Writing Time: The Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Collection
by Hugh Taylor | February 22, 2018
Ticking away in Le Locle Switzerland a handful of watchmakers are producing some of the finest horological timepieces in recent years. Although relatively new to the watchmaking game, Montblanc has risen through the ranks becoming a respected and serious watch manufacturer. At the recent Golden Globes it could be seen strapped to the wrists of more stars than even Rolex, including the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Denzel Washington and Hugh Jackman. We recently acquired a number of their most talked about pieces from their “Nicolas Rieussec collection”, which is an attractive ode to the man who first brought the chronograph complication into existence nearly 200 years ago. Today we thought we’d share our thoughts on it.
Since the turn of the millennium, It has often been said, the sign of a serious watchmaker is one which creates its own movements. This is because of the level of investment and expertise required to run such an operation. Until fairly recently even top brands sourced their movements from Swiss companies and merely adapted them for their own purposes. Despite only taking its first steps in the industry in 1997, Montblanc produced its first in-house movement ten years later, in the shape of the Nicolas Rieussec chronograph.
Nicolas Rieussec was the watchmaker to King Louis XVIII who found himself, in the early 1820s, testing the race clock at one of the most important equestrian events in France. It was at this event he came up with the idea of a device capable of recording time. His contraption featured two spinning discs in an ornate box, which ran at the rate of seconds and minutes. At the push of a button the discs started running and at the push of a second, a pin nib was lowered and marked the dials. Within months the French Academy of Sciences had vouched for it and named it the “chronograph”, a portmanteau of the Greek words “chronos”, literally “time”, and “graphin”, meaning “to write”. This simple design was one of the most important horological developments of the 19th century.
Rieussec’s charming twin disc set-up forms the basis of Montblanc’s chronograph range. The Montblanc version doesn’t use a pen, but it features the two spinning discs and a bridge with pointed tips hovering over their edges. On pressing the chrono pusher the discs simply stop in place and the time recording is taken from where the discs align under the tips. This is an original feature in modern watches, but what really makes it standout is Montblanc’s elaborate finishing.
The time reading in the Rieussec Chronograph is given on a third dial at the 12 o’clock mark. To these three dials Montblanc adds two half-crescent shaped windows at three and nine, revealing a date function and a day/night display. All this against the backdrop of an exquisitely decorated dial featuring at least three different finishing techniques depending on the model. The watch has many other detailed touches, from the skeletonised hands in blue steel to the Montblanc star in the crown, not to mention the range of attractive fonts. The overall effect is for a quite busy look, albeit tasteful and distinctive. This is double the attention to detail you get from market-leading chronographs such as the Daytona and for half the price.
The high-quality finish f is carried through to the impressive movement, which can be seen through the sapphire caseback. It is symmetrically composed of 319 parts, boasting a 72-hour power reserve, with a column-wheel and vertical disc coupling, and a mix of perlage circular graining and Côtes de Genève patterns.
Being innovative in such a highly competitive industry is not easy. Doing it elegantly combining modern with classic and reviving a watchmaking icon is even harder. Montblanc has pulled it off with aplomb and all at a good value proposition. This is truly a dignified tribute to a royal watchmaker and a very welcome addition to our collection.
There are now six members of the Nicolas Rieussec family including a GMT model and two limited editions. It comes in steel or rose gold, most on an alligator strap but with one sportier steel option.Discover our full collection, available online now, at Xupes.com.