At SIHH 2016, Montblanc introduced its new “1858” collection of watches which not only have a new logo (separate from other Montblanc products) but also contain two limited models known as the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition pieces that come in either steel or red gold, each in a set of 100 pieces. I found this collection interesting and am happy to show you the good looks of the blue-dialed steel model. The collection isn’t without its quirks, but it shows just how fragmented and interesting Montblanc’s watch family has now become as they keep adding additional “watch personalities” to their product line-up. aBlogtoWatch originally debuted the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition watches along with the more simple Small Second variants here.
Some context for those who aren’t familiar with the various tiers of Montblanc watches is necessary here. Several years ago, the Richemont Group purchased a historic and collector-loved Swiss watch brand called Minerva located in the town of Villeret. This is the same town as where Blancpain’s haute horology manufacture is located. Montblanc incorporated the Minerva manufacture into its brand and used the location to produce its more high-end and complicated watches. Check out, for example, this hands-on article with the Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe watch here.
Montblanc seemingly changed its approach to how to market and communicate about the “Montblanc Villeret 1858” watches a few times over the years, and I still don’t think they have found the perfect groove. The movements are lovely, but from a branding, pricing, and design perspective, you can see them struggling a bit when it comes to having everything make perfect sense to the consumer – especially when it comes to all the fierce competition out there. So what you have here for 2016 is perhaps a new marketing and branding strategy for at least some of the watches to come out of the Montblanc Villeret “Minerva” factory in Switzerland.
Nevertheless, as if to make things more complicated, this new Montblanc 1858 collection of vintage-style pilot-themed watches isn’t “all Minerva.” Only the two limited edition Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter models use calibre MB 16.29 Villeret-made movements while the time-only Montblanc 1858 Manual Small Second watches (not all limited) use the Montblanc calibre MB 23.03 which is a base Swiss ETA Unitas 6498. It is a movement which, I might add, is on an entirely different plane than the much more interesting and high-end MB 16.29. Thus, despite good efforts, I am afraid that Montblanc hasn’t made things more simple for consumers when it comes to understanding the relative relationships between Montblanc products and how they stack up against one another. Instead, the changes do make things a bit different, but it still takes a lot of research and education to summarize what products are the most appealing for dedicated watch enthusiasts.
From a design perspective, Montblanc points to 1930s-era Minerva pilot chronograph watches as the inspiration for the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition watches. I’ve included two pictures of such vintage 1930s models below, and you can see that these modern Montblanc watches do indeed recall the look and feel the more historic Minerva models. One thing that Montblanc could have done but didn’t, for some reason, is replicate the look and feel of the cursive text logo.
Not that they needed to per se, but as you can see, the 1858 collection of watches now bears a brand new Montblanc logo. I don’t think for a minute that this logo is a replacement for the much stronger (in my opinion) current Montblanc corporate logo, but it is rather there to differentiate a particular collection of models. Where this collection will go is still to be seen. In my opinion, the most logical thing to have done would have been to make a Montblanc logo using a similar cursive-style as the traditional Minerva logo that collectors are familiar with.
Instead, Montblanc went with a logo that separates Mont (“mountain”) and Blanc (“white”) and adds a little graphic of the mountain between the words. The letters use a rather basic sans-serif font in a slight italicized “lean.” They seem quite ordinary but not actually vintage in style. The logo frankly seems amateur and doesn’t resemble either the traditional Montblanc logo or that of Minerva. I appreciate the boldness to create something new – truly I do – but I just don’t understand the logic here. With that said, I don’t think this watch is the type of timepiece you invest in because of the logo, and by themselves, the case, movement, and overall design have merit.