Collection Villeret 1858
It has been 150 years since the foundation of Minerva
The Watch Quote™ - May 5th, 2008
This year Montblanc is celebrating a major jubilee - it has been 150 years since the foundation of Minerva, a small manufacture specializing in handcrafted watchmaking, in Villeret. The company soon began focusing its attention on timekeeping and has since developed the chronograph to the peak of perfection. Only a handful of watch manufacturers can look back on such a long, uninterrupted history, and over the years Minerva has held fast to the working methods traditionally associated with Swiss watchmaking at its best. This is the art of haute horlogerie, which is practiced largely by hand. Only a select group of master watchmakers today are familiar with the procedures and techniques required for this rarest and most exclusive form of watchmaking. Important components like the generously sized balance with its high moment of inertia are made in-house, the active length of the tailor-made balance springs is counted by hand as it was in bygone ages, and the “Mise en Fonction” of the chronograph control carried out meticulously by hand for each individual movement.
Almost two years ago, in order to preserve its authenticity, Minerva joined forces with Montblanc, which is likewise dedicated to the preservation and practice of manufacturing traditions handed down from one generation to the next, in all its business activities. Montblanc is celebrating the occasion with exclusive jubilee additions to the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, which will be unveiled at this year’s SIHH (Salon de la Haute Horlogerie) in April 2008. And for autumn 2008, Montblanc has a special surprise up its sleeve to mark Minerva’s 150th jubilee.
Montblanc timepieces comply with the strictest tenets of watchmaking
Since 2007, the name Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 has stood for timepieces manufactured in accordance with the tenets of traditional haute horlogerie. Each demands such a high level of specialized craftsmanship and finishing that annual production is limited to just a few hundred watches. Movements, of which each type is limited to a maximum of 288 pieces, have been specially developed for these watches. The figure 288 stands for the sum total of two gross (one gross equalling twelve dozen), which is a traditional unit of measurement in watchmaking. Central to the development of new movements is a focus on classical garde-temps (timekeeper) philosophy, with special attention being paid – in view of Minerva’s history – to the chronographs. In terms of their form, all movements build on the outstanding legacy of Minerva, which sets new standards with the unmistakable aesthetics of its beautifully shaped bridges and levers. The individual parts are finished to a level of perfection mastered by only a very limited number of specialists. The same philosophy, founded firmly on authenticity and craftsmanship that applies to the manufacture of the movements, is the guiding principle for the other parts in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858. All the watches come with cases of 950 platinum or 18 ct. gold and a see-through sapphire-glass back under a hinged cuvette with a snap closure that is invisible from the outside and is released using a patented mechanism located under the horns. The cases are manufactured in diameters of 47 and 41 millimetres to accommodate the different sizes of movements. The dials and hands are made of solid gold and protected by high-domed sapphire glass with vertical sides: a chevé, as it is known to watchmakers.
Art in the truest sense of the word
Watches manufactured like those in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 are items with a high cultural value and can rightfully be considered very special works of art. In recognition of this – as well as of their extremely limited availability – each timepiece in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 is accompanied by a set of lithographs presented in a leather-bound case: historic depictions of the old Minerva manufacture (the French term traditionally used for a workshop specializing in handcrafted watchmaking), landscape impressions of the Jura mountains, illustrations of watch movements, and a lithograph of the watch in question. The latter is at the very heart of each portfolio because, like the watch itself, it is unique. It bears the watch’s serial number, its number in the limited edition, and the handwritten signature of master watchmaker Demetrio Cabiddu. Each set of lithographs is assembled individually and is thus an element in the philosophy that makes each and every watch in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 something unique.
1858 – 2008: Rarities manufactured by Montblanc to mark a special jubilee
The parts of the movement and other components used in the manufacture of watches in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 pass through the hands of highly specialized and qualified master watchmakers hundreds of times. This naturally limits capacity, and in 2008 production will reach a maximum of 350 watches. As a tribute to Minerva, the founding year of 1858 will serve as the framework for the limited editions of the various models: Taking the formula 1/8/58 as a basis, production will comprise unique pieces in platinum together with editions of eight pieces in white gold and 58 pieces in rose gold. As if this were not exclusive enough, the various movements will also be crafted as highly individual, unique works of art featuring designs based on the personal wishes of their future owners. For customers purchasing a timepiece from the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, this is a guarantee that their choice of wristwatch will exist once, and once only, worldwide. With their authentic haute horlogerie character, the limitation of each calibre to just 288 pieces, and their extremely limited availability (if not uniqueness), the watches in the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 meet all the conditions one would expect of a genuine collector’s item. This was the thinking behind the first four lines of haute horlogerie timepieces in the Montblanc “Collection Villeret 1858”, which took the industry by storm in 2007 and was sold out within the space of a few months.
Montblanc founds the “Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie”
Since October 2006, Montblanc and Minerva SA from Villeret in the Bernese Jura mountains have been working together on the development and in-house manufacture of prestigious watch movements. The name Minerva stands for traditional, in-house Swiss watchmaking in the truest sense of the term: Firstly, because it implies the development and assembly of its own movements; and, secondly, because it involves a degree of painstaking craftsmanship that is rarely encountered even in the world of haute horlogerie. It was to quell the growing danger that the skills and craftsmanship intrinsic to the art of Swiss watchmaking might drift into oblivion that Montblanc and Minerva joined forces to establish the “Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie”. Back in 2007, Montblanc made substantial investments to sustain this irreplaceable experience and expertise and to secure it for generations of watch devotees to come. The aim of this institute is to preserve invaluable skills, to build on them, and to propel them to a new level of greatness. The spotlight here will be on training. The newly founded institute is intended to function as a kind of think tank, where young watchmakers can meet up to exchange ideas and be initiated into the old traditions, the expertise developed over generations, the rich body of experience and the mentality typical of the true master watchmaker preserved. This purpose, too, was the reason for the “Fondation Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie”, whose foundation capital was provided by Montblanc. The foundation will be receiving financial and logistic support for its first non-profit projects this year. There are also plans for exhibitions, workshops and seminars for people in the industry, with a view to making what the institute has to offer accessible to as many interested individuals as possible. In October 2007, work began on a major renovation of the premises that have served as the headquarters of the company since its foundation in Villeret. In October 2008, to celebrate the 150th jubilee, the ateliers will once more be open to interested visitors and collectors.