Montblanc Chronographe Régulateur Nautique

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.

Part 1: The Montblanc Régulateur Nautique Wristwatch Chronograph

As its name states, the wristwatch chronograph in the Nautique watch sets from the Montblanc collection Villeret 1858 is a watch with regulator dial. Its functions and its design offer fascinating insights into the history of navigation on the high seas. The essential precondition for this is to know both the time at one’s harbor of departure and at one’s momentary location, i.e. the simultaneous display of the times in two different locations.

Regulator Dial: 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 penduluclocks 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.

Dial with Depth

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 theso-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.

Part 2: The Montblanc Régulateur Nautique Navigational Clock

Seafaring and navigation on the high seas were crucially important for the evolution of precise time measurement, so Montblanc has given the wristwatch chronograph a worthy companion which can ideally serve aboard a private yacht, but which will also attract admiring attention on dry land.

The dimensions and materials of the Montblanc Régulateur Nautique navigational clock will surely raise the eyebrows and the pulse rates of yacht owners and watch aficionados around the globe. The clock is 93 cm tall, 56 cm in diameter and weighs 120 kilograms. It rests atop a base made of granite, massive brass, aluminum and carbon fiber. Its clockwork has been manufactured from the finest steel, brass and ruby in accord with all the rules and usages of the watchmaker’s art. Is it a masterful objet d’art or an artful scientific instrument’ The answer can be nothing but an unambiguous “yes, both!” The heavy granite base with gently curved aluminum and carbon-fiber struts guarantee that this noble clock stands as solidly as a rock, regardless of whether its rests upon the motionless floor of one’s library at home or in the captain’s cabin aboard planks that constantly pitch and roll.

This large clock is well equipped to cope with the different requirements of life aboard ship and on dry land because it can tip in any direction thanks to cardanic suspension inside a cage of nickel-plated brass. Even when the yacht leans to one side, the clock remains horizontal and indicates the ship’s heeling with a downwardly pointing arrow on a scale from 0 to 27 degrees: a perfect symbiosis of aesthetic form and nautical function.

Of course, this large navigational clock is only one half of each Montblanc Régulateur Nautique timepiece set, so built into one of the struts that supports the clock is a smaller cardanic suspension, into which the wristwatch chronograph can be placed when one isn’t wearing it on one’s wrist. The wristwatch is kept safely here: no matter how violently the waves may rage, it continually maintains its horizontal position, where it is immune to the ill effects of the so-called “center-of-gravity error.”

Now is the time to describe the details of the navigational clock, which becomes the heart and soul of navigation as soon as the last bit of coastline has disappeared below the horizon. From this moment on, mariners who need to calculate the exact position of their yacht must rely on knowing the exact time in a harbor with a known geographic longitude, the current position of the sun, and the angle between the horizon and the sun’s highest daily ascent at local noon.

Time-Zone Dial as Navigational Aid

The face beneath the highly domed crystal is mostly patterned after the dial of the Régulateur Nautique wristwatch, but the much larger size of this clock’s face provides ample space for three time zones. The time in the harbor of departure is shown on a 24-hour subdial at the “9”; the time in the port of destination appears on another 24-hour subdial at the “3”; and the current local time is indicated on the main dial, which is arranged in classical regulator fashion with a large minute-hand from the center and a subdial for the hours at the “12.” Immediately alongside it is the small seconds display. As on the wristwatch, here too on the navigational clock a combined power-reserve and winding-zone display reminds the owner to regularly wind the clock, although this pleasant little task is necessary only once each fortnight. The aforementioned displays are augmented by a world-time clock: its scales for 24 hours and two dozen yacht harbour names turn below the cardanic suspension and are visible only from the side. Blue LED illumination bathes the entire ensemble in seductive, mysteriously shimmering light. The world-time function becomes especially exclusive and individualized if the owner doesn’t use the standard scale of place names, but replaces the standardized names with place names of his or her own preference, one place name for each time zone. For example, the owner can choose Geneva instead of Paris because he lives in the Swiss metropolis; Hoboken, New Jersey instead of New York because he was born in Hoboken; or Osaka, where his favorite restaurant is located, rather than Tokyo. In an accordingly individualized version, the Montblanc Régulateur Nautique timepiece set morphs from one part of a limited edition into an absolutely unique ensemble.

