Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe Watch Hands-On

Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe Watch Hands-On

Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe Watch Hands On   hands on

You may be asking yourself, "what is an ExoTourbillon and what can it do for me?" Aside from making you feel younger and more virile, an ExoTourbillon is a unique and rare species of tourbillon found in the small Swiss mountain town of Villeret. There you'll find Montblanc's Villeret factory formerly known as Minerva. I've been there, and it is indeed a more unique high-end watch manufacture experience compared to most. How? Well less stuffy and formal than most, the former Minerva facility is in fact not only historic, but kept historic. In addition to some high-tech machines, they also have some interesting ones used to make watch parts in a very traditional way. It is a cool place for sure. Plus, traveling there may be your only opportunity to see one of these hard-to-find timepieces as only eight have been produced.

Recently Montblanc updated the ExoTourbillon Chronographe with a Rattrapante (split second) version. We'll see about getting some hands-on time with that little number sometime in the future. For now let's look at why Montblanc knows how to make one original looking $300,000 plus timepiece. Those familiar with Montblanc understand that the brand has three levels of timepieces. First are the more mainstream luxury watches populated by pieces such as the timeless Timewalker (one reviewed here) that have for the most part, base ETA movements. Then you step it up to pieces such as the Nicolas Rieussec (reviewed here) that contain in-house made movements from Montblanc's Le Locle manufacture. At the top are the Montblanc Villeret 1858 collection models - made individually and totally by hand in Villeret.

Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe Watch Hands On   hands on

The Villeret 1858 collection pieces are so uncommon I couldn't even find mention of them on Montblanc's own website. That may be on purpose so as not to confuse the majority of their watch customers, and may also be an element of Montblanc trying to keep the collection highly exclusive. Though by mere virtue of the fact that so few are produced each year you'd think Montblanc Villeret 1858 pieces are exclusive enough. What I further like about the collection is that while there is clear Montblanc branding, they don't want to remove the heritage of Minerva.

The movements for example still proudly say "Minerva" on them. And if you look closely on the dial, there is a "Minerva 1858" label as well. Even though Montblanc acquired Minerva after parent company Richemont purchased them a few years ago, it is nice to see that the former brand's long history isn't being engulfed and assimilated as you may expect. Instead, the Villeret facility remains a unique snapshot of the past, not only in their products, but how they make watches as well. The more casual atmosphere is reflected in the design - such as the "devil's tail" on one of the bridges that you'll find in each of their movements.

Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronographe Watch Hands On   hands on

10 comments
spiceballs
spiceballs

Agree with others - open caseback on that simply beautiful sight, but the dial, for that money  - - ?  Perhaps they should name the watch Jekyll & Hyde and reverso the watch? 

aleximd2000
aleximd2000

technically masterpiece artistic and functionally chinese

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

I literally feel drunk just looking at the dial. Looking at the movement is like coming down nicely without crashing. 

Zeitblom
Zeitblom

How much for just the back half?

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

The movement is gorgeous, the hunter-style opening is delightful.  What the hell happened to the front?  In case you ever wondered how much uglier Roman numerals could be, Montblanc comes to your rescue with a hideous lop-sided bulging half-and-half design.  The glare from the perlage must be distracting while you're trying and failing to read the time.  Montblanc make some great timepieces but I don't know what they were thinking with this contraption.  It looks like what a Chinese manufacturer would think a European watch looked like; the design really is that half-assed and random.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

The back looks great. The dial is a mess IMO. Unless the chronograph minute hand is retrograde at 15 minutes (which it does not appear  to be), then it spins a full circle which is fine except that then the short red hand is worthless and in fact misleading. Am I missing something here? I think the home and away hour hands are too similar. 

A sure sign of a quarter million dollar, very limited production watch - it is very hard to read at a glance. Perhaps that is part of the 'trick' to wearing a watch like this. Someone asks you for the time and you just hold out your arm (appearing to be helpful but really being a dick) as they still won't know the time after looking at your watch. Maybe that is how the rich get their kicks, I wouldn't know :-) 

Interesting watch despite a face that looks like it belongs on a Greubel Forsey creation.

To answer the question "Montblanc wanted the ExoTourbillon Chronographe to be both unique, but at the same time contain complications people are familiar with. Did they succeed?", I'd have to say no. Unique yes, but they have made what should be familiar complications unfamiliar to the point of a reduction in functionality (human factors, not mechanically).

Fraser Petrick
Fraser Petrick

@MarkCarson I  am filthy rich: to the point I could buy Hawaii with my lunch money. Should some commoner ask me - me, of all people -  while I'm wearing conspicuously my Montblanc Villeret 1858, the time, I would reply something along the lines of the sun's position in relative to some palm tree on the beach. (Actually, I wouldn't reply in person; I'd have one of my people talk to one of their people.) I am so wealthy that I would wear two watches at the same time: my $264,500 Montblanc on my left wrist and my Timex Expedition on the right (for those rare, commoner  occasions when I might want to know when it's time for lunch.

Trackbacks

  1. […] At the very top of the collection is Montblanc Villeret. This is the ultra-high end Maison, that produces astonishingly beautiful and complex watches. Made entirely in-house at what was formerly the location of historic watch brand Minerva, Montblanc Villeret only makes  about fifty watches per year…yes fifty. I have held two, and was very impressed, as was Ariel, who visited the manufacture a few years ago. I even love the sense of humor that the brand has. Please look for the "devil's tail" in Ariel's photo in his hands-on look at the Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronograph watch. […]

  2. […] At the very top of the collection is Montblanc Villeret. This is the ultra-high end Maison, that produces astonishingly beautiful and complex watches. Made entirely in-house at what was formerly the location of historic watch brand Minerva, Montblanc Villeret only makes  about fifty watches per year…yes fifty. I have held two, and was very impressed, as was Ariel, who visited the manufacture a few years ago. I even love the sense of humor that the brand has. Please look for the “devil’s tail” in Ariel’s photo in his hands-on look at the Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronograph watch. […]