Montblanc, the company known since 1909 for its iconic pens, is a relatively new presence in fine watchmaking but clearly means to be as well known for its timepieces as for its writing instruments. In an amazingly short time Montblanc has not only delivered watches that fulfill the high expectations one justifiably has of the company in terms of design, it’s also created high complications that would be the pride –and are the envy –of watchmaking houses decades or centuries older. Their newest flagship complicated watch: the Montblanc Tourbillon “Bi-Cylindrique.”
The tourbillon is a complication that even a newcomer to haute horlogerie can learn to recognize almost immediately –the mechanism basically consists of a rotating cage which contains the escapement, or regulating mechanism that controls the accuracy of the watch. The tourbillon, invented by the brilliant A. L. Breguet in 1801, was intended by its inventor to compensate for the harmful effects of gravity on the accuracy of a watch. Tourbillons were so challenging to make that in the two centuries leading up to the new millennium, less than a thousand were made, and a fine or unusual tourbillon is still a connoisseur’s delight.
Few tourbillons are more exclusive and unusual than the Montblanc Tourbillon “Bi-Cylindrique.” This rare piece of horological exotica is a further evolution of Montblanc’s Mystery Tourbillon, in which the hands move with no apparent connection to the dial (it’s a wristwatch variation on the highly rare and collectible mystery clocks, for which Cartier is famous, that were fashionable in the early 20th century.) A mystery tourbillon is rare enough, but Montblanc has combined the see-through mystery dial with two cylindrical balance springs. The balance spring controls the accuracy of a watch in the same way gravity controls the time of a pendulum swing, and most are simple flat metal spirals. Cylindrical hairsprings were most frequently used in the ultra-high-precision marine chronometers used to navigate at sea, before GPS. Two are used in the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique, allowing each to cancel out the errors produced by the other, further refining the accuracy of the watch.
With its open dial revealing the mechanism moving both the tourbillon and the “mystery” watch dial, the Tourbillon Bi-cylindrique is both a piece of technical exotica (there is simply nothing else like it) and a work of wearable art for the wrist.
The Montblanc Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique is available in white gold (shown) at $360,300, or in red gold at $296,800, in an extremely limited series of only 8 pieces worldwide in each precious meta
Jack Forster is the Editor in Chief of Revolution Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating the world of fine watchmaking, and he also manages Revolution Online www.revo-online.com the foremost information and discussion site on the internet for watch enthusiasts.