For SIHH 2016, Montblanc is releasing a limited edition version of their prolific TimeWalker collection featuring their Exotourbillon complication and a monopusher chronograph. The Montblanc TimeWalker’s rather fascinating modern design with its skeletonized lug structure, legible dial, and accessibility at a reasonable price (a general range of something like $2,800-$7,500) renders it one of the key model lines of the brand. The Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Limited Edition 100 is what the brand refers to as the “peak” of the TimeWalker line, and it’s certainly for good reason.
First, to fill in anyone who isn’t totally familiar with what ExoTourbillon is: this is one of Montblanc Villeret’s (the skunkworks behind the brand, developing highly complicated watches) in-house complications. It is basically centered around the idea of placing the balance wheel outside of the rotating cage of the tourbillon. The practical benefits of it are twofold in that this allows the cage to be smaller and lighter (allegedly saving 30% energy), and the balance wheel somehow isn’t affected by the cage’s inertia, which in turn is said to improve timekeeping performance.
Montblanc’s MB R230 movement is an automatic caliber with two barrels providing 50 hours of power reserve and powering the one-minute ExoTourbillon. When it comes to setting the exact time, a stop-second or “hacking” mechanism helps. This last part is noteworthy because stopping and restarting a tourbillon is considerably more difficult to engineer than with a normal movement. This is a feature found in some pricier watches like the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 watch (hands-on here) but a little different.
What the stop-second mechanism essentially does is it stops the tourbillon when you pull out the crown, allowing you to set the watch to a reference time more accurately. What’s new with the ExoTourbillon’s hacking mechanism is that it stops just the balance wheel from oscillating rather than bringing the entire tourbillon cage to a halt. This way, when the crown is pushed back in and the movement has to restart, the balance wheel picks up the pace much faster than the stopped tourbillon cage could. Consequently, you get the precision of the stop-second mechanism without the effects of involving the tourbillon. Surely, a solution to an ultra-niche horological problem, but a cool thing to see function.
Moving on, a slightly more everyday/practical benefit this watch provides is an hour setting, allowing the wearer to easily adjust the hour and the date, without interfering with the minutes.
Montblanc describes the looks of the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Limited Edition 100 as “urban,” and while we’re not sure if that’s the word to use, it’s clear that they’re going for a look that applies a high-end complication to a watch that’s a little bit sportier and more of an everyday-wear than what we might be used to. The three-part case made up of titanium, carbon fibre, and DLC provides some reassurance of the watch’s durability, but also lends some edge to the design.
Nevertheless, it’s certainly a busy-looking watch and one that is more about displaying complicated-looking functions and features than using the dial’s substantial real estate very efficiently. With an off-center hour and minutes dial framing a rather small but still quite legible date indication, and with the semi-circular sub-dials of the chronograph seconds and minutes just above the polished bridge of the ExoTourbillon, things get busy and texts and fonts get tiny. The entirely redundant minute track on the periphery of the dial just adds to the flair. Still, the red, black, and white color scheme appears contrasty, sporty, and rugged – an impressive look Montblanc has been getting right lately.
It’s not a small watch by any means, sitting 44mm wide and 16.27mm tall on the wrist. Of course, large sizing should not be surprising given the relatively bold design cues of this watch. Confirming the fact that Montblanc wants to drive home the sporty (or “urban”) nature of this watch is the red ring framing the dial and the black alligator strap with red stitching. A bit on-the-nose, but it seems to work pretty well. Despite all the rugged looks and materials, like most complicated watches, this monopusher chronograph tourbillon is a rather delicate thing – and with 30 meters of water resistance, you will want to keep it out of the water.
The Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Limited Edition 100 will, unsurprisingly, have a run of 100 pieces made. They probably will not have a hard time finding people to scoop them up given that you get a more rare sporty-looking high-complication watch at a price point that is in fact very competitive when it comes to tourbillon chronograph timepieces. Last but not least, it is an interesting potential take on what Montblanc might be thinking for the future with more mass-produced pieces. Price for the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Limited Edition 100 watch is €39,500.