October is the month that Montblanc honours a heritage that dates back to 1858, when two watchmakers founded a small factory in Villeret, in the Swiss Jura region. Their timepieces were later branded as Minerva, whose present-day partnership with Montblanc continues the art of haute horlogerie.
A close-up of the tourbillon and the double-eight bridge.
In October 2008, Minerva's 150th birthday was marked by the presentation of the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 and Grand Tourbillon Heures Mysterieuses. The latest in the Villeret 1858 models, the 2013 Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique comes with a cylindrical double balance-spring, claimed to be another first in the industry.
The development of these watches was overseen by Demetrio Cabiddu, who has been Montblanc's master watchmaker and technical director since 2007.
"I have spent a lifetime in watchmaking and have come to an age when I'm doing it for my own pleasure," said Cabiddu. "I start with an idea that is attractive to me and only when inspired, can I make others feel fascinated too. But my objective is not to please the market. But if that happens _ good."
Chronographe Regulateur from the Villeret 1858 collection.
He started watchmaking in 1967, at the tender age of 15. The apprenticeship gave him the opportunity to work on the calibre 27 CHROC12 in wristwatches worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their Moon expedition in 1969.
Moreover, he has always worked in Villeret to be a part of the pinnacle in watchmaking. One of his inspirations was to make the world's largest tourbillon that is beautiful to the eyes.
"According to theory, you can make a tourbillon more precise by either making it faster or bigger," he said. "Aesthetically, a bigger tourbillon beating at a slow pace is more appealing than a fast tourbillion that beats like crazy. A big tourbillon compares to a marathon runner whereas a fast tourbillon compares to a 100m sprinter. I prefer the marathon runner."
For the new Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique, Cabiddu considered if it would it be possible to miniaturise and transplant the beating heart of an 18th-century ship's chronometer into a tourbillon rotating inside the case of a wristwatch?
Two centuries ago, an escapement with a cylindrical balance-spring allowed ship chronometers to tick steadily and precisely despite turbulent waves and extreme temperature variations. Thus mariners could rely on them to navigate the oceans, erring by only a few nautical miles in their calculated positions.
The Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique is claimed to be the first wristwatch with a tourbillon escapement and a cylindrical double balance-spring, which doesn't swing to and fro in a single plane, but expands and contracts along a vertical axis as though its gyres were the threads around a bolt.
In this cylindrical form, the spring eliminates the slight eccentricity of the centre of gravity, which has always been the Achilles heel of spirally coiled balance-springs.
Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique unveils the secret of the floating hour and minute hands.
The new model also reveals the hidden mechanism of the Grand Tourbillon Heures Mysterieuses display in which the hour and minute hands seem to float weightlessly above a mirrored plane. Andreas Boesch, managing director, Montblanc Southeast Asia, said that the unveiling is doubly attractive because aficionados can admire both the fascinating floating time display and the cunningly designed mechanism that propels it.
"Today if you buy a mechanical watch, you don't buy it to primarily tell the time but to appreciate the quality, skill and craftsmanship.
"For me, the wonderful watch mechanism is a proof of what humans can imagine and create," said Boesch, who took up his post on Oct 1.
The Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 also includes Chronographe and Exotourbillon Chronographe.
The Manufacture in Villeret also created the TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi-Frequence 1,000 which can measure elapsed intervals to the nearest thousandth of a second.
"The Manufacture has given Montblanc world firsts, and it's exciting to move on and do something that has never been done before," said Boesch.
"The watches are also made to last a lifetime and that is particularly important for watch collectors."
TimeWriter II Chronographe Bi-Frequence 1,000.