A day before the official opening of SIHH 2017, Montblanc surprised a select group of watch media with the invitation to experience the unveiling of a new personality for the iconic Montblanc TimeWalker collection. It was a cold afternoon in Geneva, but Montblanc took us outside for an afternoon of driving in addition to checking out the new driving watch personality created for the TimeWalker collection by Davide Cerrato, the still new product guy at the brand. In my opinion, the new Montblanc TimeWalker collection is the very watch the Italian watch and car guy wanted for himself.
Davide hails from Tudor, where he helped curate one of the industry’s most coherent collections of modern sport watches with classic, vintage-style appeal. When he joined Montblanc, a very different brand than Tudor, I have to admit I wasn’t sure what he was planning on doing. Davide is practical when it comes to the watches he likes. As someone who seems to like fashion as much as functionality, a down-to-earth collection of sport watches in accessible materials made for daily wear makes a lot of sense. That is what he helped accomplish at Tudor rather adeptly, and now at Montblanc you start to see his personality coming out, starting with the re-imagined Montblanc TimeWalker collection which is mostly focused on accessibly priced watches with two notable exotic collections to make media and super high-end watch collectors happy.
For the most part, I’m excited about the the sub-$5,000 watches, which represent the models the vast majority of us will be considering as something to include in our lives. Davide mostly wears plaid pants and bow ties, but on this occasion paired his standard attire with driving gloves, a helmet, and deeply tinted driving googles. He looked ready for a race circa 1937. No one can claim Mr. Cerrato is anything but a romantic at heart. In true Italian style, he introduced the new Montblanc TimeWalker collection by speaking about heritage.
Montblanc itself has no connection to the racing world, as far as I am aware, but Minerva that Montblanc acquired some years back (now known as Montblanc Villeret) does. Part of this new racing collection is a large a “Rally Timer” stopwatch-style 50mm wide piece in titanium that is strapped to the wrist in old-school fashion. It contains one of those very pretty Minerva-made chronograph movements that you can see through an elliptical window on the rear of the case. It’s not very practical, but it is cool and is probably the closest item in the collection to something with an actual connection to racing history given that Minerva was popular as a sports chronograph maker back in its heyday. We’ll cover that model in more depth in a separate article. I give credit to Davide and Montblanc for trying to come up with a justification for making an automotive racing-inspired watch collection. Apparently, there are people out there who feel such justifications are necessary. For me, I just like it when brands come out with cool stuff – I don’t think they need to offer reasons why. Good things speak for themselves.
Not everyone will be smitten with this new direction Montblanc is taking for the TimeWalker, especially since there are so many racing/driver’s watches out there. What you choose is a matter of style more than it is feeling like one brand or another has a “right” to produce such timepieces. One question I had which wasn’t really answered is “what’s happening to the existing Montblanc TimeWalker case and collection? I’ve long since been a fan of the standard Montblanc TimeWalker that, in my opinion, mixes timeless looks with a neat modern architected style. I never ended up buying one, but a Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph in polished steel with a silver dial and ETA 2894 automatic chronograph movement on a thick brown alligator strap was something I wanted to add to my collection since before I started aBlogtoWatch. So for now, I’ll say that there is a good chance the “other” Montblanc TimeWalker collection might be discontinued to make way for this new family, or the two will co-exist side-by-side in the larger Montblanc watch family.
All the new standard collection TimeWalker cases are in steel, but the high-end limited edition models are in mostly titanium. This includes the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition 100 and the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 1000 Limited Edition 18. We will likely dedicate a different article to discussing those more complicated and exclusive watches. For this Montblanc TimeWalker article, I wanted to focus on the items more people will be able to add to their own collections.
What works so well about the Montblanc TimeWalker is that combination of classic simple-to-understand style, functionality, and pretty good legibility. I am pretty sure Davide is like me in that he hates watches that you can’t easily read. Nothing – and I mean nothing – ruins a good watch more than a pathetically difficult-to-read dial. Look out for anything that has polished hands on a polished dial, and run (don’t timewalk) as fast as you can in the other direction. With that said, good use of materials and a slightly flashy design make for a legible dial with style on these new Montblanc TimeWalkers.