Montblanc : A Brand History
As the self-proclaimed “Fathers of Stylish Writing”, German manufacturer Montblanc have been making high end writing instruments for over a century.
However, after decades of embossing their famous white star emblem on exquisite fountain pens including the flagship Meisterstück (“Masterpiece”), Montblanc branched out into other luxury lifestyle items. They produced leather goods, jewellery and eyewear before venturing into the world of horology in 1997.
Their watchmaking legacy began with the foundation of Montblanc Montre S.A. in Le Locle, the municipality in the Swiss Jura Mountains that is considered to be the birthplace of watchmaking. Most Montblanc pieces are designed, assembled and tested at their picturesque Art Nouveau villa workshop, located 1,000 metres above sea level. Fittingly, the beautiful premises was built in 1906, the same year Montblanc was originally founded.
With just 15 years in the luxury timepiece game, Montblanc may be a relative newcomer, but the brand’s long-running philosophy of master craftsmanship took little time to translate to watchmaking.
Their debut collection, named Meisterstück after their ubiquitous fountain pen, won immediate plaudits at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the prestigious watch exhibition in Geneva.
The collection pays homage to the Frenchman who invented the chronograph movement in 1821. Rieussec was a watchmaker for King Louis XVIII, who happened to be a passionate fan of horse racing. Three years before the monarch’s death, Rieussec created a device that could measure the time of each of the horses running in a race. Hence, the chronograph was born.
In 2008, Montblanc unveiled the Automatic Calibre MB R100 Monopusher Chronograph, the brand’s first movement manufactured entirely in its own workshops. This was made possible by the company’s acquisition of Fabrique d’Horlogerie Minerva, a workshop in nearby Villeret that specialises in fine mechanical watchmaking. The latest edition of this calibre, the MB R200, can be found in the current Nicolas Rieussec collection. The stunning range is characterised by 42mm cases, day & night displays, chronograph counters and the acclaimed in-house movement that boasts a 72-hour power reserve.
Montblanc’s inherited patrimony of traditional Swiss watchmaking and their position as a modern horological newcomer may be best represented in the Timewalker Collection. The Titanium Chronograph model, for example, juxtaposes a traditional handcrafted mechanical MB calibre MB L100 automatic movement with a 43mm ultra-hardwearing shot-blasted titanium case, large contemporary numerals and very technical aesthetic.
The Star Collection, on the other hand, conveys more of a classic feel. The Star 4810 Chronograph (named for the 4,810-metre height of Mont Blanc) features a silver dial with a guilloché pattern, rose gold-plated hands and roman numerals. Beneath the dial beats a superb Montblanc 4810/501 automatic chronograph movement. The Star World Timer, meanwhile, allows you to tell the time in 24 major world cities, while it’s extraordinary 25-jewel automatic movement can be viewed in all its glory via a transparent caseback.
It takes up to 300 hours for one of Montblanc’s highly skilled craftsmen to produce one of their timepieces. Evidently, the same meticulous approach that allowed them to become a world leader in fine writing instruments has been applied to their watchmaking endeavours.
Today, it is safe to say that a Montblanc is as much of a statement of quality worn on your wrist as it is held in your hand.