Montblanc, the luxury brand best known for their writing instruments, may not be the first name that pops in your head when you think of watches but the German maison is pushing hard to change that perception. In recent years, it has taken significant strides to attract the attention of watch enthusiasts and collectors the world over with a spate of interesting launches that range from haut de gamme timepieces that cost tens of thousands of dirhams to sturdy value propositions.
A quirky little timepiece from Montblanc may have gone unnoticed this year amidst a torrent of new releases. Meet the new 1858 24H, a one-handed watch that can also be used a compass in a pinch. The watch sits in Montblanc’s 1858 collection, a range of sporty vintage-style watches that are inspired by the military watches Minerva made in the 1920’s and 30’s. I should hastily add here that Minerva was a boutique watch brand founded in 1858 that was acquired by the Richemont Group and integrated into Montblanc’s watchmaking division in 2007; ten years after the German brand first started making watches.
A one-hand watch is not new – brands like Meistersinger have carved a niche for themselves by producing watches that use only hand to indicate time – and the concept isn’t entirely new either. Tower clocks in the Middle Ages used one hand to indicate the flow of time.
The Montblanc 1858 24H has plenty of character. As far as first impressions go, the watch has a vintage navigation instrument-like feel thanks to the use of brushed steel and bronze on the case, not to mention the map with the meridian lines on the dial. A red SuperLuminova-coated hand sweeps over a 24-hour scale that starts and ends at the 6 o’ clock position. There are 15 minute-markers on the scale, measuring short intervals of time is not this watch’s raison d'être. Clearly, the watch is for leisure days.
A compass scale with the cardinal points in red is displayed in a beige ring on the flange, with markers for approximately every five degrees. The central hand also acts the compass pointer. How does the compass work? In the Northern Hemisphere, hold the watch horizontally to the ground and rotate it until the extremity of the hour hand is pointing towards the sun. All the cardinal points on the dial will now be aligned correctly. North is located at 24h and South at 12h. In the Southern Hemisphere, the cardinal points are inversed. The map of the Northern Hemisphere and the lines of the 24 meridians have a luminescent coating that glows in the dark. The bold hour markers have a beige SuperLuminova coating.
The 42-mm-wide brushed steel case uses a bezel made of a special alloy of bronze; the same material is also seen on the winding crown. The caseback has a “Spirit of Mountain Exploration” engraving like most of the other watches in the 1858 line. It is powered by Caliber MB 24.20, a Sellita movement customized to work with a 24-hour hand. The watch is presented with a black, NATO strap made by Julien Faure, the 150-year-old French weavers that famously supply Tudor’s fabric straps. The watch is priced at $3,030 (Approx. Dh11,127).