Montblanc : all about history and wide, open spaces

The Montblanc 1858 and Heritage collections draw on the elegant Minerva watches of the 1920s to 1950s. Time to embrace a period when watches were still indispensable instruments.

By Yannick Nardin

Few can make the same claim. Drawing on the heritage of the Minerva movement manufacture, Montblanc’s present Centre of Excellence devoted to watches and quality has been constantly in operation for over 160 years. Based in Villeret, Switzerland, the watchmaking house named after a goddess was initially renowned for its chronometers, firstly in pocket watch format, then as stopwatches and wristwatches. In 1936, it notably produced a remarkable mechanical stopwatch with 100th of a second accuracy. Merged with Montblanc in 2007, the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie is today devoted to the brand’s most exceptional designs. Its comprehensive know-how and production capacity – including the manufacture of balance springs – make it a vast source of creativity. In 2019, the combined expertise of Montblanc and Minerva gave rise to five new Montblanc 1858 models and a new Heritage collection.

History, here and now

With its ‘Reconnecting Through Nature’ campaign, Montblanc set the scene for its new 1858 watches. It presents two men – fashion photographer Dennis Leupold and composer and singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson – transported from a busy day at work to a break in the wilderness. ”This campaign is a reminder to us all of how important it is to spend time in the great outdoors to reconnect with ourselves and with the world,” sums up Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc. Inspired by the Minerva chronographs of the 1920s and 1930s, the 1858 models draw not only from the manufacture’s watchmaking history but also from nature as an authentic experience. On the dial of the 1858 Geosphere, two rotating globes represent the northern and southern hemispheres, while a second time zone evokes the world waiting to be explored. The collection’s cases, available in bronze and in a steel version for the 1858 Automatic, develop their own patina over time. The bronze tones harmonise with the khaki NATO strap and the beige Arabic numerals on the dial. The railtrack minute circle, old Montblanc logo, cathedral hands, notched crown and thick sapphire box crystal enhance the models’ vintage aesthetics. Each of these versions, limited to 1,858 pieces, is water-resistant to 100 metres and is subjected to Montblanc’s 500 hours test in extreme conditions.

Company status
Société anonyme (public limited company) of the Richemont group
Senior Management
Nicolas Baretzki, CEO
Number of employees
Flagship collections
1858, Heritage, Star Legacy, TimeWalker, Bohème
Retail prices
From CHF 1,735 to 280,000
Annual production


A time for heritage

The new Heritage collection is also redolent of tradition, as much for its technical characteristics as for its aesthetics. With its perpetual calendar and monopusher chronograph models, it is inspired by the classic Minerva watches of the 1940s and 1950s. The monopusher chronograph movement beats at 18,000 vibrations per hour, a classic frequency that allows the wearer to admire the oscillations of the balance. It is regulated by a hand-made terminal coil balance spring. The Heritage collection features chronographs with a counter indicating the 3, 6 and 9 minute intervals of a payphone – a reference to old telephone booths, when conversations were marked by the cadence of falling coins.

The Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph monopusher chronograph, a limited edition of 100 pieces, is reminiscent of the ‘doctors’ watches’ used in the past to take the pulse. Also released as a limited edition of 100 pieces, the Montblanc Heritage Perpetual Calendar in rose gold displays a second time zone in addition to its perpetual calendar. The different versions in the Heritage collection come with salmon, smoked caramel and silver white coloured dials. The cases in gold or brushed steel have case backs that are either open or engraved with the Minerva manufacture’s logo. Sfumato straps by Richemont Pelletteria, the group’s leather workshop based in Florence, Italy, complete these timepieces.

The limited edition Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph is a reinterpretation of a Minerva military watch from the 1930s.

Collectors with a taste for adventure

Inspired by a Minerva military chronograph from the 1930s, the new Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph pays tribute to Minerva’s professional watches designed for military use and exploration. Like the original timepiece, the Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph is equipped with a telemetric scale on the edge of the dial to measure, for example, the distance of lightning during a storm. The timepiece also features a tachymeter at the centre of the dial (calibrated for 1,000 metres) in a colimaçon snail shape to determine the speed of a moving object over three minutes. The chronograph equipping this model comprises a split-time function developed by the Montblanc engineers to measure intermediate times without interrupting the ongoing measurement of a longer elapsing time. Dedicated to collectors, the Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph is limited to 100 pieces.