Mountain Guide: Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
- 14 December, 2018
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In January 2018 Montblanc set out to conquer new peaks: the revamped 1858 collection not only celebrates the spirit of mountain exploration, but also the 160th anniversary of Minerva. We take a closer look at one of the collection’s highlights, the 1858 Geosphere with a new world-time complication.
Montblanc’s Most Essential Watch Collection. The 1906-founded company started to use the name “Montblanc” in 1910 and logo of the white stylized six-pointed snowcap with rounded edges from 1913 on. Both the logo and the company’s name represent the Mont Blanc (meaning “White Mountain”), the highest mountain in the Alps. It rises 15,777 feet above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence.
The first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc was completed on August 8, 1786, by Savoyard mountain guide Jacques Balmat (1762-1834) and doctor and alpinist Michel Gabriel Paccard (1757-1827). The expedition was later described by English Himalayan mountaineer Eric Earle Shipton (1907-1977) as “an astounding achievement of courage and determination, one of the greatest in the annals of mountaineering” and is often regarded as the start of modern mountaineering. In other words, Davide Cerrato, Managing Director of Montblanc’s Watch Division, and his team couldn’t have picked a more fitting theme for the revamped 1858 collection than mountaineering.
We had the opportunity to test the Automatic Chronograph (Ref. 117835) for the October 2018 issue. The Geosphere, however, turned out to be one of the brand’s highlight releases from this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Geneve (SIHH). The watch instantly brought a new look, theme and complication to the watchmaker’s base camp.
The 42-mm watch is dedicated to the Seven Summits Challenge, the holy grail of climbers (so far, less than 500 climbers have managed to reach the highest peak on each continent), and features a new world-time complication developed by Montblanc’s watchmakers in Villeret, Switzerland: two domed globes that complete a full rotation in 24 hours as they turn in opposite directions.
Montblanc offers two versions of the watch, a non-limited version in stainless steel and a limited edition in bronze (note: most of the pictures of the bronze version already show a bit of patina on the case) with prices starting at $5,600. Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc, said, “We want to bring fine watchmaking with content, with a lot of character, but also at a price point, which is more of an entry price point, to the fine watchmaking world.” A similar time-zone indication had already debuted in 2015 in Montblanc’s much more complicated and expensive Ref. 111676, the Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geospheres Vasco da Gama.
For the 1858 Geosphere, Montblanc had to develop a new module for the MB 24.09 automatic caliber (based on the Sellita SW300-1), which is now listed as the MB 29.25. With the additional second time-zone indicator at 9 o’clock, the Geosphere not only becomes an ideal companion for travelers, it also offers a new take on the design of a world-timer and a refreshing new theme in general. The only obvious downside: displaying every time zone simultaneously has led to a rather busy dial, which is potentially harder to decipher, and the watch does not come with a seconds hand, presumably to not make the dial any more cluttered.
Minerva’s 160th Anniversary
The 1858 collection itself pays tribute to the year in which Charles Ivan and Hyppolite Robert began doing business in Villeret, Switzerland. Their watchmaking workshop started by assembling movements and registered the Minerva brand name 1887 (the company was renamed “Minerva SA, Villeret” in 1929). Minerva became renowned for its precision chronograph movements (like the 19/9CH chronograph movement from 1908) and, of course, the famous manual-wind movement Pythagore Caliber 48 from 1948.
Minerva was acquire by Richemont in 2006 and transformed into the “Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie” in Villeret. With the Montblanc Manufacture already in Villeret, Montblanc was able to take its watchmaking expertise to a whole new level. The vintage-styled 1858 collection was first introduced in 2016 and awarded in the same year with a Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve in the Chronograph category for the first re-edition of the monopusher chronograph.
How the Geosphere Works
Montblanc has fitted the 1858 Geosphere with an in-house world-time complication with two turning domed hemisphere globes on the dial side, both make a full rotation in 24 hours. The Northern Hemisphere at 12 o’clock turns counterclockwise, while the Southern Hemisphere turns clockwise. Each globe is surrounded by a scale with the 24 time zones, along with a day/night indication in contrasting colors (black representing night and bronze, day). The IERS Reference Meridian (IRM) is shown with a white line on both globes (even easier to see in the dark).
