Accurate measuring as we know it today was born on aboard ship: or, to be more precise, aboard vessels voyaging on the high seas. Before the dawn of satellite-assisted navigation, highly accurate clocks were the only instruments which could enable a mariner to exactly determine his position at sea, i.e. both his geographic latitude and his longitude. This is reason enough for a manufactory like Montblanc Villeret to devote its efforts to this theme and to devise innovative ideas that refresh watch lovers’ memories about this important tradition. The result debuts in the new Régulateur Nautique watch set in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, which will celebrate its world premiere at the SIHH 2012. Each set consists of a wristwatch chronograph with regulator dial and two time zones, along with a large navigational clock which, in addition to showing three time zones on its main regulator dial, also includes a world-time indicator. Only sixteen specimens of the Montblanc Régulateur Nautique watch set will be manufactured worldwide – eight sets with red gold wristwatch chronographs and eight more with wristwatch chronographs in white gold cases.
The Face of Precise Time Measurement
The regulator dial with a central minute-hand, a separate subdial for the hours at the “12” and the seconds shown on an additional subdial is an homage to the large, venerable and extremely precise pendulum clocks that were still used in the 20th
century to regulate other timepieces, whence the name “regulator.” To assure that the display of the passing seconds would never be covered by the very slow-moving hour-hand, the latter was relocated onto a separate subdial and completely divorced from the dial where the seconds were indicated. Regulator pendulum clocks of this sort also stood in the offices of harbormasters in all of the world’s major ports.
Captains would stop at the bureau shortly before departing on a voyage. Their final task before leaving the office was to synchronize their ship’s portable chronometer with the harbormaster’s regulator clock so that the precise time shown on his clock could be “taken along” throughout the voyage. In those years, an exact reference time was indispensable for staying on course on the high seas. The allusion to the new Montblanc Chronograph Régulateur Nautique is thus quite valid. Further details about navigation with a timepiece and sextant are described in the appendix.
The new Montblanc watch from the Collection Villeret 1858 doesn’t have a regulator dial of the sort that’s frequently used on watches of this type. Instead, it transforms its display area for eight different indicators into a topographical experience. The spectacle of home and local time, day and night display, chronograph, 30-minute counter, small seconds, and combined power-reserve and winding-zone display transpires on more than half a dozen levels. The dial is partly pierced to reveal manually executed circular graining on the movement’s plate, above which a connoisseur can admire the wheels of individual mechanisms. Some scales are applied as appliqués, others are inset into the dial. This symbolically represents the theme of depths and shallows: after all, the watch is named “Régulateur Nautique” and the first precise timepieces were developed 250 years ago specifically for navigation on the high seas.
Second Time Zone and Day/Night Display
The alpha and the omega of time-based navigation are to know the time in two different time zones, i.e. the current local time and the time in the harbor from which one’s vessel had departed. Only with this knowledge can one compare the time of the actual highest ascent of the sun above the horizon (i.e. local noon) with the time at the harbor of original departure and accordingly calculate one’s correct geographical longitude. This is why the Régulateur Nautique wristwatch chronograph shows the local time via a skeletonized hour-hand inside a small hours-circle at the “12,” beneath which an hour-hand indicates the home time (i.e. the time in one’s harbor of departure). When the watch is in its wearer’s home time zone, the skeletonized hour-hand is always directly above the blued hand; when the wearer travels to a different time zone, he or she presses the button at the “10” to reposition the local hour-hand in hourly increments until it shows the correct time for the new zone. A 24-hour subdial with day/night display at the “1” indicates the time in the wearer’s home zone.
Monopusher Chronograph with Column-Wheel Control
The wristwatch in the Régulateur Nautique watch set measures brief intervals in the best tradition of the manufactory. Its chronograph Caliber MB M16.30 has a large elapsed-seconds hand with its staff at the center of the dial and a counter for 30 elapsed minutes at the “3.” The chronograph functions in the classical manner via a column-wheel and horizontal coupling. The chronograph’s levers are meticulously handcrafted and the mise en function is also manually executed, whereby the contact surfaces of the chronograph’s levers are carefully scrutinized under a loupe when the stopwatch functions are operated, then gradually and painstakingly hand-abraded to the nearest hundredth of a millimeter. The steel components and Minerva’s typically V-shaped chronograph bridge are manually beveled and polished. The levers are abraded by gently rubbing them against a fine-grained stone. The bridges are hand-embellished with Geneva waves. The large and massy screw balance with Phillips’ hairspring oscillates at the classical frequency of 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour (2.5 hertz), which enables this chronograph to precisely measure elapsed intervals to the nearest fifth of a second. The stopwatch is operated via a button in the crown: this lone push-piece sequentially triggers the start, stop and zero-return functions.
Power-Reserve Display with Winding-Zone Indication
A genuine innovation in mechanical watchmaking is found in the lower half of the dial, where the large power-reserve display relies on a pair of hands to indicate two important items of information about the running autonomy. This display is absolutely indispensable for a navigational timepiece because reliable navigation is only assured if the watch is regularly wound and never stops running throughout the voyage. This is guaranteed by a daily glance at the exclusively combined power-reserve and winding-zone indicator, which not only shows whether the mainspring still contains enough energy, but also clearly indicates how many hours remain before the watch categorically demands manual winding. Watchmakers distinguish among three different states for the mainspring in a mechanical wristwatch. In the zone of ordinary power reserve, the mainspring has enough energy to sustain good amplitude for the balance and thus to assure good rate accuracy. In the so-called “winding zone,” the mainspring still has sufficient power to keep the movement running, but can no longer maintain favorable amplitude: the watch’s rate suffers accordingly. The third state occurs when the mainspring is fully slackened, in which case the movement no longer runs. The combined power-reserve and winding-zone indicator of the Montblanc Régulateur Nautique wristwatch chronograph distinguishes between the two first-mentioned states: if the power reserve is in a favorable zone, the two hands are one atop the other and express the remaining duration of the power reserve as a specific number of hours. If tension in the mainspring has declined to where it can no longer maintain favorable amplitude in the balance (indicated by the French word “BAS”), the upper hand stands still and the lower, red hand moves into the red zone, thus indicating that the watch should again be manually wound. To display this complex and important information, Montblanc Villeret specially developed a patented nineteen-part mechanism, of which – in addition to the two hands – one can also see the blue steel rack with an arrow-shaped tip recalling the traditional Minerva logo.
Exclusive Editions in Red and White Gold
The complicated and very finely finished mechanical movement is ensconced inside a gold case that attractively protects its intricate inner life. With classical tripartite construction, the case is 43.5 millimeters in diameter and has gently curving horns, a readily grasped and fluted crown with built-in chronograph button (monopusher), and a push-piece at the “10” to advance the hand for the second time zone in hourly increments. The concave bezel holds a cambered crystal that’s been antireflectively treated on both its surfaces to assure an optimal view of the complex three-dimensional dial beneath it. The screwed back of the case with its transparent pane of sapphire crystal offers beautiful views of the back of the movement, which boasts a hand-finished chronograph mechanism and a large balance. The wristwatch is affixed to an alligator-leather strap: dark brown leather and a red gold pronged buckle complement the red
gold wristwatch; marine blue leather and a white gold clasp attractively highlight the model with the white gold case.