Nicolas Rieussec’s first patented chronograph from 1821 inspired the watchmakers at Montblanc to create the Nicolas Rieussec watch collection with manufacture movements and distinctive styling.
The timepiece’s unmistakable appearance combines an off-centre hour-circle in the upper part of the dial and the chronograph’s elapsed-time displays in the lower portion of the face. As on the original from 1821, elapsed time is shown on two rotating discs, above each of which a motionless hand indicates the passing seconds and minutes.
Nicolas Rieussec, watchmaker to the French royal court, invented this construction to precisely measure the running times of individual horses at a horserace. When the starting gun was fired at the track, the patented “ink chronograph” was set in motion so that two white enamelled discs began to turn: one disc was calibrated for 60 elapsed seconds, the other for 30 elapsed minutes. The user pressed a button each time a horse crossed the finish line: this pressure momentarily lowered an elongated rhombic carrier with two ink-filled tips onto the enamel discs, where each tip left a droplet of ink. These inky markings on the scales of the chronograph’s discs enabled the user to read the exact running time of each horse. Rieussec’s device was literally a “time writer,” so he accordingly named it a “chronograph” from the Greek words “chronos” (time) and “graphein” (to write). In 1822, the Académie des Sciences in Paris granted a patent on this device to Nicolas Rieussec, who went down in horological history as the inventor of the world’s first patented chronograph.
The Montblanc “Homage to Nicolas Rieussec” chronograph faithfully replicates every detail of the colour scheme and the styling of the hands as they appeared on the original “time writer”, but relies on innovative materials and technologies to transport the historical device into our contemporary day and age. It shows the date, indicates the time in two different time zones and also offers a day/night display.
Traditional features – innovative styling
In an unprecedented innovation, the chronograph’s hand is designed as a double index: each of the two tips of an elongated horizontal blued-metal rhombus points to a calibrated scale on one of two rotating discs.
Each index is shaped exactly like the ink carriers on the original chronograph from 1821. The two whitelacquered discs – one at the left for 60 elapsed seconds and the other at the right for 30 elapsed minutes – are likewise inspired by the appearance of the original timepiece, as is the minute-circle , with its slim black strokes alternating with Arabic numerals at ten-minute intervals.
The hour-circle reveals its special feature in the dark, when an unprecedented technique causes the formerly hidden hour numerals to appear on the dial. The traditionally styled hour-circle is crafted from ultramodern hybrid ceramic permeated with Superluminova pigments. These luminous pigments form the Arabic hour numerals in the characteristic font of the Montblanc Rieussec collection. The digits are invisible in daylight because they’re precisely embedded into the hour ring, with which they share exactly the same colour. But when the ambient light starts to dim, the luminous pigments that fill the numerals – as well as the Superluminova-filled hour-hand and minute-hand – begin to glow.
Two apertures rimmed by finely satin-finished gradations offer an unobstructed view of the date display at “3 o’clock” and the finely guilloche-embellished day/night indicator at “9 o’clock”. A skeletonized hour-hand indicates the time in a second time zone.
A monopusher chronograph with a manufacture calibre
The self-winding mechanical manufacture Calibre MB R200 ticks unseen beneath the innovative dial. A laboriously milled column-wheel controls the monopusher chronograph; the connection between the gear-train and chronograph’s wheels is alternately engaged and disengaged by a vertical coupling, which functions nearly without wear and prevents the elapsed-time hands from jumping when the chronograph is switched on. The double barrel stores enough power for 72 hours of continuous running. The components are decorated with Geneva waves and have beveled, polished edges. Bright red jewels, blued screws and shiny golden brass wheels complete the handsome ensemble, which can be admired by peering through the transparent pane of sapphire crystal in the back of the case.
The dial is protected by a slightly cambered sapphire crystal that’s been antireflective treated on both its surfaces. The movement is ensconced inside a circular case made of 18 karat rose gold. The case’s doubly stepped horns angle slightly downward so the 43-mm-diameter watch fits ergonomically and conforms to the anatomy of its wearer’s wrist. A watch connoisseur who notices the unconventional positioning of the chronograph’s button at “8 o’clock” will correctly deduce that this is a monopusher chronograph which can be conveniently operated with the tip of the right thumb. The rose gold crown is deeply grooved and embellished with a domed black-and-white Montblanc emblem. A pin buckle made of 18 karat gold secures the alligator-skin strap, which conforms to the curvature of the horns and the roundness of the case.
The Montblanc “Homage to Nicolas Rieussec” chronograph will be available starting in the autumn of 2014 in a limited edition of 193 rose gold timepieces priced at 26,900 euros each. The number of watches in the edition likewise pays homage to the man who invented this genre of watch – because 193 years ago was the birth of the first patented chronograph from Nicolas Rieussec.
It is also available in stainless steel, in a limitation of 565 pieces.