2011 will be a special year for the chronograph, which celebrates its 190th anniversary. A watch complication which is nearer and dearer to the heart of Montblanc, a brand which not only epitomizes the art of high-quality Swiss watchmaking, but is also the world’s best-known manufacturer of fine writing instruments? Chronos means “time” and graphein means “to write.” The “time-writing” device, the first chronograph was unveiled by its inventor, Nicolas Rieussec, in 1821. Born in Paris in 1781, Nicolas Mathieu Rieussec established a watchmaking business on the Île de la Cité at the youthful age of twenty and studied with the best watchmakers of his era. He was appointed watchmaker to the royal court in 1817. Five years later, at a horserace on the famous Champ de Mars in Paris, he unveiled a wooden case containing a watch movement that powered two enamel dials, positioned above this one and calibrated with scales for the seconds and the minutes.
Above these dials he had affixed a slender hand with ink-filled nibs attached to its tip. While the dials turned, the timekeeper at a race could press a button the instant a horse crossed the finish line, thus triggering the hands to touch the dials and leave little ink marks on them. The running times of the individual horses and the time differences were literally written on the dials, and for the first time ever, the timekeeper could reliably capture the running times of all participants in the race without having to take his eyes off the sporting event to glance at his watch whenever one of the horses crossed the finish line. This was the first time in the history of horology that an instrument could measure precise short time intervals. However, Rieussec not only invented a new segment in watchmaking – he also gave it a name. Inspired by the notion “Writing time”, he called his invention “Chronograph”.
The directors of the Parisian racetrack were so enthusiastic about Rieussec’s chronograph that they made it their official time-measuring device. The French patent office was similarly impressed and accordingly granted a patent on the invention of the first genuinely practical chronograph to Nicolas Rieussec on 9th of March in 1822.
Montblanc first paid homage to the inventor of the device for measuring brief intervals of time by dedicating its innovative Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph to the ingenious watchmaker in 2008. As on the original chronograph from 1821, the chronograph hands do not rotate above the dials; instead, they remain motionless while the seconds-disk and minutes-disk turn underneath them. With this, Montblanc created a new face to the chronograph combining tradition with innovation.
The Rieussec chronograph is the first chronograph where the time display does not interact with the chronograph function. Thus, providing better legibility of both indications and giving the watch a strong, unique look. All subsequent Nicolas Rieussec Chronographs from Montblanc have followed this same principle. For the 190th anniversary in 2011, the watch Manufacture in the Swiss watchmaking centre of Le Locle now launches the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Anniversary Edition, which will be available in a strictly limited edition.
Typically Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec
Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the new Anniversary Edition is its unmistakable face, which distinguishes every Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph. A very subtle and pure, yet classique guilloche pattern gives emphasis to the watches iconic features. An hours-circle with black or white numerals displays the ordinary time of day: this subdial is off-centred toward the “12 o’clock” position of the main dial and held firmly in place by blued screws. At the “6 o’clock” position, the dial is traversed by the unique “smiling” V-shaped bridge which holds the ruby counter-bearings for the two chronograph-disks: the subdial at the left can tally up to sixty elapsed seconds, while the disk at the right can count a maximum of thirty elapsed minutes. Below the hour-hand and minute-hand turns a finely skeletonized date-disk, between the spokes of which can be seen a plate adorned with Geneva waves and the “MONTBLANC” emblem.
The aperture in the dial beneath the date-disk offers a view into the depths of the mechanisms of this new chronograph and reveals components of the disk coupling. The periphery of the dial is adorned with a finely grained guilloche pattern known as “grain de seigle.” Two cartouches have been left without guilloche embellishment: one of them is marked with the word “CHRONOGRAPH” and the other with the name “NICOLAS RIEUSSEC.”
A Chronograph Manufacture Movement
The MB R110 calibre deserves special attention. Assembled from 263 individual parts, it unites all the important features of the history of the chronograph. These include classical column-wheel control, as well as a modern and nearly friction-free vertical coupling which prevents wear when the chronograph function is allowed to run for a lengthy period of time.
Though it is invisible to the unaided eye, the innovative profile on the teeth of the gears likewise helps to reduce friction and thus increases the efficiency of the power transmission. The rapid-reset mechanism for the hour and date is extremely practical for travellers who journey from one time zone to another. These indicators can be reset either clockwise or counter-clockwise and without affecting the position of the minute-hand. The hand-wound Montblanc manufacture movement has two barrels which together amass a 72-hour power reserve: the remaining running autonomy is shown on the back of the watch. The back offers an impressive view through its sapphire crystal: in addition to the column-wheel, other visible highlights include the balance and its tiny adjustment screws. To enhance precision and assure the stability of the watch’s rate, the balance has a moment of inertia of 12 mg/cm2 and oscillates at a pace of 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour (4 Hz).
Red Gold, White Gold or Platinum for the Anniversary Edition
To do justice to the anniversary and the limited edition, the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Anniversary Edition Chronograph will be available only in 950 platinum and in 18 carat white or red gold. The right side of the case bears a nonslip knurled crown embellished with an inlaid Montblanc emblem in mother-of-pearl. The chronograph’s push-piece on the case’s flank occupies an unusual location at “8 o’clock,” where it is well protected against inadvertent triggering yet easily operable by the wearer’s right thumb. The massive precious-metal case is attached to a hand-sewn alligator-leather wristband. A double folding clasp made of 18 carat red or white gold facilitates convenient closure and opening of the elegant wristband.
Chronographs currently rank among the most avidly sought types of mechanical watches. This popularity makes it all more appropriate that Montblanc has chosen to pay homage to the inventor of this popular and practical complication by launching the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Anniversary Edition in 2011, the year in which the chronograph celebrates its190th birthday. The Anniversary Edition will be available only in a limited and individually numbered edition: 190 watches in eighteen carat red gold, 90 watches in eighteen carat white gold and 25 watches in 950 platinum.