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Watches and Wonders 2023: Montblanc

Montblanc 1858 Automatic Date 0 Oxygen The 8000

Montblanc’s Iced Sea continues to excel, but new chronographs from the Minerva manufacture add innovation to the mix.

Montblanc’s CEO Laurent Lecamp, a fan of extreme adventures and mountaineering, is incredibly delighted that collectors have nicknamed the Iced Sea the ‘Iced Tea’. Even more impressive is how this year-old range of diving watches has gained much interest from diverse buyers and is bringing new energy to the brand.  

The brand’s association with mountaineering has deepened with the Iced Sea collection, and we’re now seeing new releases that tie into the sport in different ways. That consistency across the timepieces has been what’s lacking in the past and creates an interesting product journey for consumers. Let’s break this year’s launches down.   

Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date
The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date's monochromatic palette brings the gratté-boisé dial to the fore.

 The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date  

The Iced Sea is quite a unique watch in the industry, thanks to a brilliant dial design. Developed in partnership with Montblanc’s dial makers, it’s meant to represent the look of cracked glacier ice, with a roughed-up, uneven texture as if it’s been scratched or stomped on. The gratté-boisé technique uses a piece of wood to “scrape” the surface and takes much longer to create than a standard dial.
  
The time-and-date model of the Iced Sea has been a hit and was released previously in black, blue, and deep green. This year, two new versions have been introduced, an all-grey monochromatic version and a green dial reference exclusive to Montblanc’s boutiques.

Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date
The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date boutique-exclusive edition with a green dial is inspired by Antarctic ice.

The grey dial brings the watch to life even more strongly than the other options, perhaps because the neutral colour emphasises the details of the gratté-boisé technique. The green dial model is inspired by Antarctic ice, which occasionally contains iron oxides which give rise to this hue.
  
Both watches are housed in steel and sized at 41mm. Equipped with a Sellita-based MB24.17 movement with a 38-hour power reserve, they are ISO 6425-certified and fitted with black ceramic bezels with decimal markers and diving countdown filled with Super-LumiNova. On the caseback, the grey dial model features a laser engraving of an iceberg and a diver that’s coloured in black. The boutique edition features the same engraving but with a large, green-coloured diver. Interchangeable straps in rubber or stainless steel are provided with each watch, with one-touch extensions on the double deployant buckles.

Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Coffret
The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Coffret features a clear resin replica of the Mont Blanc Massif along with three versions of the model.

Additionally, a coffret set comes in a massive clear resin replica of the Mont Blanc Massif, with the two novelties and last year’s blue model. These three watches can be roughly seen through the resin model, like peering through the ice to uncover these hidden treasures. It’s pretty stunning and limited to just 191 sets.  

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen The 8000 42mm
The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen The 8000 is designed for extreme environments.

The Montblanc 1858 0 Oxygen The 8000

Advanced versions of the Iced Seas are new takes on existing Montblanc 1858 icons such as the Geospheres. Tying them to Montblanc’s Mark Makers Reinhold Messner and Nimsdai Purja, the 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen The 8000 spotlights the 14 tallest peaks in the world, which are above 8,000m.  

Reinhold was the first mountaineer to ascend all 14 peaks without supplemental oxygen assistance starting in 1970, while Purja was the fastest to climb all of them over six months and six days in 2019. The 0 Oxygen collection is a series of watches designed for extreme environments, celebrating the two Mark Makers’ achievements. Built with zero oxygen within the case (substituted with nitrogen), it ensures that fogging does not occur when the altitude suddenly changes and prevents oxidation of the watch’s components.

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000
The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 boasts chronograph function alongside dual time and day/night indications.

The icy grey dials of each watch feature the same gratté-boisé dial decoration with a Sfumato fumé effect that shades each dial. This creates the effect of a lit dial at its centre, as if the Sun is at its zenith, shining on the display. The collection also features bright orange accents – often used in mountaineering to maximise visibility in difficult conditions. It’s also a colour used in Tibetan dzi amulets and worn by mountaineers.

Montblanc 1858 Automatic Date 0 Oxygen The 8000
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Date 0 Oxygen The 8000 features the collection's gratté-boisé dial decoration with a Sfumato fumé effect and orange accents.

