Editor’s note: I’m on a bit of a travel watch trip at the moment. And, to my mind, they fall into two distinct camps: high-flyers and adventurers. Montblanc’s 1858 Geosphere, which is a few years old now, definitely falls into the latter category. Now, it’s up to you where on the roughing-it-to-luxury spectrum that adventure falls. But you know what, this watch works in both contexts …
While the automatic, chronograph and Minerva versions of the 1858 collection bear a strong resemblance to the existing 1858 watches, the Geosphere is something else entirely. It’s also a watch that speaks most directly to the “spirit of mountain exploration” that underpins the line. Like all the watches Montblanc have released at SIHH 2018, the 1858 Geosphere is rugged, sporty and quite retro. But on top of this, the 1858 Geosphere has maps on the dial, and a compass on the bezel. But before we get to the details, let’s look at the bigger picture.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere steel with black dial (ident 117837)
The 1858 Geosphere offers what Montblanc say is a “new worldtime complication”, which adds some geographic representation and day/night indicator to a dual time watch. The local time is on the large hands, and the home time (hours only) is on the subdial at nine. The dial, though, is dominated by the northern and southern hemisphere day/night indicators at 12 and six o’clock. In practice, pulling the crown out to the second position of the crown adjusts both time zones, and the hemisphere indicators, while in the first position it adjusts the date and the local time (the hour hand jumps in hour increments, which is nice). There’s also a corrector on the case used to synchronise home time.
It’s fair to say there’s quite a lot going on here, but at its heart it’s a travel watch that makes quite a statement. The 42mm case is finely detailed, with a well-knurled bezel inset with a ceramic compass insert. The exploration theme hinted at by the bezel is amped up by the maps on the dial. If you’re eagle-eyed you’ll notice red dots on the maps, which mark the location of the highest mountains on each continent. Climbing these mountains is known as the seven summits challenge, a theme picked up on the dial (which I foolishly didn’t capture). It’s worth noting that the Geosphere doesn’t have a running seconds hand. As with all the other 1858 watches, it’s offered on a handsome vintage leather strap, or a woven fabric option.
Montblanc 1858 Geospheres bronze with black dial
This limited edition bronze version is a real attention-seeker, the high contrast between the glossy black ceramic bezel, the dial and bronze case is already a winning combination, but the chunky bund-style strap, which is a really nice tie-in to the style of the golden age of mountaineering (you can practically imagine the matching short shorts and chunky knit). Bronze is an increasingly important case material, not just for Montblanc, but in watchmaking more generally. I spoke to Davide Cerrato, Managing Director of the Montblanc Watch Division, about the increasing popularity of the patina-friendly material, and this is what he had to say: “Bronze is not a short-term trend, it’s another very nice, original material to use on top of steel, titanium and gold. It’s a very unique look.” Cerrato has been a big believer in bronze for a long time now. I asked him why it took so long for bronze to achieve mainstream success. “It was probably fears of oxidisation, which is always a nightmare for watchmaking. So making a watch that oxidises on purpose was quite a leap. We needed some time to get into the idea of unique, personalised, lively watches before we could get to watches that had deliberate oxidisation.” Well, 2018 is set to be a big year for bronze, and this limited edition 1858 Geosphere is an early standout.
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere pricing
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere in steel, 5190 euro; in bronze (limited to 1600 pieces), 5890 euro