Montblanc Continues With Affordable Complications for 2016
Forget Christmas. Forget New Year's Eve. At this time of year, watch lovers are anxiously awaiting the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the first major watch industry event of the year. Beginning on Jan. 18, more than 20 watchmakers will gather in Geneva to give retailers, journalists, and top collectors their first looks at what will be hitting wrists in 2016. Montblanc, though, has given us an early look at two new models it will be introducing in Switzerland, and (spoiler alert) they look great.
Over the last few years, under the leadership of Jerome Lambert, chief executive officer, Montblanc has been steadily ramping up its watch offerings, with a particular focus on bringing out complicated models at prices significantly lower than those of the competition. Last year there was the Orbis Terrarum worldtimer; the year before, it was a perpetual calendar under $13,000. Because Montblanc wasn't previously known for watchmaking, the brand is aggressively creating a narrative wherein it offers high quality products at reasonable prices. These watches continue this story.
The Heritage Chronométrie Date by Hand is a great entrée into the manufacture, despite the clumsy name. The 40 millimeter case is thin at just 9.85mm, making it an easy watch to wear with a suit or a sweater, and the red gold markers and hands add just enough bling to keep the dial from looking boring. The news here, though, is the new date display at 3 o'clock, which uses the less common dial with a hand, instead of the customary window. It is meant to resemble vintage chronographs, with the running seconds- and minute-totalizer registers, and I think it's a nice, slightly dressier option.
The big gun is the Heritage Chronométrie Chronograph Annual Calendar, which combines two useful complications in one package. Here, the case is a little bigger, at 42mm wide and 13.83mm thick. The two complications share registers, so you need to know what you're looking at. While the moonphase at 3 o'clock is somewhat obvious, down at 6 o'clock are the day of the week and the hours counter for the chronograph. Then, at 9 o'clock, you'll find the month and the chronograph's minutes counter, and up at 12 o'clock, the date and the running seconds. It's a little busy, but you get all the date info (and have to adjust it only once a year, at the end of February), plus a timer for your trouble.
After the most difficult year for Swiss watches in almost a decade, the industry (at least, some of it) is recalibrating. Customers are more educated than ever. Those opting for a mechanical timepiece instead of an Apple Watch want to know they're getting something of genuine horological value, though they're tired of paying prices inflated by years of a strong Swiss Franc and ballooning sales in Asia.
Another nice touch is that both watches come in stainless steel and red gold, so you can opt for something with an everyday quality or a slightly special metal. The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Date By Hand will be priced at €2,790 ($3,050) in steel and €2,950 ($3,250) in gold, and the Annual Calendar Chronograph will be priced at €9,500 ($10,450) in steel and €18,900 ($20,700) in gold. Both watches will become available in early 2016; final retail prices might change before they hit stores, based on currency fluctuations.