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The Millennium Watch Book
Montblanc - 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date: When the Mer de Glace Is an Inspiration

Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date: When the Mer de Glace Is an Inspiration

Discover this exclusive extract from the Millenium Watch Book. From the sea to the mountains is quite a leap,but Montblanc has bridged the divide with brio, confidence and talent

Unveiled at the Geneva edition of Watches & Wonders in spring 2022, this unusual dive watch is different in more ways than one: delivering innovation in unexpected quarters, available in a perfect trilogy of colours, offering excellent value for money, telling an authentic, relevant story — and for me at least, the added benefit of a personal connnection. Drawing inspiration from the Mont Blanc for a new watch and collection when Montblanc is the name of your brand is an entirely logical step, but one that had never been taken before the arrival of Laurent Lecamp, the firm’s CEO since 2021. In addition to being a keen outdoors type who loves the mountains, Laurent is also driven by boundless curiosity and a passionate attention to detail. Here’s how he put it to specialised website WorldTempus.com: “I pored over books and archives to gain an understanding of Montblanc’s origins and took a particular interest in the brand’s emblem: six glacier valleys. That gave me the idea of using the emblem itself as a basis for a glacier-inspired watch.” Montblanc’s trajectory has always featured sports watches and a spirit of exploration; given that most large glaciers eventually give out into the sea, creating a dive watch inspired by the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) made plenty of sense — but producing one turned out to be a complex undertaking.

Their imaginations fired by an exploration of the Mer de Glace at the foot of Mont Blanc in the Chamonix valley, the firm’s designers sought to reproduce the texture of the glacier ice along with its network of crystals, woven together in a constantly changing pattern over the millennia. The challenge was to create the impression of descending into the depths of a glacier on a dial just 0.4 millimetres thick. Many months and dozens of trial runs were needed to achieve a frosted dial finish that resembled the glacier’s veins and grooves — far more perceptible on the watch in real life than on a photo. To create this effect, a forgotten gratté boisé roughed finish treatment found in the archives was used. As Laurent Lecamp explains: “It’s a very old dial-maker’s technique based on the use of a block made of gutta percha (rubber made from natural latex) that becomes porous when hot water is poured onto it. The dial is laid flush on the block and crafted using an abrasive brush with bristles just 0.4mm thick to ensure the dial isn’t damaged.”

1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date: When the Mer de Glace Is an Inspiration

1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date © Montblanc

Form and Substance

Just as much thought has gone into the selection of colours. There are indeed three different types of ice, and their colour is what tells them apart: ice from the Mer de Glace is blue because of the air bubbles it contains; the green ice to be found in the Antarctic takes its hue from the microscopic algae within it; black ice contains no air and has sometimes absorbed volcanic ash, as is sometimes the case in the polar regions. Choosing one hue over the other is a difficult decision — they’re all different and all perfect.

In terms of its intrinsic value as a dive watch, the piece complies in every respect with the prevailing ISO 6425 standard and has also passed Laboratoire Montblanc’s 500 Hours Test, certifying its resistance to impacts, magnetic fields and extreme temperatures. In a touch of symbolism, a little diver with an oxygen tank features on the 3-D engraved caseback, accompanied by glacier and ocean. In addition to perfect readability, the dive watch features an adjustable, interchangeable steel bracelet (no tools are needed to swap it out for, say, a rubber strap) with V-shaped links. This blend of comfort and performance is very rare within the price band in question (less than €3,000). It’s hardly surprising that this new face of Montblanc, as much a product of the ocean depths as of Europe’s highest summit, was a success from the moment it was released.

1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date: When the Mer de Glace Is an Inspiration

1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date © Montblanc

A Three-Stranded Partnership with GMT Publishing

For the strategic launch of this new collection, Montblanc approached our publishing house on three levels. Together, we devised and produced a film shot on the Mer de Glace, in which I interview Laurent Lecamp — you can watch it by scanning the QR code. Our editorial director for WorldTempus Sophie Furley wrote the script and oversaw filming, carried out with Diode studios; the film was screened during Watches & Wonders. Broadcast worldwide, the official presentation of the watch by Laurent Lecamp in the presence of multiple mountaineering record-holder Nimsdai Purja was emceed by our editor-in-chief Suzanne Wong. And to cap it all, our Fine Watch Club collector’s club was chosen as the venue for the first two limited editions of the 1858 Iced Sea, to be released in spring 2023. So, to Laurent Lecamp and Montblanc and all the brand’s teams involved in these three projects who entrusted us with their work, I extend my warmest thanks — a special kind of warmth that won’t melt the beautiful ice!

This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the divers watch since 2000 in The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch is available in both French and English here:

 

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