Hommage to a “grande tradition”:
the Vintage Chronographe
in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858
January 18th, 2010 at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Geneva - With its unmistakable dial, which emphasizes finely calibrated scales, the Vintage Chronographe is a superlative device for the measurement of brief intervals of time. Only the most powerful innovations of the past can become the traditions of today – and are awarded the appellation “vintage”. The same applies to this new chronograph in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, which boasts a spirally shaped tachymeter scale in the center of its dial. A coiled scale of this kind was a typical and frequent feature on the legendary Minerva chronographs from the 1910s and 1930s. The manufacture’s archive preserves from those years many enamel dials which are marked with specially calibrated scales for special applications in the exacting discipline of measuring brief intervals: for example, some of these dials were destined for use in regatta watches, others in pulsometers or counters. Some of the dials with finely calibrated scales were used on timepieces that could measure intervals to the nearest hundredth of a second. This wide variety of specific applications and highly precise movements helped Villeret’s watchmakers to earn a fine reputation as chronograph specialists. Today too, they continue to enjoy unanimous admiration from connoisseurs and aficionados of mechanical timekeeping.
The periphery of the Vintage’s dial was reserved for the telemeter scale, so the tachymeter scale was shifted into the center, where it was coiled like a snail’s shell so that it would be long enough to be used for tachymeter measurements up to three minutes in duration. Hence, these watches were genuinely multifunctional instruments that wed high functionality with masterful horological artistry. This grand tradition lives on in the Vintage Chronographe. As went without saying in bygone years and as is naturally also true of today’s Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, the entire dial is crafted in the most exclusive manner. The face is covered with grand feu enamel: a platelet of solid gold is heated in a kiln to a temperature of around 800 degrees Celsius, thus fusing it to an uppermost layer of vitreous molten enamel.
The quiet ticking beneath this noble dial hints at the presence of the legendary MBM Calibre 16.29, a movement which is endowed with all the characteristics that raise the pulse rater of watch lovers: a large and weighty balance, with adjustment screws along its rim, oscillates at a pace of 18,000 A/h (2.5 hertz); a balance-spring with a Philips terminal curve; a swan’s neck fine adjustment mechanism; a V-shaped chronograph-bridge; a meticulously and manually beveled and finely finished chronograph-lever; classical horizontal coupling; and a column-wheel to control the chronograph’s functions. Naturally, the “mise en function”, i.e. the exact abrading of the chronograph-lever, is performed during many hours of painstaking manual craftsmanship to a precision of several 1,000ths of a millimeter.
A new feature, on the other hand, is the outward impression made by this device for measuring brief intervals. The watch’s case has a rather unpretentious but nevertheless contemporary diameter of 43.5 millimeters. To preserve the proportions and thus the overall impression of a typical Villeret watch, all of the case’s parameters (including the horns) had to be entirely newly designed and constructed. The result is a timepiece which unmistakably shows that it belongs to one of the world’s most exclusive lines of watches, yet nonetheless makes a somewhat sportily technical impression. Like all other watches in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, the Vintage Chronographe will be available only in a strictly limited edition. Here, the series consists of 58 timepieces in 18 K red gold cases with white grand feu enamel dials and brown alligator-leather wristbands, and another set of 58 watches in 18 K white gold cases with black grand feu enamel dials and black alligator-leather wristbands.