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Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel Watch Breaking Pricing Barriers

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel Watch Breaking Pricing Barriers Watch Releases

For a long time, we have been seeing some of the brightest engineers and designers of the watch industry come up with ever crazier complications, functions, and movements – impressive stuff that we never get bored of, sure, but it really was about time someone put them to work on making high complications considerably more affordable. Well, pulling off this impressive feat (and stepping on basically everyone else’s toes) has been none other than Montblanc. Their latest leap forward, leaving most everyone else behind in the game of more attainable complications, is the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel – in other words, an annual calendar chronograph timepiece with a price tag of $10,450 in steel and $20,700 in 18k red gold.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel Watch Breaking Pricing Barriers Watch Releases

Wrapped in a 42-millimeter-wide and a manageable 13.83-millimeter-thick case is the MB 25.09 caliber, with automatic winding, an annual calendar (that needs to be adjusted only once a year, at the end of February), a 12-hour chronograph, and a phase-of-the-moon display. So how can Montblanc bring down what were considered to be rather solid barriers to entry in terms of the pricing of high-complication watches (which this one certainly qualifies as)?

Well, as we saw in 2014 with the Heritage Meisterstück Perpetual (hands-on here), they rely on Sellita base movements – basically clones of reliable ETA workhorse calibers – and build custom modules on top, either developed in-house or by suppliers like Dubois-Depraz. In this way, they are able to keep production costs down considerably, which in turn allows for much more competitive pricing.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel Watch Breaking Pricing Barriers Watch Releases

The tactic is the same with the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel, as the SW-300 base caliber is equipped with a module that carries all the bits and pieces of both the annual calendar and chronograph functions. Compromises? Well, the SW-300 is a solid movement but clearly cannot provide the same eye-candy as do more complicated – and much more expensive – in-house calibers; just check the perpetual calendar piece we linked to above to see a case-back shot (no such image is made available for this Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel release just yet).

Furthermore, the indications of the calendar can be set through corrector pushers set into the side of the case, which isn’t as elegant a solution when compared to some manufacture movements that allow for all adjustments to be made via the crown. Last but not least, the movement offers a mere 42 hours of power reserve which is a limitation of the base movement that now has to carry a large number of indications – a total of ten hands! – which cause a lot of drag and require a lot of torque to be moved around.

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Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel Watch Breaking Pricing Barriers Watch Releases

Montblanc went for the smart hand-design of separating the ones for the chronograph function by coloring them blue, while the hands of all other time indications are plated in red gold – leaving no room for confusion on what actually are some relatively small sub-dials with two layers to them. The day of the week and the chronograph 12-hour counters are at 6, month and chronograph 30-minute counters are at 9, date and running seconds are at 12, and the phase-of-the-moon display is at the 3 o’clock position, while the hours, minutes and chronograph seconds are displayed by hands mounted in the center of the dial.

Montblanc also submits the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel to their Montblanc Laboratory 500 Test, a 500-hour-long trial that simulates most effects the watch will be subjected to throughout its lifetime. Montblanc sends its in-house movement-equipped watches and all pieces from the Heritage collection to these in-house-performed tests. Notably, this is a system reminiscent of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 1000-Hour Tests – possibly not a coincidence, as it is JLC’s ex-CEO Jerome Lambert who’s been at the helm of Montblanc since 2013.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel Watch Breaking Pricing Barriers Watch Releases

Montblanc has set itself on a course that is rather unique in the watch industry, not necessarily because of the techniques involved but rather because of its persistency to pursue its goals. With a retail price just above the $10,000 mark, Montblanc has opened yet another door for watch enthusiasts to own a watch from a major Swiss brand with a combination of features that render it high-complication grade.

The packaging of the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel remains rather conservative, with a round case and – obligatory number of indications notwithstanding – simple dial. This brings a car industry-related analogy to mind: with the latest iterations of the Porsche Cayman, the brand had to be careful not to beat the big brother, the 911, in performance and overall value… Here, it is a bit as though Montblanc had to tune the Heritage down ever so slightly to leave room for its elder siblings within the Richemont Group that rank higher in the horological food chain. It should be only a question of time, though, that we will start seeing such impressive technical achievements and value propositions from Montblanc in a wrapping that has a tad more personality to it – styling shouldn’t affect pricing that much, after all.

