INTRODUCING: Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date
“It’s unlike anything we have ever done,” says Montblanc watch division’s managing director, Laurent Lecamp.
An artisanal, thoroughly legit, and affordable (well, by luxury standards) dive watch may seem like an anomaly that would confuse fans of either artfully decorated or robust sports watches. But Laurent Lecamp, Montblanc watch division’s managing director, is having none of that. In fact, the chatty and energetic Lecamp thinks that those seemingly disparate qualities are perfectly amalgamated in Montblanc’s new dive watch collection, the 1858 Iced Sea. Not only that, they also serve as a signpost to where Montblanc watches could be headed next.
The 1858 Iced Sea is among a slew of new adventure-themed watches that debuted under Lecamp’s stewardship earlier this year, and it is a standout. Comprising three automatic date models, the 1858 Ice Sea looks robust with its sturdy 41mm steel case fitted with a unidirectional ceramic bezel. As a legit diving instrument, it promises 300m water resistance and bears the ISO 6425 certification. But at the same time, the 1858 Iced Sea looks almost too pretty for the rigours of underwater exploration.
Framed by muscular cases, the watches feature captivating dials that look as if they are carved from actual glaciers. Inspired by the icy lakes of the Mont-Blanc Massif, known as the Mer de Glace (French for ‘Sea of Ice’ where the collection takes its name), the dials come in blue, green, and black to evoke the different colours of glaciers – depending on where they are found and whether the ice has air or algae trapped within. Interestingly, the dials are actually handcrafted using an old decorative technique known as gratté boisé that imbues the dials with their unique textures and a sense of depth.
The 1858 Iced Sea features an unusual combination of qualities, to say the least. For Lecamp, though, that is exactly what makes the collection a winner in his books.
Montblanc watch division’s managing director, Laurent Lecamp.
Give us a sense of what you’ve been doing leading to the launch of these new watches under your direction.
"I started with Montblanc in January 2021. No one new walks into a company immediately knowing what to do. For me, the first year was dedicated to learning. I read a lot about the brand to understand its history and philosophies, and spoke with our staff, collectors, and fans of Montblanc to understand what they felt was good or not good about the brand. Through this process, I saw very quickly that we needed a new philosophy based on three pillars: storytelling, differentiation, and perceived value."
The 1858 Iced Sea is one of the most exciting new collections. Tell us how it came about.
"It started with getting the right inspiration. I decided to go to the La Mer de Glace, the main glacier of the Mont-Blanc Massif, to seek inspiration. I went alone first, and I was trying to channel the energy from the mountains. I saw clearly the phenomenon and beauty of the ice crystals that have been formed over time, and I wanted to recreate that on a watch."
Recreating the look of glaciers on a dial must have been a challenge.
"When I came back to Switzerland and told a dial maker I wanted to see a glacier inside the dial, he told me I was crazy. Of course, we didn’t take no for an answer. After working on 38 prototypes, we managed to create the first ‘glacier’ dial in watchmaking. It’s quite amazing because the dial itself is only 0.4mm thin, yet there is so much depth to it. The technique, which is called gratté boisé, requires 30 steps to create just one dial."
The beauty of the dial aside, the 1858 Iced Sea is also a proper tool watch.
"Yes, this is a certified dive watch. It is ISO 6425 certified and tested to extremes with the Montblanc Laboratory 500 Hour Test for shock and magnetic resistance, and water resistance. If you have a chance to try the watch, try turning the bezel. You will hear the strong clicks and feel how secure and solid it is. Or you can see the fine adjustment of the double deployant buckle, which allows you to adjust the length of the bracelet up to 9.25mm. These give the user a sense of the watch’s robustness, precision, and quality. I want every single element of the watch to express these qualities."
The watch is interesting as it has an artisanal component and is a tool watch at the same time. The price is also very competitive.
"I dare say that at €2,950, this is the most affordable luxury dive watch to have all the qualities that I’ve mentioned. And we do it with real legitimacy. The1858 Iced Sea has, what I mentioned earlier, the three pillars of our philosophy: storytelling, differentiation, and perceived value. I believe this type of product has not been developed before in the luxury watch industry or even by Montblanc itself. The main inspiration for the 1858 Iced Sea stems from the desire for exploration. This is where it starts. I think the collection sets the tone for many exciting creations that we will soon unveil."
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