Stay on top of all watchmaking news ! OK

This search is sponsored by BEHRENS

Search in :
Montblanc - Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea: The Secret of the Dial

Montblanc Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea: The Secret of the Dial

It’s one of the most unusual effects we’ve seen in watchmaking recently. In three different colours, it succeeds in recreating the visual effect of the inside of a glacier. How is this possible?

The result is stunning, but it’s not easy to see how it was achieved. When Montblanc unveiled the 1858 Iced Sea collection, the reception was as enthusiastic as it was baffled. So, how did the watchmaker manage to create a faithful representation of the icy depths of a glacier – on a flat watch dial?

Inspired by nature

The solution didn’t come easily. What makes a glacier unique is the depth of the ice, the way in which light refracts as it meets the surface, the way it penetrates the icy depths, and the irregularity of the ice itself, which is sometimes compact and crystalline, and at other times irregular and fractured. A glacier is a natural sculpture formed over centuries, fashioned by unfathomable geological and meteorological forces. And then along comes some crazy watch designer who wants to reproduce all this on a tiny sliver of metal half a millimetre thick! 

Les secrets du cadran de la Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea

1858 Iced Sea Automatic © Montblanc

Gratté boisé

Montblanc’s artisans tried several different techniques before they rediscovered an ancient method of dial decoration known as ‘gratté boisé’ (which translates very roughly as ‘scratched with wood’), and succeeded in recreating it on a large scale. The technique involves scratching very fine lines into the surface of a brass dial, which change the way the light reacts to the surface. But as well as creating scratches, this technique also affects the surrounding surface, which can change from mirror-polished to matt in a single pass. This creates a dual visual effect where the light is absorbed by the scratched lines, and at the same time it’s reflected off the polished surface. 

Les secrets du cadran de la Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea

1858 Iced Sea Automatic © Montblanc

High colour

In a second stage, the surface is coated with a coloured varnish. The coating must be sufficiently thick to protect the surface, but it must also be thin enough not to obliterate the relief and reflections created by the gratté boisé. It’s a tricky balance to strike, particularly since Montblanc chose three different colours for the varnish: black, blue and green. 

Les secrets du cadran de la Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea

1858 Iced Sea Automatic © Montblanc

The choice of hues was inspired by nature and the different colours of glacier that can be found in the planet’s coldest regions.  Black ice occurs when the ice has no inclusions or air bubbles, therefore absorbing enough light to appear black; green ice is found in Antarctica and is the result of the presence of microscopic snow algae blooms; and blue ice can be found in the Mont-Blanc’s Sea of Ice and is created by the inclusion of air bubbles in the ice.

Les secrets du cadran de la Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea

1858 Iced Sea Automatic © Montblanc

These three shades thus reflect those found in nature. In practice, however, all options are possible: red, grey, purple, yellow, orange, etc. The 1858 Iced Sea collection lends itself to multiple colour variations, given that it comes with an easy-change rubber strap and a ceramic bezel, which could also be produced in a range of different colours. There’s also the possibility to add fabric straps, such as those currently available in the 1858 Geosphere collection, and the leather straps found on the 1858 Automatic.

Just one limited series

All this explains why many partners and collectors are hoping – not to say demanding – that Montblanc thinks about offering a few limited series. For the time being, however, the watchmaker is holding off – with one notable exception. A few lucky collectors will see their wishes come true when a limited series of 23 is launched for Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023, in partnership with The Fine Watch Club. We’ll certainly be following this unique opportunity very closely.

For a select group of collectors, a 23-piece limited edition will be unveiled at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023, created in collaboration with the Fine Watch Club. More to come on this unique opportunity shortly.


Recommended reading

Watch Finder

Search by:

Find your watch >

The brand

Synonymous with excellence in craftsmanship and design, Montblanc has been pushing the boundaries of innovation ever since the Maison first revolutionized the culture of writing in 1906.

Find out more >

All the news >

Contact brand >

All the watches >