Minerva celebrates its 160th anniversary of rich heritage that lives on today through Montblanc’s fine watchmaking.
In October 2006, the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont bought the Fabrique d’Horlogerie Minerva SA, and one result of this acquisition was the partnership between Minerva and Montblanc.
Minerva became a department of Montblanc and was named Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie (Minerva Institute for top watchmaking art research).
Montblanc was founded in 1858 by Charles-Yvan Robert in the Saint-Imier valley, and the brand’s history is intertwined with that of Minerva’s.
As early as the 1880s, Minerva was known for its precise timekeepers, for example its innovative golden pocket watches that could be wound without a key.
In 1909, Minerva began developing chronographs and gained recognition for its precise chronometry, becoming a leading specialist in the fabrication of professional watches and stopwatches, producing movements equipped with chronograph functions, such as the iconic calibre 19.09 (19 lines/launched in 1909) and featuring the patented V-Chrono shaped bridge.
As early as 1911, the company also came up with stopwatches that could measure 1/5th of a second, rapidly increasing to 1/10th of a second.
In 1916, Minerva was one of first to produce a high-frequency movement that could measure 1/100th of a second, a development that was further improved in 1936, prompting the company to be known as the specialist in professional watches and stopwatches.
Then in the 1920s, Minerva wrote a new chapter in its history with the first manually wound monopusher chronograph – the calibre 13.20 (13 lines/launched in 1920).
Developed for wristwatches, it featured the iconic V-shaped bridge, a column wheel, a horizontal coupling and a frequency of 18,000 A/h.
The Montblanc timepieces of today continue the Minerva legacy, focusing on three unique fine watchmaking explorations – the Spirit of Mountain Exploration based on the saga of military watches (Montblanc1858), the Spirit of Classical Fine Watchmaking based on classical pocket and wristwatches (Montblanc Star Legacy Collection) and the Spirit of Racing based on the unique exploration of timekeepers and stopwatches (Montblanc TimeWalker Collection) – that all link the past and the present through design, style and technical innovation.
The Spirit of Mountain Exploration – Montblanc 1858
Inspired by the Minerva watches from the 1920s and 30s that were meant for military use, the Montblanc 1858 pays tribute to 160 years of legacy. Highly accurate, legible and robust for use in extreme conditions, these watches are the driving force behind this new collection, which features distinctive aesthetics, innovative complications, a mix of materials and a choice of different case sizes. They marry the spirit of the past to modern trends, expressing the trend of back to nature and the growing interest for adventure. The vintage codes are directly rooted in the military timepieces from the 20s and 30s with designs that are reminiscent of period chronographs.
The satin-finished cases have been slightly reworked with horns that have been slimmed down thanks to polished, bevelled edges that underline their shape. Other features include fluted crowns inspired by those on period timepieces and domed sapphire crystal glass boxes, increasing the robustness and the vintage appeal of each timepiece.
The dials feature striking colour contrasts with their historical luminescent cathedral-shaped hands with a “cloisonné” design, slightly domed for the finest finish.
It also features Arabic numerals that are coated with SuperLumiNova, railway minute tracks and the original Montblanc logo from the 1930s era with its historical font and emblem of the Mont Blanc Mountain.
The Spirit of Classical Watchmaking – Montblanc Star Legacy
To further pay tribute to Minerva’s exceptional heritage, Montblanc is presenting a new reinterpretation of its iconic Star line that celebrates more than 20 years of history.
The new re-envisioned collection enhances the level of classic finishing by enhancing the elegance of the design while keeping the key elements of the identity of this product line. The Maison brings its manufacture expertise to new exclusive in-house complications that push the boundaries of fine watchmaking. Paying tribute to the historical Minerva pocket watches that were made during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, such as the Gold Hunter Calibre 19”’ from 1927, the Montblanc Star Legacy timepieces feature round cases with elegant curved sides that give a refined pebble-shaped effect.
The result is enhanced by horns that have steps on the side. They stand out with their recognisable and easy-grip onion-shape, adorned with the Montblanc emblem.
The dials are highlighted by Arabic numerals whose shape and size have been redesigned and refined, and the dial is further enhanced by the addition of the iconic exploding star guilloche pattern.
Spirit of Racing – Montblanc TimeWalker
The Montblanc TimeWalker Collection pays homage to the Minerva legacy by returning to the early 20th century, to the glory days of motor racing and timepieces dedicated to performance.
During this time, innovation to create new engines and lighter car bodies that led to faster speeds were all the rage as the winners were determined by the slimmest margins, hence the need for devices that could measure even the smallest intervals. At the time, Minerva was one of the leading specialists in the fabrication of high-quality instruments for measuring brief intervals of time with remarkable precision – for example, timekeepers such as the 1/100th of a second stopwatch and the famous “Rally Timers” that were made specially for timing motor racing with precision.
The TimeWalker Collection honours Minerva’s line of professional instruments with contemporary timepieces that combine vintage style with performance, innovation, great legibility and robustness.
The aesthetic codes of the Montblanc TimeWalker pieces are rooted in the world of racing with satinated cases, semi-skeletonised horns and architecturally carved flanks. These design details have been inspired by the aerodynamic lines of the bodywork of classic cars. Details include knurled finishing on the flanks of the emblematic high-tech black ceramic bezels as well as on the crowns and pushers, which also recall vintage car petrol caps, while the smoked glass case backs have been inspired by the glass windows that reveal sporty V12 engines. Even the leather straps feature holes that pay tribute to vintage leather racing gloves.
All the Montblanc TimeWalker watches feature the Minerva arrow either on the hands or the movement.
Two Manufactures, One Passion
With over 160 years of uninterrupted Swiss watchmaking heritage, Montblanc fine watchmaking is built on a unique set-up that brings two manufactures together seamlessly to create the finest timepieces and the most innovative calibres. Centuries of knowledge and hundreds of hours of dedicated labour culminate in each and every Montblanctimepiece, created by watchmakers with a passion for craftsmanship that enables them to produce the very best of Montblanc timepieces.
The Manufacture in Villeret, Montblanc’s Movement & Innovation Excellence Center, is located in the same building in which the legendary Minerva was founded in 1858. Here, the focus is development, prototyping and assembly of all in-house movements from innovative and groundbreaking high-complications to small highly functional complications.
In the ateliers, all the movements’ components are carefully crafted and decorated by hand, where the watchmakers’ exceptional dexterity is indispensable in crafting delicate balance springs.
This Manufacture in Villeret is part of only a very select group of manufactures around the world which possess the know-how to produce their own balance springs in their entirety by watchmakers, who measure their length, not by electronic means, but by hand – in accordance with tradition and with the utmost accuracy.
As the balance wheels made here beat at the traditional frequency of 18’000 semi-oscillations per hour, this allows the brand to have one of the largest screwed balance wheels in the watch industry, giving watch enthusiasts a spectacular view on the heart of the timepiece.
The Manufacture in Le Locle is Montblanc’s Watch & Quality Excellence Center where traditional watchmaking is paired with state-of-the art technology. It is here where traditional watchmaking merges with the latest technologies. From aesthetic design to construction, prototyping and final assembly, all the expertise necessary to create an iconic timepiece is concentrated here.