Some months ago, Time+Tide’s Sydney readers were given the opportunity to inspect and learn about Montblanc’s high-end horology, complete with first-hand insights from Monsieur Julien Miribel – head of Montblanc’s Villeret prototype workshop. Well, last night was Melbourne’s turn.
Mr Miribel was back, and in fine form. The very first story he told was about his reaction to opening the caseback of a Minerva pocket watch.
“It makes you want to cry for two reasons. One, the beauty of the movement. And two, that the watchmakers who crafted this movement did it in a time without electricity.” The whole room paused for a couple of seconds at this vision. “This is the emotion in watchmaking. This is why I love making watches for Minerva, and now Montblanc; we are one flag, one family.”
Julien’s commentary then turned to a nice gentle humblebrag. “When I am at the pub with my watchmaker friends I ask them what they did today, and it’s usually working on one part of the movement with their headphones in. For me, it could be hand finishing one single component of a movement that will go into a watch I have made entirely myself. They cry into their beer a little bit.”
The very first story [Julien] told was about his reaction to opening the case back of a Minerva pocket watch. “It makes you want to cry for two reasons. One, the beauty of the movement. And two, that the watchmakers who crafted this movement did it in a time without electricity.” Rock. Star.
And never before has a man in a lab coat been treated more like one as he spoke. You could have heard a pin drop at Montblanc’s revamped Collins St boutique as he extolled the value offered by the Heritage Spirit Chronograph (think about it, who else offers a gold, completely hand-finished monopusher chronograph for just over $40k?), and described the closely guarded secrets of the Grand Feu technique. So difficult is it to make, that this dial alone is worth 7000 euro. Manufacturers initially baulked at creating their most prestigious enamel dial for Montblanc, Miribel told us, until he showed them that the artistry of his movement would be a worthy match for the craftsmanship of their dial.
There was a throng around Miribel’s desk the entire night, as people took this rare chance to find out just how much work goes into Montblanc’s Villeret pieces, and to see just how it’s done. The seemingly plain stick of wood stumped a few people until Julien explained it’s actually the polishing tool that provides that mirror polish to the movement components.
There was a lot of love on the night for the new 1858 collection – named for the foundation year of Minerva, drawing the two brands together – with its old-school logo and aviation inspiration. The ladies Bohème pieces also spent more time out of the cases than in, as did much of the Heritage Chronometrie collection. Meanwhile, Montblanc’s writing instruments also got a workout, with staff on hand to advise on the finer points of nib construction and ink flow.
There was a lot of buzz last night – and not just because of the potent whisky cocktails. “Gee, they’ve got some kick to them,” was uttered more than once. The energy around the brand is contagious. Even without Julien’s storytelling that highlights the horological credibility around the watches of Montblanc, the watches themselves, from the entry level 1858 all the way up to the high-end Villeret collection, express the confidence of a brand that’s becoming an increasingly important part of the watchmaking landscape.
Thanks to all our guests for attending, and to our partners Montblanc Australia for a wonderful evening.