tool watches whose characteristics are drawn from the works of the legendary workshop.
A little bit about Davide: Born in Turin in the '70s, his first brush with time, when he figured out how to read a watch, was “a real revelation.” He continues, “It was a kind of coded language to read one of the key dimensions influencing our life.”
In the '80s, he found himself in Italy. It was the time of the Swatch craze and Italy, back then and now, has been “a country of connoisseurship for watchmaking and a country of a lot of collectors.”
For Davide Cerrato, managing director of Montblanc watches, "Mastering time is mastering life."
One more important thing that sparked his interest in time? Old watches. “Receiving the watches of my great grandfathers and grandfathers also pushed me into the watchmaking world with this strong emotional and symbolical bonding,” he says. So yeah, he is very much qualified to school us on what makes watches tick.
Below, Esquire talks to Davide about the importance of history, living materials, and what Asian men like in their watches.
In your observation, is there more demand for rugged watches like the pieces from the 1858 collection versus classic timepieces?
It really depends on geographies and tastes. In Asia Pacific, elegant classical watches are still the main focus even if tastes are quickly changing and the sport market is growing fast. In the Western world, for sure, vintage sport watches are the key focus and in this sense 1858 is perfectly into the zeitgest.
From the 1858 collection, which model would you suggest men consider first?
The 1858 Geosphere is the perfect tool watch. It's resistant, has a rugged, military, vintage look, is functional but with style, and has a unique complication that allows the modern traveler to see, in a glimpse, two time zones, as well as all the others on the northern and southern hemisphere.
Hidden in the luminous maps, on the two turning globes, are the peaks of the Seven Summit Hiking Challenge, with the names of these giants engraved on the back of the case. Unique NATO straps or bund straps fulfill the style proposal.
[It is a] dose of adventure for the wrist of those who love to remember outdoor even in the office.
The 1858 watches feature beautiful logowork for “Montblanc” and “Minerva” on their faces. Can you tell us more about the development of these designs?
On the dials, we always use the Montblanc logo but for the 1858 collection, we use the vintage logo from 1930 with italic fonts and a drawing of the Montblanc in the middle. This logo is very powerful and... sets a unique identity for watches.
We use the Minerva logo on the high watchmaking movements, which are handmade in Villeret. This beautiful logo is a guarantee of extreme quality and craftsmanship.
What were the challenges of using living materials like bronzed cases and calfskin bands?
The challenge of using bronze is providing a high quality technological material [that has] a fantastic homogeneous patina after wearing it and a uniqueness to any user, [as well as] avoiding any allergy from the client wearing it. The solution for both has been found in a technological alloy mixing bronze and aluminum.
For our leather straps, these are developed in our Pelletteria in Florence, where we can develop unique designs as the sfumato on alligator or a vintage rugged look for the 1858 collection or the bund straps.
Our NATO straps are produced in the East of France in a manufacture producing textile ribbons with traditional weaving machines for 250 years. It provides unique performances in terms of comfort, look, and durability.
Why do you think there is a growing demand for watches that are not just technical or beautiful but also have a story?
History is a key dimension for luxury products as watches. Roots as much as the myth of the foundation [and the] unique technical and design path are seminal to create the timeless value that is at the core of a watch.
Montblanc pens are considered one of the best writing instruments in the world. How were you able to translate that mastery into watches?
With our unique take on quality without compromises, our unique watchmaking history of 160 years translated into strong fresh powerful designs, and unique technical solutions with a full team based in Switzerland and two manufactures supported by the Richemont group services.
The watches for collectors, we produce in Villeret by hand. With unique technical and design characteristics in limited and numbered editions, these are second to none.
What is your favorite Montblanc timepiece?
Besides the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere, I will refer to the Chronograph Monopusher in Vintage British Green with the Minerva movement limited edition 100. [It is] a steel 40mm tool watch with all the craftsmanship of Minerva chronographs beating at 18.000 vibration per hour.
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