A Look Into the 160-Year Heritage That Inspired Montblanc's Latest Collection of Watches
Since its debut in the watch industry with the Meisterstuck watch in 1997, luxury brand Montblanc has been releasing covetable wristwatches that are just as well-loved as their famous pens. Since then, Montblanc dug into its values of quality and craftsmanship to produce fine timekeeping items to fashionably wrap around your wrists.
In 2006, Montblanc’s parent company, Richemont (which also owns Cartier and Piaget among others), acquired Swiss heritage brand Fabrique d'Horlogerie Minerva SA. Minerva had been founded in 1858 and has been making unique luxury watches since then. Richemont later on integrated Minerva into Montblanc by creating a whole department for it.
In 2007, Minerva officially operated for Montblanc under the name Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie. Through this department, Montblanc was entwined in Swiss watchmaking heritage. This led to the first watch under this partnership, the Metamorphosis.
The 1858 Collection
Later on, Montblanc’s 1858 collection was released. The collection’s goal is to preserve Minerva’s original techniques while finding and researching modern technologies. Now, the department operates in Villeret, Switzerland, right where Minerva relocated in 1902.
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Montblanc once again tapped into Minerva’s storied heritage through its recent models under the 1858 collection, inspired by Minerva’s original watches from the 1920s and 1930s. It’s no doubt that Minerva has lent Montblanc not only the inspiration it needs to create exquisite watches but the time-honored manufacturing techniques needed to keep quality Swiss watchmaking alive.
With Minerva's guidance, Montblanc crafts watches that every discerning vintage watch lover will find fascinating. Here, we explore the rich history behind Minerva to further appreciate how it strengthened Montblanc’s watch brand.
Minerva's rich history
In 1858, Brothers Charles and Hyppolite Robert founded the watchmaking company “H. & C. Robert,” which was renamed in 1878 to “Robert Frères Villeret” or “RVF,” for short. Years later, the company started registering various brands, including the Minerva brand. After creating their own remarkable watch movements, Minerva eventually rose to fame and became RVF’s star brand.
In 1929, the company eventually renamed itself Minerva SA, Villeret, due to the overwhelming success of the brand's chronographs. After undergoing numerous leadership changes in the next few decades, the brand managed to survive the quartz crisis of the 1970s. Finally, fast-forwarding to the early 2000s, the brand experienced major internal transformations while still top-notch creating Minerva Calibers.
It wasn’t until the year 2006 that Richemont had acquired the brand and integrated it into Montblanc as its research and excellence center. The partnership's first-ever Minerva collection was launched in 2015.
The Minerva effect
Today, Montblanc continues to innovate by looking back at its storied past. The Montblanc 1858 collection draws inspiration from the original Minerva pocket watches and chronographs from the 1920s and 1930s. The latest interpretation, however, injects new life by taking fresh inspiration from the spirit of mountain exploration. In a way, the line “gets closer to nature” by incorporating colors and finishes with a rustic feel. Read: bronze cases, khaki-green dials, and even matching colored NATO straps handcrafted in France. Other details include fluted crowns that recall those on period timepieces and robust, domed, sapphire crystal glass boxes. Such fine details distinctly mark the watches’ vintage appeal.
This year, the 1858 line welcomes four new additions: Two new 1858 Automatic models, an 1858 Chronograph, and an 1858 Geosphere. The automatic watches come with a full-bronze 40mm case paired with a khaki-green dial or a steel case with a black dial. The Chronograph takes cues from the original Minerva Caliber 17.29 developed in the 1930s and is outfitted with Côtes de Genève stripes, inner angles, circular graining, and bevelling. Lastly, the Geosphere—dedicated to the world’s Seven Summit mountaineering challenge—is now also available in this new bronze/khaki color scheme.
The polished and satin-finished bronze cases feature slim beveled horns while the case back is crafted from titanium featuring a bronze color coating. The case back is also engraved with the emblematic Mont Blanc mountain, a compass and two crossed ice pick-axes, as a nod to the spirit of mountain exploration. The original Montblanc logo from the 1930s featured as well.
The 1858 line is an excellent tribute to Minerva’s techniques and technologies that have withstood the test of time. As much as these bold new watches represent the excellent craftsmanship of Swiss watchmaking, these models also represent Montblanc’s spirit of reinvention and innovation—making it the perfect watch that blends the past and the future into the present.
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