There are a total of four models in the 1858 0 Oxygen The 8000 collection: a 41mm Automatic Date, a 42mm Automatic Chronograph, a 42mm Geosphere, and a 44mm Geosphere Chronograph that’s limited to 290 pieces. The Automatic Date follows largely the same specifications as all the other Iced Seas, with a black ceramic bezel (but fixed instead of rotatable) and large numerals. It also has an orange-accented minute track and “Spirit of Exploration” engraved on the caseback.

Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 is driven by the self-winding MB 25.13 movement with a 48-hour power reserve.

The Automatic Chronograph houses the MB 25.13 automatic chronograph movement with a 48-hour power reserve. It has a fluted, bi-directional ceramic bezel with a dark grey Sfumato gratté-boisé dial and two black counters for the 30-minute totaliser and small seconds display. Orange accents are found on the central chronograph seconds hand and minute track. The caseback is similarly styled with the Automatic Date.

The two Geosphere models are in titanium and offer dual time zone functions with the MB 29.25 worldtime movement. The watch shows the globe from both halves of the Hemispheres and features a 24-hour time scale with day/night functions. The bezels turn both ways, but it’s the caseback that highlights the collection’s close connection to Purja and Messner.

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 & Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000
The caseback of the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 (left) features a laser engraving of K2 while that of the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000 (right) shows a list of the 14 Eight Thousanders in the world with inspirational quotes from Purja and Himalayan prayer flags.

On the non-limited 42mm model, it features a laser engraving of K2, widely considered to be the most difficult in the world to climb with wild winds and is Messner’s favourite mountain. On the limited edition, it features a laser engraving of the profiles and list of the 14 Eight Thousanders in the world, with inspirational quotes from Purja and Himalayan prayer flags for good fortune.

Minerva and Montblanc  

This year is a double anniversary for the Minerva manufacture. Not only is it the 165th year of its founding, but it’s also the centenary of the brand’s first wristwatch chronograph, the Calibre 13.20. The famed chronograph was reworked in 2003 and remains in use by Montblanc today. But instead of trying to innovate on an incredible movement, the brand decided to develop a new operation technique.

Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition
The Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition conceals its chronograph controls under its fluted bezel.

On the 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva, you’ll see a main crown and a classic dial with striking details in white and red. Two counters indicate the small seconds and 30-minute totaliser with applied numerals and a white minute track. The glossy blue lacquer dial has a BASE-1000 tachymeter on the outer ring and a telemeter on the inner.  

A single onion crown controls the time adjustment for the watch, but the standard chronograph pushers are absent. Instead, the operating mechanism to drive the column wheel and chronograph levers is hidden under the fluted bezel. Modern Arabic numerals in gold are applied on the watch, which also has red accents to bring more colour to its design.

Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition
The Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition is available in stainless steel (100 pieces) or Lime Gold (28 pieces).

While we’ve seen bezel-controlled watches before from IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Rolex, this is a watch that really celebrates the heritage of Minerva. Two 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Editions are available in a Lime Gold case with a dark green dial (28 pieces) and a stainless steel model with a white gold bezel (100 pieces). 

Montblanc Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph
The Montblanc Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph has a new case treatment that gives it a softly distressed effect.

There’s another limited edition Minerva watch that again reconnects with Montblanc’s mountaineering concept. The Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph isn’t a new watch. It was released last year and showcases a reversed chronograph movement, with the impressive details of the MB M16.26 calibre, which is a reverse of the MB M16.29, shown on the front of the watch.  

Reversing a movement naturally affects the time display, which is also reversed. To undo that, additional components need to be added to the movement. On the dial, the chronograph’s wheels and fixed fourth wheel of the gear train sit right inside the two registers. The skeletonised counters are joined to a supporting bridge in the centre of the movement and the circumferential minute track that also supports the hour markers.

Montblanc Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph
The open-worked reversed movement of the Montblanc Unveiled Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph deserves to be admired up close.

The new limited edition of 88 watches features a new case treatment effect. The steel case is first black PVD-coated, then washed and brushed with stones from the Mont Blanc and the region around Villeret, where the Minerva manufacture is located. The result is a softly distressed, aged effect on the case, rather like the washing of selvedge denim. It looks both vintage and modern while playing on the elements of the mountain in a thoughtful, discreet manner.  

The cohesiveness of Montblanc’s products this year is exciting and tells a story across different aspects of mountaineering and geology that is rather fascinating to observe. We’re looking forward to more from Lecamp and his team. 

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Editor

Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.


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