Mechanical Timekeeping in Compliance with All the Rules of Artistic Handcraftsmanship

To serve as its partner for the manufacturing of this impressive navigational clock, Montblanc joined forces with the renowned Erwin Sattler clock manufactory, which ranks among the finest in its métier. The clockwork’s construction, functionality and design boast all the characteristics of outstanding horological artistry and high-quality manufactory production. The gleaming golden gears are laboriously crafted in a laborious multistage method which calls for each tooth to be individually and sequentially milled from the solid brass blank. Milling a single wheel requires many minutes of labor, followed by other time-consuming finishing steps such as deburring, polishing the surfaces of the wheels and the flanks of the teeth, and plating with gold, which protects the wheels against corrosion and gives them high-gloss surfaces that reduce friction. The 360-hour rate autonomy requires a correspondingly large barrel containing a lengthy mainspring. Compensation for the continual decline of torque in the mainspring is achieved by a so-called “fuseau transmission,” which transfers energy to the first wheel in the gear-train via a cable wrapped around a conically shaped fusee (or fuseau in French). As the power in the barrel wanes, the tapering radius of the fusee continually alters the active leverage so an unchanging moment of force can be conveyed to the gear-train despite the steadily decreasing torque in the mainspring. This transmission of energy is regulated via a Swiss lever escapement and a screw balance with a blued hairspring. The balance and its spring, which oscillate at the unhurried but classical frequency of 2.5 hertz (18,000 semi-oscillations per hour), are visible through an aperture in the dial at 1 o`clock.

The Montblanc Regulateur Nautique navigational clock is a lavish artwork with an exclusive design that attracts everyone’s gaze and with superlative functions that capture the interest of its viewers. Standing aboard a yacht, its attractive appearance recalls the safe harbor; standing on a motionless floor on terra firma, this commanding clock evokes dreams of freedom on the high seas; and when its owner wears the matching Régulateur Nautique chronograph on the wrist, the clock is always – as it were – close at hand.

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. These exclusively limited sets will be available in Montblanc boutiques and in selected jewelers in June 2012.


Navigation on the High Seas Depends on Precise Time Measurement

The conquest of the oceans and the evolution of precise time measurement are inseparably linked because on the endless expanse of the oceans, classical navigational instruments could only enable a mariner to determine his geographic latitude between 90° North and 90° South, but not his geographic longitude, i.e. his position along an East-West axis.

This longitudinal uncertainty had dramatic consequences. In the course of centuries, thousands of sailing vessels were dashed to smithereens on reefs, sending tens of thousands of seamen to a watery grave – all because the navigator ahead no way to accurately determine geographical longitude and thus the exact position of the ship. It was the English, and above all the watchmaker John Harrison, who successfully solved this problem in the 18th century with the aid of highly precise timepieces, known today as “ship’s chronometers.”

Navigation on the High Seas with Sextant and Ship’s Chronometer

There are only a few points of reference that can be used to orient oneself on the vast expanse of the ocean. One can see the ship on which one is sailing, the 360° panorama of the horizon and the celestial bodies, for example, the sun and the moon, the North Star in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Cross in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s comparatively simple to determine one’s latitude with the aid of a sextant, with which one measures the angle between the horizon and the sun at its highest daily elevation at one’s current location. Calculating one’s momentary longitude is considerably more difficult. Longitude defines position along an East- West axis, along which the sun likewise appears to move, so the sun cannot serve as a motionless point of reference. The sun reaches its highest point above the horizon at a different time at each location on Earth, so a navigator needs to know the route of its transit, i.e. its highest daily elevation, along the axis of time. The sun seems to complete one 360° journey around the Earth every 24 hours. Our nearest star accordingly travels through an angle of fifteen degrees of longitude each hour, which is equivalent to one degree of longitude every four minutes. If a seafarer has a precise timepiece on board, and if that chronometer shows the true solar time at his harbor of embarkation (e.g. Southampton on the southern coast of England), then he can readily calculate his momentary geographical longitude. By definition, local noon is the moment when the sun reaches its highest elevation above the horizon. At precisely this instant, the home time in Southampton must be read from the dial of the ship’s chronometer. For example, if the chronometer shows 4:24 p.m., the vessel’s current position must be 264 solar minutes (i.e. four hours and 24 minutes) west of Southampton. Dividing 264 by four yields the vessel’s present longitude: 66° West. Now one only needs to measure the sun’s elevation about the horizon, which can easily be accomplished with the aid of a sextant, and accordingly mark the current latitude on the nautical chart. The intersection of the longitude and latitude lines is the ship’s current position.

Incidentally: satellite navigation likewise functions only thanks to precise time measurement. Every satellite in the European “Galileo” system is equipped with four Swiss-made atomic clocks, the two most accurate of which err by a full second only after one million years have elapsed. The principle remains unchanged; only the precision and the user-friendliness have increased.

Leave a Reply