OVER 160 YEARS OF TRADITION
The Montblanc watchmaking story began in 1858, when Charles-Yvan Robert founded his workshop in Villeret, in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Though he didn’t realise it at the time, this marked the beginning of the historic Minerva era. Over the century-and-ahalf that followed, Minerva would become one of the world’s leading specialists in precision chronometry for professionals.
By the 1880s, the manufacture had built a solid reputation for innovation with pocket watches that were wound with the crown, leaving traditional winding keys behind. And that was just the beginning. Minerva then turned its focus to precision timing, becoming a leading specialist in the fabrication of professional pocket watches and stopwatches.
It began with a line of monopusher chronographs, culminating in 1916 with the production of a stopwatch accurate to 1/100th of a second. Just a few years later Minerva invented the calibre 13.20, one of the first manually wound monopusher chronographs ever developed for wristwatches, marking a new chapter in the manufacture’s history. Around a decade later, the legendary calibre 17.29 made its debut – one of the slimmest monopusher chronographs, measuring just 5.6 mm in height.
"The watchmakers have the know-how to produce their own balance springs entirely by hand."
The original Minerva ateliers remain abuzz with activity, today serving as the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret. Every movement component is still carefully crafted and decorated by hand, even including the balance springs. The manufacture is one of a very select few around the world in which the watchmakers have the know-how to produce their own balance springs entirely by hand. Length is measured not with today’s electronics, but by well-trained eyes, in accordance with tradition, for the utmost accuracy.
Today, Montblanc timepieces continue the journey of Minerva’s over 160-year legacy in four fine watchmaking explorations: Star Legacy, 1858, Bohème and Heritage, every lines are linking the past and the present through design, style and technical innovation.
Two manufacturers. One passion.
The Montblanc factory in Villeret, Montblanc’s Movement & Innovation Excellence Center, is located in the same building in which the legendary Minerva was founded in 1858 and focuses on the development, prototyping and assembly of all in-house movements from innovative and groundbreaking high-complications to small highly functional complications.
This location in Villeret is one of the last ones where most of the traditional horological operations, with all their micromechanical refinements, are still meticulously performed by hand – almost as though each timepiece were individually crafted as a unique item.
The company is one of the very few manufacturers able to draw on the master watchmakers, the original tools and the expertise needed to develop and produce mechanical timepieces in keeping with authentic Swiss watchmaking tradition. Following the principles of their heritage, and with constant innovation, the artisans in Villeret present exclusive developments that differ in many respects from anything that modern haute horlogerie has ever created.
At the Montblanc’s Watch & Quality Excellence Centre in Le Locle, traditional watchmaking is paired with state-of-the art technology. This is where traditional watchmaking merges with the latest technology. From aesthetic design to construction, prototyping and final assembly, all the expertise necessary to create an iconic timepiece is concentrated here.
Once the countless parts have been skilfully put together at the factory in Le Locle, the highest mark of distinction for a newly-created Montblanc timepiece is passing the rigorous testing procedure of the Montblanc Laboratory Test 500 – which tests for utmost precision and absolute perfection. The timepieces undergo a variety of controls and checks over a period of 500 hours: daily wear and tear, water resistance, numerous settings and re-settings, different climatic conditions, as well as a check of all their specific functions. It is a demanding and tough procedure that guarantees the functionality of even the most technically complex features.
The watch is only released for delivery once the quality assurance team at Montblanc's location in Le Locle is convinced that a watch upholds Montblanc’s strict quality standards. Each watch that passes the Montblanc Laboratory Test 500 is issued with an individual test certificate – labelling it worthy of Montblanc’s strict and high-quality standards.
"Watchmakers chamfer every edge, polish even the tiniest wheel and adorn plates and bridges."
Following in the footsteps of Minerva, the watchmakers developed a suspended Exo Tourbillon that features a balance wheel that is 3.2 mm higher than the dial and appears to be floating above it. This watchmaking expertise gained from high complications is also applied to the creation of functional small complications. In the Manufacture’s ateliers, all the movements’ components are meticulously crafted and decorated by hand using traditional methods. The watchmakers chamfer every edge, polish even the tiniest wheel and adorn plates and bridges with the traditional circular graining and ‘Côtes de Genève’ stripes.
Their great dexterity and skill are also indispensable in crafting delicate balance springs, an accomplishment only very few watch manufactures manage. The Manufacture in Le Locle is Montblanc’s Watch & Quality Excellence Centre, where traditional watchmaking merges with the latest technologies. From aesthetic design to construction and prototyping, all the expertise necessary to create a distinctive timepiece is concentrated here. Manifested in a superior level of craftsmanship and timelessly elegant design codes, the horological knowledge of the two manufactures is deeply embedded in all Montblanc timepieces, passing on the passion for fine watchmaking from grand complication timepieces to refined three-hand watches.
Hunter Pocket Watch Circa 1910
Montblanc Star Legacy Full Calendar
From Past to Present
Inspired by historical Minerva classic wristwatches from the 1940s and 1950s, the Heritage timepieces combine the elegance of watchmaking past with today’s bold design codes and technology.
Chronograph with old-school international payphone indications, Circa 1945
Heritage Monopusher Chronograph
The Montblanc 1858 finds its inspiration in the world of mountain exploration. Reinterpreting he Minerva pocket watches and chronographs from the 1920s and 1930s, the 1858 timepieces capture the sprint of the past in a modern way, expressing the trend of returning to nature and adventure.
Professional chronograph from 1930's
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
With Star Legacy, Montblanc pays tribute to Minerva’s iconic Star Collection. While retaining the key elements of legendary timepieces like the Gold Hunter pocket watch, it continues the journey of classical fine watchmaking with a modern design and enhanced finishes.