Price for the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel in steel is $10,450, or €9,500; while price for the 18k red gold version will be $20,700, or €18,900. montblanc.com

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  • Joe Welke

    Good on Montblanc for packing so much into a package that’s so reasonable. The styling breaks no new ground, and it’s certainly a bit plain, but legible and inoffensive. Good idea of differentiating the hands by color, I could tell which hand pointed to which dial track instantly. I like this a lot. Well done.

  • I really don’t care for the arrangement of the hands on the sub-dials. I’d rather have the chronograph hours and minutes together (like recent Omega Speedmasters) and then have the months/day of week together on a sub-dial. And the moonphase is a joke – the half moon is depicted as a cresent (1/4) moon – fail. And the date on a small sub-dial will no doubt be hard to read. Nice watch in terms of function but not an optimal layout to my mind. I appreciate that Mont Blanc is bring nearly JLC functionality to the customers at lower price points but this one is a miss for me. Thanks for the review. And no need for case back shot – it will just look like an ETA 2892 unless they have done something interesting with the rotor or movement decoration.

    • BNABOD

      the back is nothing special “MONTBLANC” engraved on rotor so no need to show it indeed.

  • wallydog2

    Only in the watch culture would you find people who love complication. They’re worse than/almost as bad as cat people.

    • SuperStrapper

      Been to a car, gun, gear, or engineering forum lately?

      I question is rhetorical, it’s obvious that you have not. That is not a knock, but when it comes to hobbies, generally speaking, the more in depth you get, more layers of complication are added. It’s what keeps hobbies fresh and interesting.

      • wallydog2

        Of course, you’re right. Take model railroaders. I knew of two guys who lived in a duplex. They poked a hole in their basement wall so that their two systems could blend together. I marvel at the detail and I can certainly see how intoxicating complexity and miniaturization can be. Same with watches. Same with antique car people. They can go on for hours about the thermostat on the hood, just above the grill.

        • SuperStrapper

          That the the most elaborate glory hole camouflage I’ve ever heard of!

          And yes, car people are crazy. I rebuild engines (prefer boats, but have done many cars) . I have a a snake car forums for reference and information. You could read for hours abo parts that might not have even actually ever existed. It can get tedious, but if it falls under your own interest or passion, it’s the kind of thing that drives you. No pun intended?

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Stick to pens and aftershave. This is way to pointy for me, don’t know what direction am looking at.

    • iamcalledryan

      With Lambert at the helm that would be a massive waste of potential. These are very handsome watches being released at reasonable prices IMO. Yes you don’t get in-house, but I think MB are coming out with some of the most affordable calendar watches.

    • Beefalope

      Right — because Montblanc has made pens for many years, that automatically excludes them from doing anything else. It’s not like they purchased a 100% legit movement maker in Minerva. And it’s not like a lot of watches that they’ve put out over the years are fantastic. And it’s not like they do haute horology or anything.

      You just go ahead and keep putting everything into neat little boxes.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Do i sense a little sarcasm in your voice there ?.

        • Beefalope

          Me? Sarcastic? Never, ever, ever, ever, ever …

  • SuperStrapper

    Are we sure this is red gold? Looks like ordinary yellow gold to me.

    I think the overall feel of this watch is being undeserved by the modern looking block-style chronograph pushers. Not that the watch is decidedly ‘classic’ looking, but I bet if Mark hacked one of these photos and replaced those with piston, or button type chronograph pushers, the watch would look more cohesive.

    Interested to see what the steel reference looks like.

    • Nelson

      It is red gold, for sure. Yellow gold is like this.

      • SuperStrapper

        For sure? I actually don’t need an education on gold, and when most people think of red gold they would conjure images similar to this, which this watch looks nothing like. I’d say this MB is at best a hybrid between the 2, more along the lines of Lange’s honey gold.

