Fluted bezels are not a Rolex exclusive. Omega puts a fluted bezel on the Constellation Globemaster, for instance. But still, a bezel with multiple facets reflecting light has an inescapably strong Rolex vibe. But did you know that back in 1927, the Minerva Manufacture in Villeret made a fluted bezel? Well, it did. And in 1939, the brand produced a chronograph with a rotating fluted bezel with a red marking on it. And that last bezel is back. During Watches & Wonders 2022, Montblanc presents the Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88. And in the same Montblanc 1858 collection, the brand also launches a new Geosphere travel watch with an extra chronograph function, plus an icy cold dive watch in three colors.

Minerva is a famous name. For those who love stopwatches and chronographs, the name has certain a ring to it. I visited the Minerva manufacture in Villeret once, and it really is a treasure trove. Cabinet drawers are filled with crazy-cool stopwatch and chronograph dials. And the specialized chronographs and stopwatches for different timekeeping purposes that they have at the manufacture are intriguing and exciting – think colorful dials, crazy-shaped hands, et cetera. One watch that must have been there, but I didn’t see, was a 1927 pilot’s stopwatch with an internal rotating bezel for countdown timing. I also missed the 1939 chronograph wristwatch with an external rotating bezel. But Laurent Lecamp — watch boss at Montblanc — did stumble across them somehow, somewhere. Now, these rare timepieces with external rotating bezels are part of Montblanc’s museum collection and provided the inspiration for the new 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88.

Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88

The first thing you notice is the fluted bezel. Why is it fluted? Because a fluted turning bezel is easy to operate while wearing pilot’s gloves. That was the reason many decades ago. And the brand’s signature red arrow allowed a quick and easy reading of elapsed time, making it very functional in the early days of aviation. But the red arrow is also a nod to the Roman goddess Minerva, the goddess of craftsmanship, who carried a spear with an arrow at its tip.

The new Montblanc 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow LE88 has a fluted bezel but in luxurious, sparkling 18K white gold this time. In addition to the 30-minute chronograph, aligning the red arrow with the seconds, minute, or hour hand provides an additional method to track elapsed time. In theory, of course. This pilot’s watch is meant to fly you down memory lane and aid in your experience of Haute Horlogerie. It’s not really meant to navigate you through the skies in a DC-2. But I guess if it does, then more power to you!

Montblanc 1858

Jet black but with a nostalgic propeller vibe

The dial of the 1858 Minerva Monopusher Chronograph Red Arrow is jet black. The beige Super-LumiNova hands and Arabic numerals that glow green in low light conditions, on the other hand, give the watch more of a propeller feel. There is also a telemeter scale that runs around the outside of the dial as well as a spiral tachymeter scale in the center. Inside the 42mm steel case (slowly) beats the 18,000vph (2.5 Hz) MB M13.21 split-second chronograph. The movement utilizes a column-wheel mechanism and is based on the MB M19.09 caliber. The V bridge is inspired by the view of the mountain ridge seen from the windows of the Villeret workshop. It’s a shape so distinctive that its design was protected in 1912. Other highlights to mention are the in-house hairspring, manual snail finishing, and hand-chamfered Minerva arrow. It’s a limited edition of 88 pieces and the price is €32,000.

Montblacn 1858

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen LE290

Montblanc’s latest 1858 Geosphere creation features a brand-new chronograph movement that is devoid of all oxygen. Why? Well, because having zero oxygen inside the movement eliminates fogging, which can occur with drastic temperature changes at altitude. But zero oxygen also prevents oxidization, helping all the components last far longer and providing greater precision over time. But who needs that? The answer to that question is Nepalese-born mountaineer Nimsdai Purja. In May 2022, he will undertake an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen while wearing the new Geosphere.

To ensure that Purja can depend on his watch at temperatures as low as -50°, specific oils lubricate the movement. The MB 29.27 caliber inside is an automatic world time movement with an additional chronograph function. This marks a first for the Geosphere. This automatic movement beats at 28,800vph (4 Hz) and delivers approximately 46 hours of power reserve.

Laser-generated oxidation for a colorful Everest depiction

The 100m water-resistant 44 × 17.10mm titanium case displays mostly brushed finishing with polished accents. The knurled bezel features a black ceramic insert with engraved cardinal points coated with blue-glowing Super-LumiNova. On the titanium case back, a 3D laser-generated, colorfully oxidized engraving shows the highest mountain in the world. It’s the very habitat that Montblanc designed this watch for.

The dial shows a thematically blue-and-black glacier look. There are also the characteristic cathedral-shaped hour and minute hands, a luminescent timezone hand, as well as Northern and Southern hemisphere indicators with blue shading for the oceans and silver continents. Montblanc will build 290 pieces, a number that is a nod to the 29,031 feet that Nimsdai Purja will need to climb to reach Everest’s summit. The price is €7,900.

Montblanc 1858

Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date

You don’t need a scuba diving suit or swimming shorts to fully appreciate the 1858 Iced Automatic Date dive watches. Instead, you need a helmet, a pickaxe, and warm clothing. The frozen dials of both the green and blue sports watches take inspiration from the lakes of the Mont-Blanc Massif.

It’s the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) where Montblanc’s designers saw the crystals and texture of the ancient glacial ice that inspired them to do dials with a similar structure. And there are three colors to choose from — black, blue, and green. Each dial, although a mere 0.5mm in height, creates the illusion of depth. This could only be done by using an almost-forgotten ancestral technique called gratté boisé as the base.

Montblanc 1858

Ice on the front, 3D relief image on the back

The new Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date diving watches are water-resistant to a depth of 300 meters. They each feature a 41mm steel case with a bi-color ceramic unidirectional rotating bezel. The case back shows a 3D relief engraving of an iceberg and a scuba diver exploring the glacial waters below. This engraving starts with the metal being structured by laser to create a 3D relief image that provides depth and realism. I dare say that Montblanc produces some of the nicest case backs today — remember the 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition 1858 with its colorful Gobi Desert engraving on the case back?

Montblanc 1858

The movement is less extraordinary, but reliable nonetheless. That’s because Montblanc uses the automatic 4Hz caliber MB 24.17. Indeed, it’s a movement based on the Sellita SW-200. A nice eco touch is the recyclable watch pouch you get with the watch. An Iced Sea Automatic Date on a steel bracelet will set you back €2,950. If you opt for the rubber strap, the price is €2,750.

Find more information on the Montblanc 1858 novelties for Watches &Wonders 2022 on the brand’s official website.

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