Only Watch: Davide Cerrato Talks Us Through The 1858 Split Second Chronograph
After the success of Montblanc’s 2017 Only Watch contribution – a one-of-a-kind 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter that fetched double the estimated price at auction, the brand is back with another show-stopping timepiece.
We spoke with Montblanc’s Managing Director of Watches Davide Cerrato to learn more about the brand’s Only Watch 2019 unique piece — the Montblanc 1858 Split Seconds Chronograph with a titanium case and blue agate dial.
Sophie Furley: Montblanc is very active on the charity scene with its support of organizations like UNICEF and (RED), what appealed to you in particular about Only Watch?
Davide Cerrato: The first reason for getting involved in Only Watch is to support this precious and important cause through an event founded by Luc Pettavino, whose family has been directly touched by this terrible disease. It is a beautiful way to come together, connecting people and brands for such a positive event. It also brings something very relevant to watch collectors in a clever way that links the cause with the event.
SF: Your last Only Watch timepiece – the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter with a bronze case and vintage green dial – fetched almost double the recommended price. Were you surprised by the final price?
DC: Not really, because I know collectors and I have been following the auctions for over 16 years now. It is important to understand the world of collectors and how to engage with them with a watch that is special, relevant, and exclusive.
The results at auction are a good thermometer of the value of a brand. We have been telling the full story around Minerva, how we make these high-quality movements entirely in-house and collectors recognize that the Minerva limited editions are a great value and that they are spending their money in the right place.
SF: You have chosen to produce another 1858 timepiece for Only Watch 2019. What do you think your clients appreciate the most about this collection?
DC: 1858 is our seminal product line. It is the face of Montblanc’s new watchmaking expression. The high-end pieces in this collection are the most successful, and they push the boundaries of what we are doing. The collection has strong vintage designs, unique handmade and hand-finished movements with a unique heritage dating back 161 years, and a rarity element with limited and numbered editions. It is a strong execution of what is called today a tool watch.
SF: For Only Watch 2019, you have donated a Montblanc 1858 Split Seconds Chronograph Unique Piece in titanium with a blue agate dial. Can you tell us about the thinking behind this piece?
DC: During SIHH earlier this year, we unveiled the Montblanc 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition with a black dial and bronze case. The timepiece was a winner and got a lot of attention, particularly from prominent collectors. Then we introduced another variation for SIAR in Mexico with a green nephrite dial. A stone dial makes perfect sense for 1858 as it comes directly from the mountain and links back to nature, exploration, and the outdoors.
DC (Continued): So, for this Only Watch, we have chosen another stone, an agate, with varying gradients of blue and a titanium case. It’s the first time we use titanium on a limited-edition Minerva wristwatch, and we decided to do the full development of the case to celebrate this new participation. The result is compelling, with a perfect match of the cold tones of the blue stone and the dark gray of grade 5 titanium. It is a statement.
SF: How difficult is it to work with stone dials like agate?
DC: They are beautiful, but are very difficult to work with. Each stone has a different density, a different crystal structure, and a way of reacting. You can break them when you cut them, or cracks can appear when you assemble the dial into the watch. They are rare and beautiful, but they come at a price. What I like is the living notion of the stone; it is incredible when you think about how pressure and temperature at the center of the Earth can create such beautiful natural objects.
SF: Can you tell us about this stunning split-seconds chronograph movement?
DC: The movement is our MB M16.31, 16 lines, mono-pusher split-seconds chronograph. Its origin in terms of its architecture is the Caliber MB M16.29, which was a GPHG winner. The split-seconds mechanism represents the highest complication in terms of chronograph technology. It is linked to the first mono-pusher chronograph created by Minerva in 1909, which was then further improved in 1920. Everything is crafted by hand and in house, including the hairspring. The whole movement is crafted and assembled and decorated by a single watchmaker, from the polished inner angles of all the bridges to the finishing with Côtes de Genève and circular graining. These calibers are also notable thanks to their big balance wheel beating at 18,000vph, their 18 gold screws, and their Minerva engraving.
SF: If another brand asked you for your opinion about taking part in Only Watch, what would you say?
DC: I would say, take it seriously, prepare in advance, and create something exceptional and unique that will engage collectors.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)