One of the most underrated qualities of Montblanc’s watch division in recent years has been its dedication to clean, vintage-inspired design that doesn’t beat you over-the-head with its old-school elements. That means while the watches frequently – and expertly – draw on mid-century dress and sport watches, they do not use a single vintage watch or collection as a source of inspiration.
Instead, Montblanc builds on the past to curate an individual design language that’s fine-tuned for modern wear, without relying on direct re-editions or forced faux-patina. Today in the HODINKEE Shop, we have a selection of five new watches that epitomize what makes Montblanc’s recent releases so appealing.
The New, Blue Montblanc 1858 Collection
Montblanc updated its 1858 collection last year with a series of cosmetic changes that transform its former vintage tool-watch style with elevated, of-the-moment blue dials that reference the color of ice high in the Swiss Alps. The first thing you might notice on all the new 1858 models – after their shared gradient blue hue – is the presence of a bidirectional blue ceramic bezel insert with compass markings. Now, this isn’t just for show – the bezel is indeed functional, but it is effectively indecipherable without a little guidance. Here’s what you should know.
The proper use of the compass bezel is dependent on the Sun’s location to you (this is not a magnetic compass), which requires knowing two things. Are you in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere? And, is it AM or PM when you’re using the compass?
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s AM, start by keeping the watch level and pointing the watch’s hour hand in the direction of the Sun. Then, adjust the bezel clockwise until the South marker is at the middle point between 12 o’clock and the hour hand’s current position. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s afternoon or evening, follow the same steps but adjust the bezel counterclockwise instead. You can now roughly orient the cardinal directions.
If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s morning, keep the watch level and point the 12 o’clock hour marker at the Sun. Adjust the bezel counterclockwise until the North marker is precisely between 12 o’clock and the hour hand’s current time. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s PM, follow the same steps but adjust the bezel clockwise instead.
Not too difficult, right?
The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Titanium
The Montblanc Geosphere is one of the most downright interesting travelers’ watches available today, and its latest execution is – in our opinion – the best-looking iteration yet. Now cased in titanium and given the option of an attractive beads-of-rice bracelet, Montblanc’s signature travel-time wristwatch has evolved quite a bit since its original 2018 introduction. Let’s take a look.
If this is the first time you’ve seen Montblanc’s Geosphere, no worries – here’s a quick primer on what you’re looking at. The multiple complications and timekeeping displays are divided as follows. The cathedral-style central hour and minute hand, with no seconds hand, indicates local time. The two three-dimensional halves of a globe, placed symmetrically at 12 and six o’clock, are divided into the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and each completes a full rotation every 24 hours. The Northern hemisphere, located at 12 o’clock, rotates counterclockwise; the Southern hemisphere, located near six o’clock, rotates clockwise. Each hemisphere is surrounded by a scale indicating all 24 time zones simultaneously, along with a day/night indicator in two colors. The longitude reference meridian for both hemispheres is highlighted by a Super-LumiNova line.
The two hemispheres can effectively be used as a general reference for the time in a specific area of the world, rather than as an exact marker. For more precise time-zone tracking, there is a second display located at nine o’clock in a 12-hour sub-dial that indicates a single time-zone of your choosing. A date aperture opposite it at three o’clock is connected to the local time. There’s also that bidirectional compass bezel we mentioned earlier, adding a final bit of complexity to the entire design.
The two hemispheres on the dial use what is called a Lambert projection (rather than the more common Azimuthal projection), and the three-dimensional domed display gives the Geosphere an impressive sense of scale and proportion. But for all the complexity on the dial, the watch is surprisingly wearable – made even more so by the use of titanium – with a 42mm diameter and a thickness of 12.8mm, a little over a single millimeter more than the standard 1858 Automatic. The continents on the dial are entirely coated with Super-LumiNova, giving the globes an interesting texture mimicking topography.
