Montblanc continues to make inroads as a sports watch brand, adding two new models to the TimeWalker collection ahead of SIHH 2018 and debuting a new in-house chronograph movement
By Chris Hall
A year ago, we started hearing that Montblanc’s new priority in watches was to develop its presence in the crowded sports watch sector – specifically, to grab a little bit of that motoring-and-watches magic which works so well for others. It’s a hugely natural association in luxury watches (so much so that we dedicated an area of Salon QP to it earlier this year) but it’s not something Montblanc has had much truck with until now.
Since then Montblanc has re-vamped the TimeWalker range along a motoring theme, and taken over timing duties at the Goodwood Festival of Speed from TAG Heuer. The latter is significant and impressive, even if this year you could argue Montblanc didn’t make as much of it as it could have done.
The TimeWalker collection can be seen as something of a synecdoche for the brand as a whole, in that it brings together the history of Minerva and the fine watchmaking taking place at Villeret with the brand’s obvious desire to become a dominant player in the incredibly competitive £2,000-£5,000 market. You’ve got immensely flashy exo-tourbillons at the top, a Rally Timer at its heart and very commercially-minded, functional pieces underpinning the whole thing. And now, ahead of SIHH 2018, the collection is growing with two new references.
The TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph
We’ll start here, because this is the big story. A new TimeWalker chrono, with an all-new movement inside. It’s calibre MB25.10, an automatic chronograph movement beating at 4Hz with 46 hours of power, a date window at 4 o’clock and a 3-6-9 dial layout. We’ll get into the looks in a second, but for chronograph nerds a really interesting point to note is that Montblanc has opted for the rare combination of a column wheel and lateral (or horizontal) clutch.
That should mean smooth, well-weighted activation that doesn’t need a real shove to get it started, and a more visually interesting mechanism to observe in action. Of course, as you can see, the rotor and plates will be hiding a lot of it, but we appreciate the thought. (For more on what really makes a chronograph a pleasure to use, check out Peter Roberts’ technical breakdown here.)
For now, that’s all we know about the movement: it seems to be a real middle-of-the road tractor chrono in all other respects – not too big or too small (30.15mm x 7.9mm), not too many components (232). The smart money would be on this appearing in quite a few other Montblanc references in the next few years.
Certainly Montblanc has the mass market in its sights with this new TimeWalker.Visually, it straddles vintage and modern styles: the cream dial and panda chronograph subdials are an obvious nod to chronographs of yesteryear, the Rolex Daytona Paul Newman among them. A 43mm stainless steel case with black ceramic bezel and very modern lines around the lugs is going to appeal to would-be buyers of a TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 01; like all modern Montblancs, it passes a 500-hour lab test once assembled, and we hear that Montblanc will price this below £4,000 when it arrives next year. Competitive stuff.
The TimeWalker Rally Timer Chronograph
You might need reminding of the “old” Rally Timer to notice what’s new here. Essentially, Montblanc has rung the changes on the dial, introducing white subdials and changing the “Rally Timer” type from red to white. It also took the opportunity to offer the watch on a mid-brown “Sfumato” Italian calf leather strap.
Underneath (and indeed, around the sides and in all other directions, literal and metaphorical), the watch is the same. Same titanium case construction, same incredible MB16.29 hand-wound monopusher chronograph underneath, and the same slightly baffling combination of dimensions and usage options. Bit big for a watch, bit small (and flimsy-of-leg) to be a clock, and a bit valuable to strap to your dashboard and drive like the clappers – although we’d love to try.
As a link to Minerva’s past, and with that in mind as the watch that provides this whole collection with the legitimacy it needs, it can’t be faulted. Like the first Rally Timer this piece is limited to 100 pieces and we have no doubt they are all already spoken for.