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Montblanc - Minerva and the collectors

Montblanc Minerva and the collectors

Ever since Only Watch 2017, collectors have been interested in Montblanc watches equipped with Minerva calibres. Davide Cerrato explains why.

It’s been ten years since Montblanc started raiding the Minerva archives, and four years since the managing director of the watch division built a communication and design strategy around these high-end manufacture calibres. Two years ago, collectors started to pay attention. The Chronograph Tachymeter 1858 in bronze created for Only Watch 2017 caused a sensation, bringing in twice the price estimated by Christie’s – CHF 60,000. In November 2018 at a Geneva auction by Phillips, Bacs & Russo, a 1935 Minerva aviator’s watch fetched a similar price, which was two-and-a-half times its highest estimate. Before that, a magnificent Minerva triple calendar with external date, two windows and three counters found a delighted buyer in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, very few Minerva watches ever come under the auctioneer’s hammer, because they are rare. And that’s what makes them so sought-after by collectors. 

The influence of collectors

Davide Cerrato explains: “Collectors are starting to understand where we’re going with Minerva and Montblanc, which is why they’re interested in both old pieces and in modern watches like the Only Watch. At the last SIHH a major collector came to our booth to see the new 1858 Split Second Chronograph. Everyone knew John Goldberger had noticed it, and many other collectors turned up to have a look too. Our series of monopusher chronographs offering new designs of the Minerva pieces are very popular. One of them won the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. But you can’t put all collectors in the same basket. Chronographs are very popular in the West, while Asians are still attracted to tourbillons, and our exceptional pieces such as the Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon Suspendu, or the Metamorphosis 2 are very successful there.” 

1858 Chronographe Rattrapante Only Watch 2019

Star Legacy Exo Tourbillon Suspendu © Montblanc

Outside of Only Watch, the limited editions produced by Montblanc map trends observed in the collecting community. Davide Cerrato follows auctions, where he meets many collectors. He takes note of their tastes when creating collections or one-off pieces such as the Only Watch. “It’s fascinating to talk with them, to understand what they like, because they’re always ahead of the curve. It helps to understand some of the mechanisms at work. Because they are several steps ahead, the types of pieces they go for are also the types that tend to work well subsequently. For example, 15 years ago collectors were buying a lot of diving watches, particularly Rolex Submariners. For the last 5-6 years they’ve moved on to chronographs, like the Daytona. It’s important to pay attention, because they have an influence on all the people who follow them on Instagram; they mould people’s tastes.”

Only Watch 2019 in titanium and agate 

1858 Chronographe Rattrapante Only Watch 2019

1858 Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Only Watch 2019 © Montblanc

During an event at the Chetzeron 2112 hotel in Crans-Montana this spring, where Montblanc unveiled the new 100-piece limited-edition Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph, WorldTempus was treated to a preview of the Only Watch 2019, and an interview with Davide Cerrato. He and Nicolas Baretzki, Montblanc’s CEO, were clearly keen to continue their Only Watch adventure this year. “It’s a wonderful project. We were very pleased with the effect it had last year. For us it’s a fantastic way to make a contribution.” For Only Watch 2019, they chose an 1858 Split Second Monopusher Chronograph with a titanium case, a first for a Montblanc wristwatch. The understated dark grey case is satin-brushed, and retains the 1858 aesthetic while bringing the collection up to date. The case contrasts with the graduated blue mineral dial (the outer edge of the dial is darker than the centre), punctuated by red seconds markers and hand.

1858 Chronographe Rattrapante Only Watch 2019

The Chetzeron 2112 hotel in Crans-Montana © Montblanc

That makes this timepiece doubly unique. As Davide Cerrato notes: “We associate the 1858 collection with mountains and exploration, which fits with the stone dial. Plus, collectors like unique dials, and I’ve seen watches with beautiful stone dials fetch astronomical prices at auction. Collectors are also increasingly favouring titanium and steel cases over precious metals. None of them have yet seen our Only Watch, but we took all of that into account when designing it.”

1858 Chronographe Rattrapante Only Watch 2019

1858 Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Only Watch 2019, dos © Montblanc

As so often with pieces equipped with Minerva movements, the vision on the back of the watch, which reveals all the curves and depth of the nickel silver calibre, is breathtaking. The Only Watch forms a coherent part of the process of building out the brand’s high-end segment with the integration of Minerva. “Next year, we’ll bring greater refinement, more textures and new colours. We’ll be taking our expression further at the high end of the range.”

1858 Chronographe Rattrapante Only Watch 2019

Davide Cerrato © Montblanc

1300 museum pieces

While Montblanc doesn’t yet have enough physical space to display the 1300 Minerva watches, most of them in a remarkable state of preservation, currently kept neatly in drawers at the manufacture, some of them are taken on itinerant exhibitions, or lent to Montblanc boutiques. Davide Cerrato follows auctions for exceptional pieces that could fill any gaps in the collection. In Villeret, a lounge has been set up to welcome clients who want to customise their watches, and the decoration draws heavily on Minerva’s heritage. Moreover, the 80 principal Montblanc stores around the world, beginning with Geneva, will soon be borrowing this chronological approach to the milestones of Minerva’s and Montblanc’s past to better explain the brand to watch lovers. “We’re installing display cases for old watches to create a horological texture around Minerva. People who are interested in fine old watches will love it,” he concludes.

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