The small red dots on the hemispheres represent the world’s Seven Summits, the highest mountains on the seven continents. The ratcheting bidirectional bezel can be used for navigation during daylight. The subdial at 9 o’clock can be used to track an additional time zone: the hand can be set independently in one-hour jumps clockwise by pushing the small pinsized corrector pusher at the 10 o’clock position on the side of the case.
The crown can be pulled out in two steps. The first position allows the wearer to move the hour hand independently in one-hour jumps (and is therefore also used to set the date); the second position operates all indications fully synchronized. To set the watch, the two hemispheres and the correct minute need to be set with the crown fully pulled out first, then the local date ( with the crown pushed back in one stop) and the time can be set.
An Expedition Back in Time
Montblanc is not the first watch brand to pick bronze as a case material for one of its watches, and it will certainly not be the last manufacturer to benefit from the metal’s transformative properties and the unique vintage look it offers. A bronze watch develops a distinctive, aged, vintage-look patina over the course of its wearing life that can vary significantly from one watch model to the next, depending on the owner’s behavior and the alloy composition used.
In other words, the Geosphere offers true individualization over time, and most of the pictures used for this review already show a darker patina on the case. The solid caseback, however, is not made of bronze, but of titanium with a bronze-colored PVD treatment, since bronze should not be worn on bare skin (which also means that the caseback will not change its color over time).
In combination with the black ceramic bezel inlay, the vintage hands and the Montblanc logo, the beige lume and the textured globes on the dial, the Geosphere manages to look equally good on a hike and in the office. As an alternative, Montblanc offers the watch in stainless steel for those who prefer a slightly less adventurous look. Both versions are water resistant to 100 meters, even with no screw-down crown and what appears to be a snap-on caseback (resulting in a perfectly aligned caseback design).
In short, the 1858 Geosphere from Montblanc is an interesting option for anyone with the option for anyone with the wanderlust gene. The module used for the automatic movement is an innovative and convenient new in-house development from Montblanc, and the intuitive dual-globe layout cannot be found anywhere else. It may not offer the best legibility on first sight, but undoubtedly adds a lot of personality and presence to the wrist, especially when the bronze case starts to age.
As a mechanical travel watch with a unique look, the Geosphere is both versatile and comparatively affordable, and at the same time surprisingly easy to operate. It does not come with seconds hand, but the additional time zone at 9 o’clock is a more-than-welcome addition. In other words, the Geosphere offers everything one would expect from a seasoned world traveler and is sure to provide a lot of pre-trip happiness.
How To Use The Geosphere As a Compass
The bidirectional ratcheting bezel (60 clicks) on the Geosphere can be used to find and mark the approximate direction during daylight hours. From sunrise until noon in the Northern Hemisphere: hold the watch horizontally, point the tip of the hour hand at the sun and rotate the compass ring until S (South) is halfway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. The S on the bezel now points to South. At noon, the hour hand itself should point south.
From noon to sunset: Point the tip of the hour hand at the sun and rotate the compass ring until S (South) is halfway between the hour hand and 12:00. In the Southern Hemisphere, hold the watch horizontally and point the 12 o’clock index in the direction of the sun. The north-south line is now halfway between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock index and the bezel can be rotated accordingly.
As an alternative, the Montblanc 1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition (Ref. 118485, limited to 100 pieces) is already equipped with a built-in compass. It is powered by the brand’s new manufacture Caliber MB M16.24, a beautifully handcrafted monopusher movement with the iconic V-shaped bridge and Minerva arrow, based on the manual-wind Minerva monopusher chronograph Caliber 17.29. The pocketwatch can be positioned on a table with a stand or combined with a built-in compass that can be accessed by opening it up to lay flat on a map.
The back of the compass features an engraving of the four cardinal points, which are enhanced with Super-LumiNova. The case alone consists of more than 50 elements and can be transformed into a wristwatch, thanks to a custommade brown “Sfumato” aged calfskin strap with two pin buckles and a cover. The 60-mm pocketwatch is made of grade-2 titanium, and the dial is crafted from Dumortierite stone, named after famed French explorer Eugene Dumortier, who discovered it in the Alps mountain chain in 1881. It retails for €48,000 (approx. $56,000).