At the SIHH, this year, there were a few watches which deeply impressed me: The Jaeger-Lecoultre Gyrotourbillon 5, the Girard Perregaux La Esmeralda in white gold, the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twinbeat and... This Montblanc 1858 Split Second!
Let's say it straight, Montblanc did it again, after the 1858 Tachymeter from 2016, and the Montblanc 13.21 Green from 2018.
1858 Tachymeter, 2016, in steel or in rose gold:
The " Green " from 2018, Cal 13.21:
This year, Montblanc unveiled the king of Chronographs, a Rattrapante ( Split Second ) and a fine one!
If automatic Split Seconds can be found here and there, there are only a few brands which launched a manual winding one. Patek, Lange, Glashutte and Richard Mille come to mind, Lange being the milestone of the category with a double ( seconds / minutes ), then a triple split ( seconds, minutes and hours ) last year.
The challenge that Montblanc achieved here is that the released a FINE Rattrapante, with a superbly finished movement, at a very fair price ( 32, 500 Euros, yes, you read correctly, I had to ask to two different people from Montblanc to get the price confirmed ).
Let's see this new 1858 Split Second in the details:
1/ The movement, the true star of the watch.
The Cal 16.31
The Calibre 16.31 seems to be the well known 16.29 in which Montblanc added a superb Rattrapante mechanism. When you compare the 16.29 and the 16.31, they are very close to each other, the big difference being the characteristic double pliers and double column wheel of the split second.
The visual outcome is even more sculptural than the " show " offered by the 16.29. And this is also due to the high level of finishings of the parts with all the traditional elements such as perlage, anglage, Côtes de Genève, mirror polish of some parts, and even this famous " Devil's Tail ( in fact a chronograph break lever ) here hidden under one of the pliers.
Let's not forget the huge balance wheel which is 14, 5 mm big, assuming that it is based on the 16.29.
The diameter of the Cal 16.31 is the same than the 16.29: 38, 4 mm, but a bit thicker, due to the extra parts of the Rattrapante: 8, 13 mm high, instead of 6.30 mm. The power reserve is the same, with an autonomy of 50 hours, and it beats at the same pace ( 18, 000 vibrations per hour ).
2/ The bronze case: You should avoid quick thoughts on the diameter of the case. It is 44 mm big, 14, 5 mm high. But in the metal I thought I was playing with a 42 mm watch.
It " feels " smaller than the 1858 Tachymeter, despite its identical diameter. Strange...
Still, it is thick, that's a fact. And even 1 mm thicker than the 1858 Tachymeter from 2016.
These proportion certainly have to be put in relation with the dimensions of the movement.
The case is made in an alloy of titanium and bronze, and I've been told by Montblanc that it will age in a brownish color rather than the greenish we see on some other bronze watches such as the Panerai and the Tudor, to mention a few of them.
A good point, compared to the 1858 Tachymeter from 2016, the lugs are generously beveled, which is a detail which clearly misses on mine.
A not too good point, the bezel is a bit big for my taste. Still, not a deal breaker.
There are two pushers: One is on the side case at 2 o' clock, which is used for the Rattrapante, and one in the crown, which activates, stops and resets to zero the chronograph.
3/ The dial: A now classic from the 1858 Collection.
Good or bad? This dial is well known for some years, now. We saw it on the 1858 Chronographs, manual or automatic, with a difference, here, the Snail Tachymetric Scale, in addition to the regular Telemeter located on the outer part of the dial.
The 1858 Split Seconds has a deep black dial, contrasting with the écru hour markers, red seconds, the white tachymetric scale and the gilt telemeter and hands.
Busy, yes, but not lacking charm nor character, and linked to some chronographs from the 30's and 40's.
Protecting the dial, a lovely slightly domed sapphire glass.
So, disappointing or bewitching, this Rattrapante?
To tell you all, if it would have come in titanium only, or in steel, I would have already jumped on it.
I have the feeling, when I see the Montblanc strategy, that, maybe, in the two next years, we will have such a case for that Rattrapante. So, I prefer to wait.. Unless I have the guarantee that Montblanc will only make a " one shot " in bronze. In this case, I will go for it, without any hesitation.
I dream about a Rattrapante, and here I have a fine one. Not everything is perfect, especially the bezel and case thickness, but we are close to an excellent watch, with a lot of charm and a superlative movement. The whole thing at a bargain!
Looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts,