The 1858 Split Second Chronograph is Montblanc’s take on the military chronographs that Minerva made in the 1930’s. It was first presented in a striking bronze case with a black dial in 2019. It is now presented in an icy blue avatar – in grade 5 titanium with a gorgeous grand feu enamel dial.
The new 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition 100 sits atop of the offerings presented as part of Montblanc’s new 1858 Blue capsule collection. A variation of this watch was last seen as a unique piece presented for the Only Watch Auction in 2019. That particular model also featured a titanium case but a blue agate stone dial.
It is now presented in a 44 mm satin-finished, Grade 5 titanium case. It’s an interesting choice for a watch like this one – a modern, cold gray metal case that’s tougher and lighter than anything the hand-finished Caliber 16.31 has been shielded in. The case has a monopusher worked into the crown and a pusher at 2 o’ clock to activate the rattrapante function. The case is depth-rated to 100 meters and is fitted with an exhibition caseback.
The cold gray tones of the titanium case forms the perfect backdrop for the bright blue grand feu enamel dial. The use of grand feu enamel dial is a nod to the pocketwatches and chronographs Minerva made in the early 20th century. The dial has a snail-shaped tachymetric scale in white that wraps itself around the center of the dial. A telemeter scale is placed on the periphery of the dial and the bright orange accents of the dial really pop. A telemeter scale, especially, was a standard feature of military watches made in the 1920’s right up to the 1940’s. Artillery officers would use a telemeter scale to calculate how from how far away the enemy guns were firing away so that they could calibrate their shelling accordingly.
You can also use the telemeter to measure the distance of a phenomenon which is both visible and audible, like the lightning and thunder in a storm. Start the chronograph when you see lightning and stop when the sound of thunder. The position on the scale shows the distance in kilometers separating the storm from the observer.
The creation of a grand feu enamel dial requires some sublime skills. The term “grand feu” in French literally translates to the “Big Fire” and is used to describe the high heat under which these dials are baked during the production process. This is not an easy technique to master and this type of enameling can be traced back to the 17th century. Grand Feu enamel dials are known for their high durability and as mentioned before, they were often seen on Minerva pocket watches and stop watches in the early 20th century.
While the original Minerva monopusher chronograph that inspired this was powered by renowned Caliber 17.29, the 1858 Split Second Chronograph runs Caliber 16.31. This is an exquisitely-finished movement, even the hairspring in made in-house by the artisans at Minerva. Visible thanks to an exhibition caseback, the MB.16.31 has bridges made in German Silver and features haute horology finishes like Côtes de Genève, polished inner angles, circular graining and beveling. It features two column wheels, horizontal coupling, and that distinctive V-shaped bridge seen on historic Minerva movements. It has a power reserve of 50 hours and an escapement that beats at 2.5 Hz (18,000 vph).
A limited edition of 100 pieces, the watch is paired with a matching blue Sfumato alligator strap and is priced at €39,500 (AED157,825).