We’ve been waiting to get our hands on the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel watch since we first heard about it. For those not caught up about this piece, Montblanc is offering a quality, good-looking, high-complication watch for a fraction of the price that other annual calendar watches go for. Personally, I’m always skeptical when I hear about “affordable alternatives” to most things (not exclusive to watches), but Montblanc has successfully realized where to save costs and where not to in the creation of this piece. In short, Montblanc has hit a home run, and I’m now following a brand I’ve always liked closer than I ever have.
You’re going to have to go into looking at this watch comfortable with the idea that you’re never going to have it all. Well, you could have it all, but you’d have to spend a whole lot more money to get it. Montblanc is doing something they have previously done with watches like the Montblanc Meisterstuck Heritage Perpetual Calendar (hands-on here), in modifying a base caliber Sellita movement. Here, they have modified a base Sellita SW-300 caliber, operating at 4Hz, with a module that tacks on parts of the chronograph and, naturally, the annual calendar. The result is a perfectly competent and nice-looking movement, the Calibre MB 25.09. More importantly, it successfully pulls off an annual calendar complication.
At this point, in-house snobs will turn their nose up, but for all intents and purposes, this movement fits the bill for what Montblanc is trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, with a high complication like an annual calendar, the remonstrances are sure to be loud. I, however, do have to echo a complaint of David Bredan’s from the article linked to above: the 42-hour power reserve from the base movement is now burdened with carrying ten hands, which is really less than ideal. I don’t think there was much of a choice here, but it is worth mentioning.
Moving on to the dial, there is a lot to love about the legibility of the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel watch, but there’s also a bit to not love. Montblanc has managed to fit a lot on the dial without making it look cluttered or too busy. In fact, the clean lines and minimal, but meaningful, use of color looks just great. The use of blue to distinguish chronograph functions is a wonderful move and one that actually makes sense past being an aesthetic flair. Considering how small the sub-dials are, I appreciate the thoughtfulness from Montblanc here. The silverish dial with sunburst pattern contrasted with the guilloche on the sub-dials provides a nice vibrance while retaining the simple, elegant look of the watch.
Something I’ve heard complaints about but am willing to personally overlook is the moon phase subdial at 3 o’clock. It’s not the best-looking moon phase I’ve seen (not even close), but I think it’s a uniquely executed take on the complication that I would much prefer to an even slightly dinky-looking rotating moon phase disc. It’s difficult to endorse the use of pushers to adjust the calendar functions, but it’s important to keep in mind the issue of choosing what battles to pick in creating a quality, but relatively affordable annual calendar watch.
The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel watch is 42mm wide and sits 13.83mm high on the wrist. It’s not a small watch by any means, but I think the dimensions are about what I would expect. A little lower on the wrist would be nice, but the height is far from egregious as-is. The watch comes on a black alligator-skin strap made in the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence. It’s also got a nice steel or 18k red gold pin buckle.
Montblanc puts this watch through the Montblanc Laboratory 500 Test, which is a 500-hour test designed to simulate a variety of scenarios it’s likely to experience through its lifetime. It’s presumably not as rigorous as the one performed by Jaeger-LeCoultre – where Montblanc’s current head Jerome Lambert used to serve as CEO – which is a 1,000-hour test. Then again, they’re halfway there.
It may have seemed that I have focused a bit too much on the relative “negatives” of this watch, but it’s because I want it to be clear that I’m not saying that it’s perfect and a steal at the price. It’s got flaws, like most things do. However, the balance struck between quality, compromise, and price is in perfect harmony, and the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel watch is a resounding success for the brand. I’d also ask naysayers to keep in mind that this watch is not the end result, but rather a step forward for both Montblanc and for watch enthusiasts who truly enjoy a complication like the annual calendar, regardless of their current station in life. Price for the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Quantième Annuel in steel (Ref. 114875) is €9,500 and in red gold (Ref. 114876) is €18,900. montblanc.com