August 22, 2018
There’s a lot to love about a simple time-only watch that can hold its own in pretty much any situation. In fact, I find that every once in a while, I force myself to seek out pieces that might even push me out of my own horological safe space with an excessively stripped-down design. This year, like many of the brands we find ourselves drawn to, Montblanc looked to the past and tapped further into their connection with the Minerva brand (acquired by Richemont in 2006) to release an attractive set of models known as the 1858 collection. Among those was the 1858 Chronograph and this watch, the Montblanc 1858 Automatic.
Upon closer inspection it’s easy to tell that the watch is in many ways related to the Minerva Pythagore – an older pilot-style model with cathedral hands just like this one and a seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock. As expected, Montblanc’s tribute is spot on and at its core, the Montblanc 1858 Automatic is actually quite easy to love. However, the question here is one of value and leaves me wondering how well the 1858 Automatic can realistically compete in a market filled with so many viable alternatives. Nevertheless, I still think this watch can be appealing to some, but it’s important that we really dissect it piece by piece to truly understand what the wearer can potentially experience.
One thing consumers should realize is that this is in fact the second iteration of the Montblanc 1858 Automatic, with the 1858 Collection originally debuting at SIHH 2017. The inaugural version was a comical 44mm wide, so to see Montblanc refine it slightly and size down this specific version was a load off my mind – especially when I opened the box. Today’s 1858 Automatic sits comfortably on the wrist at just 40mm wide and 11.07mm thick. And, apart from the pseudo-two-tone effect we get with the bronze bezel, the case itself is generally devoid of any superfluous decoration.
It is, however, fully brushed for the most part with garden-variety polishing along the edges of the lugs. In the image above we also get a quick look at the push-pull crown, which is also crafted from bronze. I will say that it took a lot for me to feel okay with anything remotely resembling a two-tone watch – but the execution here with the bronze and stainless steel was actually impressive. The entire package still felt sporty and the watch was able to fit in nicely on a hike near Multnomah Falls just northeast of Corbett, Oregon. One could argue that the case finishing is a little too bland, but I don’t think it’s something that will immediately bother potential buyers.
Flip the watch over and it’s a totally different story. Just like we saw on the 1858 Chronograph I linked to above, the solid caseback features a detailed Mont Blanc motif together with a basic compass rose. Water resistance is 100m and I can appreciate that Montblanc still aimed to give consumers that extra element of durability. However, as ornate as the caseback might be, it does nothing to hide the audible rotor noise grinding away within. I know this is a stretch and I know I’m splitting hairs here. But sadly, this was far too noticeable for me and I hate to say that the noise level is not unlike something you’d experience with a $50 Seiko 5 you can pick up on Amazon right now. This watch retails for over $2,500.
Over on the dial side things are a little more pleasant with a nice, high-contrast design and excellent proportions. I adore cathedral hands and the rhodium-coated examples featured on the 1858 Automatic were a real treat. Dial text is also practically non-existent and I’ve always been a fan of this specific Montblanc logo. Both the hands and the well-sized Arabic hour numerals feature beige Super-LumiNova but in my situation, I really didn’t aim to test the brightness extensively.
Montblanc also includes a domed sapphire box crystal with AR coating. This was a pleasant surprise and although reflections still happened, I found them less noticeable on this Montblanc 1858 Automatic. Come to think of it, it’s really hard for me to complain about the dial at all and I just love the even, symmetrical look you get with the two-hand display and the nicely printed railroad minutes track. By the way, Montblanc also offers the 1858 Automatic with a “Smoked Champagne” dial for customers that want something a little more playful.