Compared to the time Montblanc has been making exquisite fountain pens, the watchmaking arm of the brand, Montblanc Montre S.A., hasn’t been around for that long; but even though on the surface it seems like the manufacture has only been creating watches for decades, in reality, they have more than 150 years of uninterrupted Swiss watchmaking heritage.
The Two Towers
The manufacture in Villeret
The Manufacture in Le Locle
Split into two manufactures, Montblanc’s Movement & Innovation Excellence Centre is in Villeret, and more importantly in the exact same building which Minerva was founded in 1858 (Minerva was acquired by the Richemont group in 2006 and that’s where the 150 years of watchmaking knowhow comes from) and as the name suggests focuses on the development, prototyping and assembly of all in-house movements. The other manufacture is in Le Locle and is the brand’s Watch Quality & Excellence Centre where all necessary expertise needed to create a timepiece beyond its movement is consolidated.
With a completed Montblanc timepiece sitting on your wrist, the rose gold case gleaming in the light and the steady beat of the escapement ticking away within the movement, it’s hard to imagine the entire process of how this watch came to be. So in order to better understand the creation of a Montblanc timepiece from start to finish, we take a quick peek within the manufactures it came from.
No matter how complicated the in-house movements are, they all start from the same place – on a piece of paper. Through technical drawings and detailed functional simulation, watchmakers build prototypes in the Villeret manufacture, subjecting it through rigorous testing before it can finally go into production.
Even within the Villeret manufacture itself, it is split into two production workshops, one that handles all the movements for the regular collections while the other is an atelier that upholds artisanal traditions passed down through the centuries for the production and decoration of high complication movements.
Each of the in-house movements are thoroughly tested to ensure that their rate, amplitude and power reserve adheres to Montblanc’s standards but for the artisanal movements they undergo a very traditional process of manual decorations before assembly. With an incredible level of skill, these watchmakers enhance the appearance of each component of the movement by hand (edges are chamfered, plates are artistically ornamented with Côtes de Genève stripes and wheels are given a high polish) because no machine would be able to achieve this level of artisanal beauty.
With the exception of the high-complication timepieces crafted in the Artisanal workshop in Villeret, all Montblanc timepieces are assembled in Le Locle where they place the dial on the movement, assemble the hands and complete the final encasing.
Additionally, Le Locle is the home of the Montblanc Laboratory Test 500 with the 500 signifying the number of hours these timepieces are tested. The assembled watches are subjected to a variety of conditions a watch must endure when worn on the wrist including daily life’s wear and tear, numerous settings and re-settings of the crown, different climate conditions, and the everyday use of all its functions. Only after it has passed these tests will the watch be prepared for delivery to ultimately end up on a wrist of an enthusiast.