As far as I know, this Automatic 24H (24 hour) watch is the first single-hand timepiece produced by Montblanc and it does a good job of looking like a retro-wrist instrument that never was. The entire Montblanc 1858 sub-family of watches is actually rather new (even though it borrows a mid-20th century version of the Montblanc logo) and is meant to be inspired by mountain climbing. What connection does that have with the historic maker of writing instruments? Not much, but everyone gets liberty to start new traditions.
Actually, the Montblanc brand has continued to look for its ideal luxury watch personality for years, and it is, indeed, one of the most diversely prolific watchmakers out there that has put the Montblanc name on everything, from inexpensive quartz watches to ultra-exotic, dial-transforming tourbillons. The current Montblanc Star and Heritage collections of watches are meant to be a bit more mainstream luxury in their appeal, while I believe Montblanc sees the Montblanc 1858 as where most of its collector audience interested in sub-$10,000 watches are going to give most of their attention. Let’s not forget about the Rieussec, too.
While the Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H reference 126007 is, no doubt, a niche model to be sure, it offers the type of story and design that will have the watch collector community speaking much longer about it than, say, a new Montblanc Star collection timepiece (which is actually more satisfactory as a daily-wear watch). The Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H is not just the brand’s take on a single-handed watch, it is also its take on the 24-hour watch dial. What advantages are there in a single-handed watch? In short, they offer a more truly analog way of seeing the day, as the single hand eats through each 24-hour period like a pie chart. The human brain understands this a bit more than our 12 hour dials, and thus we start to associate particular regions of the dial with particular regions of the day. If you haven’t worn a single-hand 24-hour dial watch before, it is worth doing so for a few days, as it makes understanding the passage of each day a bit more interesting, in my opinion.
The watch also serves as a crude compass (assuming you have line of sight with the current position of the sun in the sky. In order to use the watch dial as a compass, the time must first be set correctly. Then, what you do is place the watch horizontal to the ground and line up wherever the hour hand is with the current position of the sun. From there, you look at the compass direction markers on the dial of the watch, and they will indicate the directions of North, South, East, and West. This is all possible because the sun’s trajectory over the sky is along a predictable East-West path.
Single-hand watches also happen to be attractive, and some brands, such as Botta or Meistersinger, even specialize in them. That said, finding single-hand watches out there is rare, given that few people understand them. What adds value to single-hand 24-hour dial watches is that, given how our wristwatches are often secondary timekeepers in relation to our mobile phones, having an unorthodox display of time on the wrist isn’t that big a deal. If you need to know the precise minute (it can be difficult to read 24-hour dial watches with precision), your phone or some other ubiquitous clock will help you out.
Not all 24-hour dials are laid out the same way. Montblanc opted to keep 12 o’clock at the top position on the dial, so the day actually “starts” as what is typically the 6 o’clock position on the dial. What a fun quirk. The dial itself is meant to resemble an old aviation or navigational map and the entire watch case and dial together really do look like some type of idealized old instrument watch that would sit along size a magnetic compass and other such pre-electronic navigational instruments.
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H case is steel with a non-tarnishing bronze alloy metal as the bezel and crown materials. The case is also just over 11mm-thick and water resistant to 100 meters with a domed sapphire crystal over the dial. I really like these, overall, but must always inject that I’m not a fan of this particular version of the Montblanc logo. I agree that the logo is stylistically fitting to this retro theme. But I don’t agree that the logo is befitting a modern luxury item in strength or confidence.
Inside the Automatic 24H watch is the caliber MB 24.20 automatic movement. I don’t think this is entirely in-house-made, but it might have a module or modification for the base Swiss Made automatic movement (4Hz, 42 hours of power reserve). Montblanc actually offers three versions of the Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H in regard to the strap or bracelet attachment. The pictured reference 126007 model has the “high-quality” black NATO-style strap. Montblanc also offers the reference 125581 with a brown sfumato leather strap or the reference 125582 that comes on a matching steel bracelet. Price for the Montblanc 1858 Automatic 24H watch as pictures is $3,030 USD. Learn more at the Montblanc website here.