Although perhaps better known to the layperson today as a maker of fine writing utensils, Montblanc has a deep and layered history in watchmaking through its legacy with influential Swiss brand Minerva. Montblanc has fully embraced its Minerva past in recent years through the 1858 collection, and Watches and Wonders 2022 sees the brand continue this trend. Its latest monopusher chronograph release is a shining example of its legacy design philosophy at work, combining cues from multiple late ‘30s Minerva pilot’s chronograph designs into an idealized version of history with modern luxury accoutrements. The new limited edition Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88 is an attractive throwback to the golden age of military chronographs, with a pleasingly intricate vintage design and strikingly beautiful movement work.
Model: 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88
Water Resistance: 30m
Case Material: Stainless steel, white-gold bezel
Movement: Manufacture Calibre MB M13.21 (handwound monopusher chronograph)
Frequency: 18,000 bph
Power Reserve: 60 hours
Strap/Bracelet: Black alligator leather
Price & Availability: $30,500, limited to 88 pieces, on sale now
Although large by ‘30s standards at 42mm-wide, the case of the Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88 keeps its design classical and simple with a handful of period-correct flourishes. The stainless steel main case body is simple and restrained in images, with long tapering lugs and only flared polished lug chamfers to break up the clean brushed overall finish. The lone pusher at 2 o’clock is a natural focal point for the design, with an elegant lozenge shape that reinforces the early 20th century feel of the design in images. For the 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88’s bidirectional bezel, Montblanc adds a touch of luxury with fluted and brightly polished white gold. Although the white gold material is pure modern luxury watchmaking, this rotating fluted design is faithful to Minerva’s ‘30s originals, and works in conjunction with a bright red triangular pointer under the crystal to function as a mix between an internal and external timing bezel. Montblanc fits the watch with a simple brushed solid caseback in keeping with its original inspirations. Sadly, the water resistance is also accurate to ‘30s standards, as Montblanc rates the watch for a dismal 30 meters.
Montblanc keeps this period-correct ethos intact for the dial of the 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88. Like many prewar chronograph designs, the black opaline dial is laden with a variety of different scales in images, but Montblanc’s clever use of negative space leaves this design feeling open and balanced rather than cramped. The central colimaçon tachymeter scale is a visual hallmark of the era and a clear focal point here, allowing measurements down to 20 units per hour thanks to its pleasingly busy spiral design. The outermost ring offers a telemeter scale, while just inboard of this Montblanc includes a finely graded full seconds scale. The running seconds subdial at 9 o’clock integrates another classic Minerva touch, with the brand’s spearhead emblem added unobtrusively at the 30-second mark. Montblanc’s handset is another period-correct choice, with a simple straight sword design given distinction by a syringe-tipped minute hand. Both the handset and the bold printed Arabic numerals use warm khaki lume to accentuate the design’s vintage feel in images, and introduce a sense of color into an otherwise starkly monochrome layout. The design’s signature red pointer adds to this sense of warmth in initial photos, while also providing useful functionality as a de facto second elapsed time complication.
Inside the Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88 beats the brand’s in-house Calibre MB M13.21 handwound chronograph movement. Like the rest of the watch, this is a deeply traditional design, based on the MB M19.09 movement of the early 20th century. Sporting a mix of Côtes de Genève and horizontal brushing across its myriad narrow bridges and arms, the MB M13.21 is a spectacle of classical horology with brightly hand polished anglage and the brand’s trademarked V-shaped bridge. This attention to detail extends to the engineering as well, as the MB M13.21 is one of only a handful of modern movements to sport an in-house developed hairspring. In terms of performance, the MB M13.21 offers a 60 hour power reserve with an old-school 18,000 bph beat rate. Montblanc finishes the watch with a suitably traditional satin black alligator leather strap.
By blending traditional military pilot’s chronograph aesthetics with luxurious modern execution, the new limited edition Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88 is a compelling love letter to the brand’s prewar glory days. Only 88 examples of the Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph LE88 will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88 stands at $30,500 as of press time. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.