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Montblanc's Vasco da Gama-Inspired Timepiece Collection

Exploring the pieces with Director of Watches, Alexander Schmiedt

by David Graver
on 13 April 2015
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Inspiration strikes in many ways, but for an explorer at heart, there's nothing quite like hearing the tales of early adventurers. This can certainly be said of the tales surrounding Vasco da Gama, who sailed from Lisbon in 1497 and found the first southern seaway to India. He also did so with the most rudimentary tools—guided primarily by the stars. While there's nothing rudimentary about the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Collection—a series of recent releases from the luxury brand—they do draw inspiration from that seafaring voyage. Some of the pieces within (the Chronométrie Dual Time, Quantième Annuel Vasco da Gama and ExoTourbillon Chronograph) marry the best of traditional Swiss watchmaking with this newfound design stimulus. And at the core of each is a precise time-telling machine that also happens to stun visually.

"The key value of fine watchmaking has been precision, which in French is chronométrie," explains Montblanc's Director of Watches Alexander Schmiedt. "Precision was also fundamental in Vasco de Gama's discoveries, in connecting the two hemispheres. Only by his real obsession with precision, he could find the way—and his guiding story was the stars. When we develop a series, we begin with the story we want to tell, and then find a way to link it to the design and development."

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At the heart of the collection stands the ExoTourbillon Chronograph. Inside, two complications demonstrate an impressive attention to detail: the chronographic movement and a patented tourbillon construction. This is the result of an ExoTourbillon mechanism that they've developed at their Minerva Manufacture in Villeret integrated into their own monopusher automatic chronograph caliber. The piece has 296 components and incorporates 44 rubies. "It's a very special tourbillon. We are able to make the very highest level of innovation and craftsmanship, which we can at first make only in very small quantities. But with these innovations, in time they can extend into larger collections—like this, where we have completely made a new tourbillon construction, taken the balance wheel out and put the cage underneath." It's as technically interesting as the dial is engaging.

Of the other notable pieces, the Quantième Annuel Vasco da Gama offers a full annual calendar and moon phase. This moon phase indicator bears an embedded depiction of the Southern Hemisphere stars, complete with the Starry Cross visible, as well as the warm, red star named Gamma. "There's a sophisticated moon phase here, with the set of constellations exactly as they were when Vasco da Gama went around the Cape of Good Hope." says Schmiedt. The Calibre MB 29.18 mechanical movement and the functionality of the watch allow for an easy adjustment of the calendar functions. The same can be said regarding the Chronométrie Dual Time, featuring a Calibre MB 29.19 with Manufacture complication—where a second time zone and a day/night display provided additional features. As precise as the movements within, each watch also carries precision in the finish details. From sunburst pattern and facetted indexes to rhodium plating and côtes de Genève, they're nuanced works for the wrist.

The Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Collection is now available in store at Montblanc retailers.

Images courtesy of Montblanc

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