For SIHH 2019, Montblanc has announced several models including two new versions of their TimeWalker chronograph. With a more traditional look than that of the existing collection, these offer some small albeit significant aesthetic updates that should help broaden their appeal. With their “panda dials” and tachymeter scales, they feel more familiar and vintage-leaning, with some other small refinements here and there. However, while it’s funny that a difference of only 2mm can be a big deal in the watch world, the reduced size of the new Montblanc TimeWalker Automatic Chronograph is the most notable aspect of the new models.
In the past, Montblanc was known first and foremost as a high-end pen company. Sitting here typing this, I have a Montblanc Meisterstruck “M” Rollerball sitting on the desk in front of me. They are not the only example of penmakers’ expertise in design, production, and attention to detail translating well to making luxury timepieces. Now comfortably among the Richemont Group’s prestigious watch brands, Montblanc picked up the reigns of the legendary Minerva factory when Richemont took over and is celebrating 160 years of Minerva watchmaking heritage this year. And the TimeWalker is probably the brand’s most representative collection. While the in-house movements coming from Minerva are more interesting to me – such as the Manufacture version of the TimeWalker Chronograph Ariel discussed here – more affordable options like these new models have their place and merits.
As noted, the new models are smaller at 41mm wide, down from the 43mm of the modern TimeWalker chronograph as it was introduced and we saw hands-on here in 2017. Montblanc hasn’t mentioned the case thickness for the new models (previous models were 15.2mm), but since we have no indication to the contrary, it is safe to assume that they are powered by the same MB 25.07 (ETA/Valjoux 7750 or something similar) automatic chronograph movements. Those and their resulting watches tend to be on the thick side, but the new diameter should make the Montblanc TimeWalker Automatic Chronograph significantly more wearable for more wrists. Also aiding wearability, one might argue, are the aesthetic changes.
The initial release of the updated Timewalker (as in the article linked to above), with its rotating 12-hour bezel (for tracking a second time zone) and modern fonts, reminded some people of a Porsche Design aesthetic. The new design with the more classic chronograph look of its now fixed tachymeter bezel makes me think of TAG Heuer’s Carrera and priced just a bit below, it would make sense that that is the competition Montblanc is aiming at. Of course, the TimeWalker very much has its own personality. And now, it takes on the popular “panda dial” as part of that, meaning contrasting subdials on black or white/silver main dials.
Topping off all these more obvious updates, like the size, tachymeter, and panda dial, are subtly smoothed-out curves for the case, with satin-finished lugs and polished bevels. The lugs here are also more standard, without the indented, “skeletonized” look of the 43mm versions. Just as the previous TimeWalkers the ceramic bezel, made from a single solid block of ceramic rather than the more common solution of just an insert for a steel bezel, is also noteworthy. When it’s all said and done, I think the new aesthetics, but especially the size, will be well-received. Personally, I liked the bracelets offered for the 43mm versions, but the new smaller models are offered on calf leather racing-style straps exclusively. The Montblanc Timewalker Automatic Chronograph will be available online in June of 2019 for a USD price of $3,625, down a bit from the comparable 43mm models. For additional information see montblanc.com