Available on a new beads-of-rice bracelet with steel interior links and outer titanium links, for $ 6,200, or a blue calfskin leather strap, for $ 5,800, the latest Montblanc Geosphere options offer a fresh take on the brand’s popular travel-time wristwatch.
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic Chronograph
One of the most honest-to-goodness compelling watches to emerge from the 1858 line is also one of the most conventional. Ever since it was first announced, this fairly straightforward, two-register watch has garnered an inside-baseball reputation among watch enthusiasts as an ideal sub-$ 5,000 Swiss-made chronograph. (The original execution even landed on our list of the Five Biggest Surprises Of SIHH 2018.)
This attractive watch is faithful to the mid-century chronograph ideal prized by so many vintage lovers, but it has the robustness and benefit of a fully modern movement. It has some design notes that recall classic pilots’ chronographs, like the Type XX, just as much as it does a standard-issue military tool watch. The latest execution feels more contemporary than ever with its fumé blue dial and the addition of the graduated compass bezel.
Make no mistake – this is a chronograph squarely targeted at the enthusiast market, but it has an attractive price tag under $ 5,000 that will endear it to anyone that happens to be cross-shopping chronographs.
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic
A watch like the simple, time-only 1858 Automatic embodies so much of what Montblanc is doing right with its design language these days. The elements that make up the whole – no date window, no central seconds, minimal branding, a compass bezel, and nice dimensions of 40mm × 11mm – allow it to be both highly attractive and eminently wearable. The onion-style crown, with its sharp fluting, is easily graspable and adds a bit of flair to the overall matte design.
The blue calfskin leather strap that Montblanc has paired with the 1858 Automatic is sourced from a Florence Pelletteria owned by Richemont, Montblanc’s parent company. It’s an extremely attractive strap, and it is of the quality not often seen at this entry-level price point, but it’s also fair to say that the 1858 Automatic, with its straightforward design, would look just as great on any number of leather or NATO-style straps.
The Montblanc 1858 Automatic is a no-nonsense field watch that offers highly wearable dimensions, an enthusiast-friendly design with smart vintage-inspired touches, and an attractive price tag of $ 2,600.
The Montblanc Heritage Monopusher Chronograph With Salmon Dial
Opposite the 1858 series is the Montblanc Heritage collection, which now houses an attractive monopusher chronograph with a lovely salmon shade on the dial. Now, a dress chronograph with a salmon dial doesn’t sound very groundbreaking – it’s a combination that’s been beloved for decades and decades – but Montblanc has added a level of refinement here with the smart and restrained use of blue and red accents and two different dial finishes. The domed central portion of the dial has a matte pink tone, while the hour track has a rich graining, adding an unexpected texture and surprising level of depth to what appears at first to be a simple design. Oh, and did we mention that it’s a monopusher?
Inspired by original Minerva monopusher chronographs from the 1940s and 1950s, this new design has a pair of sunken registers that give the dial an impressively balanced aesthetic. And don’t forget to take a closer look at the chronograph minutes register at three o’clock. Do you see where the first nine minutes are split into three separate increments? This is a reference to the days of phone booths and payphones, when you needed to keep track of how long a call went – and whether or not you needed to add more coins.
Overall, the Heritage Monopusher Chronograph has a 42mm case in polished stainless steel with curved lugs, a box-style sapphire crystal, and an engraving of the Minerva manufacture on the caseback. Montblanc has paired it with a grey Sfumato alligator leather strap, and it’s priced at $ 4,950.
Discover Montblanc Watches In The HODINKEE Shop
It wasn’t long ago that we highlighted a range of Montblanc watches placed at the top of the brand’s line-up, featuring haute horlogerie hand-finishing and high-end complications. But Montblanc also offers a number of mechanically interesting and visually attractive models in the sub-$ 10,000 category that share a similar look and feel to their more premium-minded cousins. Those watches are what we’ve shown you today.
You can explore the entire Montblanc 1858 and Heritage collections right now in the HODINKEE Shop.