Refreshed from 2008 and originally shown at SIHH in January of this year, Montblanc’s Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph is an impressive feat of watchmaking and design. As part of a recent preview for SIHH 2019, Montblanc has created two new versions of this lovely yet oddball monopusher chronograph. Now offered with an anthracite dial in either rose gold or steel, these two versions sit alongside last year’s model, which was shown in steel with a silver-white dial.
While the Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph may not be my usual cup of tea (does this Casio come in gold?), it is nothing short of special. An automatic monopusher chronograph with a column wheel, the in-house MB R200 movement also shows the time, a second time zone, day/night indication for travel, and the date. The chronograph measure is displayed on two rotating disks set into the wonderfully finished dial. The anthracite dial works really well, with good legibility and the “fixed double index” (the chronograph measure is indicated by the tiny bridge that spans the edge of the two discs) makes reading the chronograph simple enough while ensuring the functionality is as elegant as possible.
Like the previous example, these Nicolas Rieussec Chronographs are 44.8mm wide with a curvy case that is 15mm thick and offers a wide view of both the dial and the movement through a display case back. Priced from €7,450 in steel and €20,000 in rose gold (USD prices are coming soon), if you put the precious metal to the side for a moment, that is simply a ton of watch for the money. While certainly large on wrist, the Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph offers a considerable value in quality watchmaking with a distinctive style.
The latest chronograph from the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec collection is a great reinterpretation of the successful 2008’s chronograph. The new version comes with a reworked dial and an overall appeal. Will be the Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph a worthy follower? We try to answer this question in this full hands-on review.
Talking about the Nicolas Rieussec, we automatically think about two aspects: the Montblanc with a vast experience in micro-mechanics from their extraordinary writing instruments and, more recently, their tangible horological pieces and the powerful legacy of the French watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec.
Montblanc is a pioneer in the art of writing instruments since 1906. Their Meisterstück fountain pens are emblematic for the beauty and quality. It is said that every person, man or woman, should have one: inherited, received as a gift or acquisitioned. Having in mind the various collaborations and special edition, Montblanc has a powerful and solid reputation in the world of writing instruments. At the same time, Montblanc becomes, more and more, a big, reputable name in the horological world. The recent 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter LE, in bronze, brings the heritage of Minerva, with a vintage appearance and a beautifully designed movement into a modern time telling machine. Another interesting piece from the Le Locle Maison was the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama. With a tourbillon placed at 12 o’clock and the world, divided in two on the dial, the watch is spectacular.
Nicolas Rieussec is the watchmaker who patented, in 1821, a precise time measuring device, under the name of chronographe. A new patent was awarded in 1838 for a simplified and easier to use version of the chronograph.
A distinction should be made between the chronometer and the chronograph. Chronometry is a property of the watches on how well they perform. For instance, a chronometer has a very good precision but is not intended to measure necessarily time intervals. For the chronometric precision can be certified by technical bodies. The best known is perhaps the COSC, but also METAS used by Omega, the Qualitie Fleurier or the 1000 hours Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Control and, in today’s reviewed piece, the 500 hours test of Montblanc. A chronograph is a complication, a short-time measurement function, additional to the nominal time display. A chronograph does not imply a precision certification, although the most do have some sort of chronometric certification.
Ahead of the upcoming SIHH 2018 and to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Montblanc Star Legacy Collection, the brand has announced two new models: the Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph and the Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph. Although both models are chronographs, have “Star Legacy” in their names, and are being announced together, these are vastly different timepieces occupying separate price brackets.The Montblanc Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph is the more affordable model of the two, and features a dual-pusher, three-register chronograph in a 42mm by 14.23mm case. The contrast between the silvery-white dial and large black Arabic numerals provides good legibility, and the monochromatic color scheme is nicely complemented by the pops of blue on the leaf-shaped hour and minute hands and chronograph hands. The running seconds counter can be found at 9 o’clock, and a date window is discreetly (some might say distractingly) positioned at 4:30. The elapsed hour counter at 6 o’clock also features Montblanc’s signature star-shaped design in guilloché that is echoed on the counterweight on the central chronograph seconds hand as well as on the crown.
