While most press attention at SIHH is grabbed by the flashiest, largest, and most complicated pieces, some of the more simple pieces are going entirely unnoticed. And that’s a shame. In a market full of massive grand complications, minute repeaters, tourbillons, equation-of-times, and the like, it is refreshing to see the exact opposite being given the same level of attention by some manufactures. Several brands have unveiled new svelte, ultra-thin, simply designed pieces for 2015 (Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre have done a particularly good job in this arena), but in my opinion, the most exceptional of the lot is a masterful new Heritage Chronométrie collection by Montblanc.
Making waves in the luxury industry (and within the Richemont Group itself, for that matter) for the past few years, Montblanc continues to impress with an expanding line of exquisitely designed timepieces with a serious emphasis on value. One piece in particular, the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim, may just set the bar for incredible looks and impressive quality with a shockingly low price tag.
The new model easily captures the essence of slim and sophisticated. Featuring a 38mm case in either stainless steel (Reference 112515) or 18k red gold (Reference 112516) with subtly curved horn lugs, its classically good looks and proportions make a real impression on and off the wrist – its appearance is enhanced by its slender 5.8mm thickness and full grain black alligator strap.
Both versions feature a white/silver tone dial, simple in layout and free of unnecessary clutter. Arabic numerals sit at the four main points (3,6,9, and 12), while simple stick markers fill in the remaining eight positions. A subtle chapter ring encircles the outer rim of the dial, while the brand’s name and “Mechanique” are printed just below the 12 o’clock position. The markers and hands on the steel version are rhodium plated, and plated in gold on the red gold version.
Under the hood is Montblanc’s Calibre MB 23.01, a 17-jewel manually wound two-hand unit with an estimated power reserve of 42 hours. Basic and simply decorated, this movement can be viewed through a sapphire display back. Sapphire covers the front side, as well. With a non-screw crown, this watch has water resistance of only 3 bar, but this shouldn’t really be a consideration when picking a dress watch.
Like other categories in the timepiece world, ultra-slim models either work on the wrist or they don’t. Although this is an obviously universal truth, it may be even more noteworthy on watches of this type. After all, there isn’t much of the watch to begin with, and if what there is doesn’t fit well, that’s pretty much all she wrote.
The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim is one of those ultra-slims that does work on the wrist. A combination of perfect proportions and design ensured that everyone who tried it on in my company at SIHH gave it universal praise. Despite the objections of some more vocal holdouts of the Giant Watches Are Better Brigade (I’m looking at you, Ariel*), 38mm, in my opinion, is the perfect size for a piece of this type. With its reserved dimensions, it fits comfortably under the cuff without completely disappearing, and fits nicely against the skin with its curved lugs and rounded case back.
Perhaps the best quality of the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim in regards to wearability is its heft. This is not to suggest it is heavy – it isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination – but it has a great solid feel that exudes the high levels of workmanship that went into constructing it. In other words, its cost belies its quality.
*To his credit, Ariel tried it on and actually found it to be – in his words – “shockingly wearable.” If you know him, you know this is a big deal, as he often labels anything under 42mm to be “girls’ watches.”
Building a smartly designed ultra-slim watch that checks all of the boxes is a tall order for most manufactures. I do have a singular gripe, and that is that I would loved to have seen the blued steel hands used on other models in the Heritage collection make an appearance on the steel model Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim – but that’s just personal aesthetic preference speaking. Beyond that, this piece is in my opinion damn near perfect.
What puts the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim ahead of its competitors in my mind can be summed up in a single word: value. With quoted prices of 1,900 euros, or $2,260 USD, for this version in steel, and 5,500 euros (about $6400) in solid red gold, the value proposition weighs very heavily in its favor. For comparison, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 38mm Master Ultra Thin shares the same basic design language but clocks in at around $8,200 in steel and nearly $15k in red gold.
While the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Ultra Slim red gold model carries an obvious premium due to the precious metal content, the fact that you could buy one for less than the cost of JLC’s steel model is impressive. And $2,200ish is just plain ridiculous. This watch not only looks the part, but it is the part. Basically, I think everyone should have one. Like, everyone. This is an obvious choice for a tuxedo watch, perfect for weddings and other formal occasions. Even if you only strapped it on once or twice a year, it would still be a brilliant piece to add to any collection – at exceptional value. montblanc.com