For a while, it seemed like Montblanc might be quietly abandoning what is one of the more creative, fascinating, and traditionally inspired chronographs in modern watchmaking — the  Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watch collection. Thankfully, after a few slow years, 2021 saw the brand turn its attention towards this special chronograph that seems to still fly under the radar of many watch lovers.

Why is it worthy of a blip on that radar? Well, the Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watch debuted as a properly bespoke package in 2007: Its completely unique dial layout was a dead giveaway of the fact that it’s not another restyled ETA chronograph by Montblanc but the polar opposite of that. Given the considerable expense in R&D and the fact that the design aged impressively well, Montblanc has kept the Rieussec chronograph around with little, yet notable tweaks to keep it sharp and relevant today.

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Upon its debut the Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watch collection stood out with its unique chronograph time display. Inspired by what at the time — in the 2000s — was believed to have been the first-ever chronograph, it had the chronograph subdial discs rotate under static hands, whereas all other chronograph watches used hands that orbited over static subdials. Nicolas Rieussec’s invention was first tested in 1821 in Paris when it was validated by the Académie des Sciences. When stopped, Rieussec’s stopwatch pressed inked markers against the rotating discs, hence marking the elapsed time. At the risk of stating the obvious, Montblanc’s watch does not use ink but stopped time can still be read from the location of the discs under the stationary marker that mimics the style of dauphine hands.

The dials on these new-for-2023 Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watches feature a clous de Paris (i.e. hobnail) pattern, a stylish choice to go with the reference to the Parisian presentation of Rieussec’s original in 1821. The golden text on the flange ring between 4 and 8 o’clock is a rather more debatable choice. Other neat details include the sandwich subdial for the time, the date frame secured by golden or blued screws, and the overall intricacy and quality of the dial itself that puts a lot of the sub-$10,000 competition — even from Richemont sister brands — to shame.

The movement is, again, something that is rarely matched when it comes to performance or the number of unique and thoughtful details even in this highly competitive segment. The self-winding rotor carries over the dial decoration — it is all too often we see different dials added to spice a tired design up while on the back things remain completely unchanged. Its Montblanc star logo aligns with the exposed column wheel as well as the balance wheel and part of the going train exposed just above it.

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The double-barrel Montblanc MB R200 caliber was also ahead of the curve of the 72-hour trend as it offered that 3-day power reserve in the late 00s and combined it with a modern 4Hz operating frequency and a higher moment of inertia (12 mg²•cm). It was the two barrels that pushed the going train to the lower half of the movement where it was arranged in a straight line, another hint at a thoroughly new and fresh construction. In other words, the Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph features a fully bespoke caliber with bragging rights and decent decoration.

These two 2023 versions of the Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph measure 43mm wide and, although no measurements are provided for these two references, these tend to come in at a chunky 15mm thick, arguably a compromise necessitated by the bulky movement and the complex, multi-layered dial. Speaking of complex indications, we should add that the Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watch can display time in a second time zone with a hand that can be hidden under the main hour hand when not in use — it can be adjusted using the pusher in the side of the case, while the other pusher is solely responsible for the starting, stopping, and resetting of the chronograph. To make reading the time in that second time zone error-proof there is an AM/PM display integrated into the main dial (some previous versions had an arched cut-out to the left of the time dial).

The Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watches come in either a black DLC-coated stainless steel case with a black-and-golden dial, limited to just 500 iterations, and a bare steel version with a blue dial, rhodium-coated hands and counters, and no limitation. They come on matching textile straps and folding clasps that are not among the slimmest or most comfortable out there.

The black DLC-coated Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watch is priced at 8,600 Euros while the blue-dial Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph watch is priced at 8,300 Euros. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

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