While the dial and strap of the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100 is attractive and a great example of ’30s period style, the real joy of this timepiece isn’t discovered until you turn it around. Through a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback, the Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB M16.29 is revealed, which was inspired by the original Minerva pocket watch calibre 17.29.

This is a column-wheel chronograph movement with horizontal coupling, featuring the brand’s distinctive chronograph bridge in a “V” shape and etched with “MINERVA Villeret” between two jewels in gold chatons. The movement features a large screwed balance wheel beating at 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour, and offers a 50 hour power reserve. The base plate and bridges are made of German silver (also known as Mailechort, an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc) which are plated in 18 karat red gold and extensively decorated with circular graining, Côtes de Genève, and chamfered edges, all hand-applied. The going train is plated in contrasting yellow gold and features faceted arms and diamond-polished surfaces.

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This is a seriously beautiful movement, and the mix of red gold, yellow gold, and German silver serves to complement the color palette of the watch dial and case. Aesthetically, I would have loved to see Montblanc make use of blued screws on the movement as well, to link back to those blued hands on the dial.

With such vintage chops and a traditionally decorated movement beating at the far-from-modern 2.5Hz, you’d be forgiven for assuming this timepiece is all about beauty and might suffer from poor timekeeping. This is where the legacy of former CEO Jérôme Lambert really comes to the fore, integrating Minerva’s traditional methods with the modern testing equipment at Le Locle. After each Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100 watch is cased up at Villeret it is sent on to the laboratory at Le Locle, for a battery of tests the brand refers to as the “Montblanc Laboratory Test 500.” As the name implies, this test lasts for 500 hours and involves 5 phases:

  1. Winding Performance and Assembly Control (4 hours). In this test, the watch assembly and winding mechanism are checked for post-production faults.
  2. Continuous Accuracy Control (80 hours). During this phase, the watch is tested for accuracy in 6 positions.
  3. Cyclotest (336 hours). This is the longest phase of the test, and it is meant to simulate real-world use the watch would receive on the wrist. The watch functions are repeatedly engaged in a variety of positions and temperatures.
  4. General Performance Test (80 hours). The watch functionality is checked for errors in multiple positions and temperatures after the battery of the Cyclotest.
  5. Water Tightness (2 hours). Finally the watch is checked to ensure the sapphire crystals don’t fog up when exposed to humidity at different temperatures, and then the watch is submerged at a pressure of 3 atmospheres to ensure water resistance meets the stated depth.

The Montblanc Laboratory Test 500 is a lengthier and more rigorous process than the 16 days required for a Chronometer Certificate from Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), and is notably performed on the assembled watch and not just the movement. This should ensure that every beautifully finished watch that the Montblanc facility at Villeret produces is also both accurate and enduring.

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The Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100 is a compelling release from the company, offering more than just an homage to bygone eras by virtue of the vast reservoir of traditional watchmaking expertise at the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie (Minerva Institute of Research in Fine Watchmaking) in Villeret. The watch is boldly sized at 44mm, which won’t suit everyone, and salmon as a dial color is certainly a departure from the safer monochromatic options Montblanc could have opted for. Water resistance is also relatively minimal by modern standards at 30m, and the large cathedral hands may lead to occasional difficulty in reading the chronograph counters. Despite these minor caveats, there is no doubt that this is a stunning timepiece which will attract lovers of vintage styling and beautiful finishing, which Montblanc is offering in a limited run of 100 units for a USD price of $27,500. montblanc.com

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