        • ConElPueblo

          None of the illustrations in the articles are photos, so have a look at the other RG watches Montblanc produces for reference… Not Seamasters or wedding rings 😉
          Isn’t the Seamaster Sedna gold, btw?

          • SuperStrapper

            The one is posted is red gold with a ceragold bezel.

          • David Bredan

            @SuperStrapper:disqus @disqus_WNelson:disqus @conelpueblo:disqus I checked once again and can confirm that Montblanc specified 18k red gold as the material used for the case of this version. These are computer generated images though, so colors may be off or appear a bit unnatural here – we’ll check it out hands-on at SIHH soon and get back with “live” images! 🙂

        • I have seen it live (alas I couldn’t take a picture) and it is red gold.

          This particular watch looks very similar to the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter. Not a fiery red gold but certainly not pink or yellow.

  • BNABOD

    I actually like the stainless steel version not pictured here. goes to show that you can go far with eta/Sellita and Dubois Depraz. I am not a fan of the moonphase but that is just me but it goes to show that price does not mean a whole lot in horology. earlier we have a 6K time and date from IWC here we have a multitude of complication for 10K. granted two different type of watches but the MB should 3 times the price if you go IWC pricing wise.

  • Nelson

    The moonphase indicator is ugly and ridiculous.

  • DanW94

    While the sub-dials are definitely busy, they do a nice job using the blue contrasting hands to separate the chrono functions from the calendar functions. I also like the steel edition better. I prefer the cleaner look of the annual calendar model minus the chrono functions.

  • Shinytoys

    With all those complications, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your nose pressed up against the crystal. That face is busy and tough to read.

    • Beefalope

      Yeah, it’s really tough to read. You might have to spend a full half second looking at your watch.

      Good lord, we sure are a picky lot around here.

      • SuperStrapper

        And?

      • Shinytoys

        If you feel you can catch information on the fly in half a second with that watch face, I wish you well. What the watch needs is one more dial on it so it can be concluded that it’s a complete clusterf*ck. But opinions differ…

  • Marius

    I really admire Montblanc for what they are trying to achieve, but I have two issues with their strategy. Firstly, I prefer quality over quantity, so I think it would be a better idea to come up with a simple, but very good in-house movement, instead of making complicated watches equipped with bland and forgettable calibers.
    Secondly, as some readers suggested, Lambert tries to transform Montblanc into a budget version of JLC. The design of the newly released models is strikingly similar to the JLC Master Control line, and even the 500 hour test immitates the JLC 1000 h test. That is a shame since Montblanc has the financial and technical capacity to be a very original brand.

    • Beefalope

      How are their calibers forgettable? What’s wrong with them?

      • Marius

        The Minerva calibers made by Montblanc are very cool, I was referring to the ETA movements used in the perpetual and annual calendar. I was trying to say that instead of selling a perpetual calendar using an ETA for around $11,000, they could develop a simpler, but more interesting in-house movement and sell that for the same price, or less.

        • Beefalope

          With all due respect, I disagree with that reasoning.

          We know that perpetual calendars normally are very expensive. If you start with a base ETA movement and add a perpetual calendar module to it then finish it well, then $11k is a relatively reasonable deal.

          There’s nothing inherently better about in-house movements over ETA movements. To me the question is not about in-house vs. sourced, but about the finishing of whatever movement is used.

          ETA movements are very robust, and they lend can lend themselves to a very high degree of finishing. I would take a well-finished ETA movement over a non-finished or poorly finished in-house movement any day of the week.

          Now, if we’re talking about an in-house perpetual calendar movement with good finishing, then the price is going to be much, much higher.

          • Marius

            You are absolutely right. The problem is that in-house movements become more important for watch buyers today. Also, another issue is that brands using ETA movements don`t spend a lot of time finishing them. I mean, I havn`t seen many ETA calibers finished to a level of Blancpain, Glashütte Original, or JLC. Tudor and IWC modify the ETA calibers that they use, but I believe that doesn`t include finishing, they focus mainly on the escapement and some pinions.

