One somewhat unexpected result of today's vintage watch reissue trend: homages that aim to recreate even the movement that's typically hidden behind the dial. The latest example is a fascinating new chronograph from Montblanc featuring a movement based on one that was originally developed for pocket watches in 1909.
The new Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Origins Limited Edition 100 (say that five times fast) is based on a military chronograph from the 1930s that Montblanc keeps on display in its museum in Villeret, Switzerland. Villeret is the site of their movement manufacturing facilities acquired from the legendary watch-maker Minerva, who made the vintage chronograph in question; Minerva watches inform many of Montblanc's modern collections, and these facilities offer high-end, in-house watchmaking capabilities for Montblanc.
At 46mm wide, the Minerva chronograph was giant for its time. The new Montblanc watch has the same diameter, but it's not meant as an exact reissue, as it uses bronze — a metal that's only recently come into vogue — as its case material. An "officer" (also called "hunter") case back offers a hinged lid, which opens to reveal the MB M16.29 movement. It's manually wound, so no automatic rotor obstructs the view of its 252 components.
Montblanc describes its modern MB M16.29 as a handmade "authentic reconstruction" of the 1909 Minerva movement. It's a "monopusher" chronograph. and it even runs at a rate of 2.5Hz, which is faithful to its inspiration, but uncommonly low for modern watches — most have a 4Hz frequency. Although once again produced as a horological curiosity today, monopusher chronographs are another throwback, offering a single button for the chronograph features (start, stop and reset) instead of today's familiar two-button system.
Recreating an entire movement is a significant technical challenge, and this is why it's interesting for brands like Montblanc to undertake it. A notable recent example of this approach was Omega's reverse-engineering and reconstruction of its famous 321 movement used in astronauts' Speedmaster watches. Watches like this will remain rare and expensive, but they represent the fascination enthusiasts have with both the technical and historical aspects of watches.
Only 100 examples of the Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Origins Limited Edition 100 will be produced, and each will have a price of around $35,600.