Running along the outside of the dial is a subtle but unique design element of the Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph: a railway minute track which uses dots rather than lines, which Montblanc claims is inspired by a rare feature on Minerva watches from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Outlining this minute track is a filet sauté guilloché pattern (meaning up and down guilloché lines – even if it sounds like something culinary) which adds to the visual interest of the dial when inspected closely. The case is made of steel, highly polished, and covered with a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. The large onion-shaped crown should make winding and setting the watch easy even with gloves on, and is a design element often associated with aviation watches.
The lugs of the Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph are elegantly curved and stepped, and attach the watch to an included “Sfumato” blue alligator strap hand-made by the Montblanc Pelletteria in Florence, Italy. The hue of the strap is brighter near the center and darker towards the edges, another small design detail that might go unnoticed at first glance but adds to the overall interest and refinement of this timepiece. Visible through a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback is the Calibre MB 25.02, which is a Montblanc-branded version of the ETA 7753 and features 27 jewels, a 46-hour power reserve, and oscillates at 28,800bph, or 4Hz.
The Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph is significantly more expensive than its Automatic companion, but also offers greater historical interest and visual appeal. French watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec is credited with inventing the first inking chronograph in 1821, designed to precisely measure the running times of racing horses. Rieussec’s device literally wrote the time using ink, so he named it a “chronograph” from the Greek words chronos (time) and graphein (to write). Considering Montblanc has at one time or another been best known for their writing instruments, this seems like a uniquely fitting homage. This is a much bigger watch than the Star Legacy Automatic Chronograph at 44.8mm by 15.02mm and the case is inspired by the pocket watch designs of Minerva founder Charles-Ivan Robert, such as the Gold Hunter Calibre 19’’ from 1927.
This isn’t the first Rieussec-inspired chronograph the brand has released, with earlier models including the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic in 2011 (reviewed here) and the Montblanc Homage To Nicolas Rieussec in 2014 (hands-on). This latest model features a reworked dial, which combines some key design elements from its predecessors, whilst seeking to improve both legibility and finishing. The Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph is a monopusher like the previous models, with the single pusher integrated into the crown. Also included is a GMT hand for tracking a second time zone, a day-night indicator located at 9 o’clock on the off-center hour and minute display, a date aperture at 6 o’clock, and a travel function allowing for rapid advancements of the hour hand and date display.
The Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph uses two domed titanium discs for the 60-second and 30-minute counters, with elapsed time indicated on both discs simultaneously via a blued double index in a design similar to Rieussec’s original chronograph. A railway minute track again using dots rather than lines is also featured around the periphery of the off-center dial, along with discreet dots around the inner dial to mark the hours in a second time zone. The dial makes heavy use of guilloché for decoration, including a perimeter ring of filet sauté guilloché. The overall aesthetic is just a set of pomme-style hands away from perhaps being mistaken for a Breguet, which is certainly not a bad thing for lovers of classic decoration.
Turn the watch around and the Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB R200 is revealed through the sapphire crystal caseback. This is a column-wheel vertical clutch chronograph movement with automatic winding, traversing balance bridge, 40 jewels, and a screwed balance wheel which oscillates at 28,800bph, or 4Hz. Two barrels offer a generous 72-hour power reserve, and the movement is well-decorated with circular graining on the base plate, Côtes de Genève on the bridges, bevelled edges, blued screws, and golden wheels. Although this is the same movement used in previous Rieussec models, for the first time it will be certified by the arduous Montblanc Laboratory Test 500. This test lasts 500 hours and checks the watch assembly, accuracy, resilience of the functions under real-world use, general performance, and water-tightness.