Last year in 2017 when the relaunched Timewalker collection by Montblanc was debuted, I couldn’t help but feel that while I appreciated the new watches, the particular piece for my tastes had yet to be released. Just one year later, Montblanc has debuted a new version of the updated Timewalker that is much more aligned with my own demands as a discriminating watch consumer. It’s called the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph, and it features a slick new in-house automatic chronograph movement, attractively classic sport watch looks, and a hip cuff-style (“bund”) strap option.
Montblanc’s head of product Davide Cerrato greets me with his typically wide smile and cheerily enthusiastic Italian accent at SIHH 2018 where the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph was debuted. Cerrato is a brand unto himself at this point because guys like me are able to identify hallmarks of his particular taste in many of the watches he is responsible for producing. If there is anything in the world Davide loves, it is the world of vintage racing and his love is having a dramatic impact on the design direction of the Hamburg-Based German brand.
The watches however are rather Swiss, and by that I mean made in Switzerland with Italian design. Outside of exotic high-end models not suited for mainstream public consumption like the Timewalker Rally Timer, the Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph seems to be Davide’s proudest achievement yet at the brand. While the watches contain the new Montblanc caliber MB 25.10 automatic movement, what I think people are excited about most is the “tri-counter” layout of the sub-dials that is also often referred to as a “tri-compax” layout. Unlike last year’s Timewalker Chronograph with its eccentric sub-dial layout (thanks to the design of the Valjoux 7750), the Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph has a neatly symmetrical dial that lends itself well to an elegant sport watch look.
I’ll be honest that I resent this collection having the Timewalker name. No offense to the watches which I tend to like, but it’s difficult as someone who continues to fondly think about the last generation of Timewalker watches that were masculine, modern, urban-dweller products. How Montblanc goes from that to a vintage racing watch-style product feels like too much of a stretch for me. Maybe Montblanc should do what they want and just put the Minerva name on the dial. To remind you, Montblanc was the beneficiary of the historic Minerva factory when the Richemont Group bought it out.
Montblanc has been benefiting from the Villeret-based manufacture as a place to produce its exotic high-complication watches as well as elegantly hand-finished Minerva caliber chronographs. The Minerva brand was not however a company that specialized in super high-end watches – just the opposite. Minerva was always about good value for the money – and for at least some years… making chronographs for auto racing. If Montblanc wants to get serious with vintage-style racing watches, then why not take it all the way and just put the Minerva name on the dial and make it a sub-brand? Just something to think about… Or maybe this is just me really wanting Montblanc to succeed with these racing-style watches, while also preserving the type of product that the Timewalker used to be.
Just one version with a few strap/bracelet options of Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph was released for 2018. Cerrato wanted to really emphasize his intent to feature the “panda dial” look with an off-white face and black-colored sub-dials. One of the neatest details in the watch is the subtle integration of the Montblanc logo inside of the left-most chronograph sub-dial. Speaking of the sub-dials they are very “era-appropriate,” utilizing contrasting hands and effective textures for legibility. Here is when purists will cry out for the date window to be removed – but remember that in mainstream consumer outlets, watches with the date tend to sell a little bit better. Sorry fellow nerds, not all watches are made with our tastes in mind.
At 43mm wide in mostly steel on the wrist, the Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph continues to be masculine but not overly large. I will say that the Manufacture Chronograph seems to be among the thicker of the Timewalker models (at 15.2mm thick). But then again, I did mostly wear it on the bund-style strap. The case is also water-resistant to 100m and has a slightly domed, AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial.
For this model Montblanc decided to use a fixed bezel – once again a monobloc piece of black ceramic – with an emblematic tachymeter scale on the bezel surface. With the matching black crown, the overall two-tone steel and black look of the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph is eye-catching and effortlessly bold. Other nice details on the case and dial such as the style of the hour markers and the semi-skeletonized lugs are throwbacks to the previous generation Timewalker models (even though Montblanc’s press materials erroneously link these design features with some nonsense related to car racing).
Powering the Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph is the Montblanc caliber MB 25.10. This new chronograph appears to be built like a tank, albeit one with pretty decoration. It’s a rather massive 7.9mm thick, part of which is the automatic rotor that is made from a solid piece of tungsten (and happens to be shaped like a vintage race car steering wheel). The movement doesn’t stand out in any particular way from a feature or performance standpoint, but it also doesn’t seem to have many drawbacks either. With 46 hours of power reserve and 4Hz operating frequency, the movement also has a stop seconds feature which is handy. The 12-hour chronograph is column wheel controlled, and has a horizontal clutch system. With that said, Montblanc isn’t charging vast amounts of money for these watches and the presence of the in-house movement is nice. If you think about it and take the price of the watch into consideration, then you quickly realize that Montblanc most definitely has product families such as the TAG Heuer Carrera or Autavia in their crosshairs. Of course, the MB 25.10 automatic movement can be seen through a sapphire crystal (in this case made to have a smoked-tone for a darker visual experience).
Normally I am a bracelet guy, but I can’t say no to Montblanc’s black leather bund-style strap that is available for the Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph. Other options include a steel metal bracelet or a really attractive brown leather strap produced by Montblanc in Italy. Having said that, the black leather cuff strap is more interesting and at the same time really helps Mr. Cerrato feel as though he has effectively pulled all he desires from the vintage racing watch genre.
What’s in it for consumers? Well the most important thing is the reasonably fair price of the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph. It also happens to be the rare case of an enthusiast product that is also intended for the mainstream (which was a strategy Mr. Cerrato helped employ while at his previous job at Tudor). While I am not always sure how new collectors will respond to products such as this, I do know that if Montblanc markets this product well, it could have the mainstream appeal that it deserves. Price for the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph reference 118488 on the brown leather strap is $5,400 USD. The reference 118489 (on the steel bracelet) and the 118490 (on the black leather cuff strap) are each $5,700 USD. montblanc.com