          • Beefalope

            I think we’re more or less on the same page on this. I agree that most companies that rely on ETA movements don’t finish them much; they simply want an engine for their watches. That being said, some companies do a lot with ETA movements. That could mean keeping them completely intact and simply finishing the existing components. Or it could mean using ETA ebauches as a base and then adding a lot of new in-house parts and finishing them to a higher level, such as what Ulysse Nardin does.

            What’s interesting is that even a lot of in-house movements aren’t finished to a very high degree. To me, there’s nobody more in-house than Seiko — and I’m a huge Seiko fan, by the way — but the vast majority of their movements are unfinished or barely finished. And Rolex movements aren’t particularly highly finished, either.

            It seems that movement finishing is a much more significant contributor to cost than anything else. Quality machine-finishing is very difficult and expensive to perfect, and hand-finishing is extremely expensive in terms of labor hours and in light of the reality that there are relatively few people in the world who have the skills to finish watch components by hand.

    • iamcalledryan

      I am not sure you understand what they are trying to achieve if those are the issues you have with their strategy.

      It sounds like you think they are (or should be) trying to compete directly with JLC, both in terms of in-house quality and by differentiating themselves stylistically. I do not think that works for what they are really trying to achieve, which is to attract the segment of the market below JLC, in competition with a company like TAG. But whereas TAG offer the “modern” big-brand experience, regularly using outsourced movements or ebauches to make the price attractive, MB are going for the elegant/classic/clean look. As with TAG, they are not interested in putting all of their energy into making only in-house movements and competing with JLC/Patek/VC, instead they use their in-house R&D and manufacturing prowess to run concepts or special novelties.

      It makes perfect sense to me that they are trying to offer the perfect balance between affordability, quality, and complications that (when delivered by reputable brands) don’t usually drop into that bracket. They are appealing to the guy who loves JLC but wants to spend half as much on something that looks like their triple calendar.

      Trying to up your game and become the new JLC is a sure way to bankrupt yourself in this climate. Granted they could really play on Minerva and make that their core business, but it’s pretty clear that is not what they are trying to achieve.

      • Marius

        I agree, but they could focus on the mid-tier market also by developing a more original design. You already have Frederique Constant trying to immitate the Patek design.
        Montblanc, especially with Lambert, have the potential of becoming a mid-tier brand that is very original and special. I mean, they can focus on that segment not only by copying JLC, but by developing their own identity.

        • iamcalledryan

          It’s a safe gamble on design, no argument there. But even though it has the JLC/Lambert identity in it, I would say it still looks like something I would expect from MB design-wise. Perhaps they could have continued to do interesting cabochons on the crown or something though..

  • Beefalope

    Montblanc is producing excellent watches these days and doing so at relatively reasonable price points. When you consider the quality to price ratio, Montblanc really is one of the best — and it becomes really fantastic when you start looking at the secondary market for their watches equipped with in-house movements.

    With respect to their designs, they’re consistently tasteful. I hear a lot of criticisms that their designs are derivative. Fine. But how many designs in the Montblance price range are not derivative? Montblanc is hardly the only offender.

    I think that much of the Montblanc bashing that is taking place is due to the fact that the company is called Montblanc and is better-known for making pens than watches. Well, who really cares? I’m much more concerned with the watch than the brand. If a company is delivering the goods, and Montblanc is delivering the goods, then I’m interested.

  • funNactive

    I want to get a triple date watch. I prefer the date to be on the outer ring and a 4th hand pointing. I like the dual inner dials. Not too sure how I feel about the design of the moon phase though – I think I like traditional.

    • Beefalope

      It seems like a lot of people have been critical of the the moon phase on this watch, but it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m a big fan of moon phases, but they’re completely useless complications; I just like the aesthetic. A lot of moon phases basically look the same as everything else that’s out there; I applaud Montblanc for just doing something different.

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