Text = Ryoji Fukudome
A box made by Montblanc watch director Laurent Cullen and the Hakone parquet method
Montblanc has a lineup of ambitious works again this year. The new model has been featured in many media, including this Autograph. Here, I had the opportunity to talk with Laurent Cullen, the person in charge of watchmaking, in Geneva, so I would like to share the idea of watchmaking and the thoughts behind the new work.
Clockmaking is in the rock garden of Ryoanji Temple
After entering the room and greeting them, Laurent Cullen suddenly started talking about Japan.
“I teach Japan philosophical thought at this university.”
I thought we were talking about the technical aspects of watches, but suddenly we were talking about ideas. I was a little amused, but I waited for the next words, hoping that I would understand what was underlying the Montblanc watch.
“There is a temple called Ryoanji in Kyoto. There are 15 stones in the rock garden, divided into 5 groups: 5, 2, 3, 2, 3. However, only 14 stones can be seen. There is one invisible stone, and look for it. You can’t see everything at once, so you have to constantly improve.”
There are various theories about the intent of creating a rock garden, such as the spirit of Zen. However, it is surprising that Montblanc’s watchmaking reflects such ideas. Surprised by such a story, Karen said, “It’s a Japan box,” and placed the wooden box on the table.
“It was inspired by the parquet work of Hakone, and was made at Minerva (now the Montblanc Villeret workshop). I made it of Swiss wood, but from the outside there are no seams, so you don’t know how to open it, right?”
I laugh mischievously. I was told so, so I tried it, but I couldn’t open it. Parquet with tricks seems to be called a “secret box”.
As I was admiring its sophistication, a slightly larger box came out. It was for the first limited edition box set of the Montblanc 1858 Ice Sea Automatic Date in a carefully selected chest of drawers. Inside are two timepieces (Green and Blue Edition) that appeared last year and the latest model of this year’s new Glacier Grey dial.
“It’s a limited set of 191 pieces. The number 1913 is the year the Montblanc logo was created. The Mer de Grasse glacier in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is also 1913 meters above sea level. Limited to 191 pieces, 3 models in the box. So it is 1913. It’s a good story, isn’t it? I love storytelling[laughs].”
Montblanc 1858 Ice Sea Automatic Date Coffre
Limited edition of 191 pieces 1,574,100 yen (unreleased Japan, pre-priced)
Inspired by the glacier Mer de Grasse
The model in the box is the Montblanc 1858 Ice Sea Automatic Date. It has a 41mm stainless steel case and is equipped with an automatic movement that displays the date at the hour, minute, second and 3 o’clock positions. The distinctive dial is inspired by the Mer de Grasse, the largest glacier in the Mont Blanc massif, and is made using a special dial-making technique called Glatte Boisset. It gives the impression that you are just looking at the ice .
“Each case back has a different mountain, and if you look closely at the green dial, Les Drues is green. Grey is the color of the glacier of Les Grande Jollas and blue is the Aiguille du Moyne. Only blue is not the color of the mountains, but the blue sky when I just took the photo (laughs).”
In other words, it may have been a different color depending on the weather.
Aiguille du Moine painted on the caseback. The sky is indeed blue
After talking about the box set, we asked about the new Montblanc 1858 Ice Sea Automatic Date, which is also one of the pieces in the set.
“It’s a replaceable bracelet, it’s tapered. The width is different between the buckle and the lug position. It’s hard to see in recent models. The rest is the operating area of the buckle. In the industry, 5mm is the average, but this model runs up to 9.3mm.”
“It’s my idea,” he said about the bezel.
“I really wanted to add a sound to the bezel, and if you turn the bezel, you’ll know it’s the sound of a dolphin. This is not a coincidence, I did it on purpose. There are 60 teeth in it, and we adjust them according to the gravity of the bezel and how it is fixed.”
You can certainly hear something like the sound of a dolphin.
Glacier Dial’s new Montblanc 1858 Icesea Automatic Date. It is also a diving tool that complies with the ISO 6425 standard.
Chronograph without pusher
And the topic turned to Minerva, another highlight of this year’s Montblanc. This is about the new Montblanc Minerva 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva.
“I think this is probably the first pusher-free chronograph in the history of watches, and Minerva developed the fluted bezel in 1927. This model operates a chronograph with its bezel, which I think is the first of its kind in the watch world.”
“Montblanc Minerva 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition 100” This is limited to 100 pieces. Hand-wound, stainless steel× 18KWG case, 42.5mm diameter, 5,858,600 yen
This new model does not have the pushers found in regular chronograph models and is operated by a bezel. The chronograph function is operated by a one-way rotating bezel (clockwise) to prevent accidental operation, and once turned, the chronograph starts. It stops the second time and resets it the third time.
“The fluted bezel is part of our history and the chronograph is an important mechanism for Minerva. The idea has been in my mind for about two years. But it’s very technical, so should we really do it? You will have a lot of discussions with the staff. However, I was able to think of the phrase ‘seven falls and eight awakenings’ that I learned in Japan and complete it.”
The debut of the new Montblanc Minerva 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva, which is full of Minerva’s history and technology, was available in two limited editions.
One is a limited edition of 100 pieces featuring a stainless steel case, Au750 white gold bezel, and red accents with a blue dial. The other is a limited edition of 28 pieces with a dark green dial and Au750 lime gold. Both are equipped with the MB M13.21 calibre, inspired by the historic 13.20-year-old calibre.
Montblanc 1858 Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva Limited Edition with dark green dial. Hand-wound, 18K lime gold case, 42.5mm diameter, 7,811,100 yen. Limited edition of 28 pieces
Filled with Laurent Cullen’s Japan-influenced ideas and Montblanc history, the new work for 2023 was brilliant both conceptually and technically. And by listening to his thoughts on watchmaking, it seemed to me that as long as he was in charge of watchmaking, Montblanc watches would not go off the right path.
Personally, I felt that new models based on Japan’s philosophy and spirit would be born more and more in the future, and I ended the interview feeling happy.