Montblanc Unveils Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon with wooden dial

Engraved wood and gold dial with a clever tourbillon.

Although Montblanc is primarily recognised as a pen maker, Montblanc also harbors ambitious aspirations in watchmaking, as evidenced by its acquisition of the Minerva manufacture in Villeret, a highly capable movement maker in the early 20th century. This allows Montblanc to create watches with traditional movements and beautiful finishes, including a range of chronographs.

 

While the Villeret manufacture frequently draws inspiration from its historical pocket watch movements, it also looks ahead to the future by innovating existing mechanisms. One notable example is the patented Exo Tourbillon, which boasts enhanced energy efficiency and timekeeping stability. Now, the brand has unveiled what might be its most stunning iteration of this tourbillon: the Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon. It features an artistically engraved dial crafted from walnut wood and gold, a combination that creates a rich appearance reminiscent of ancient Roman aesthetics.

A limited edition of eight pieces

Goddess Minerva

As with previous hand-wound Exo Tourbillons, the dial consists of three parts: a time-telling dial at 12 o’clock, an opening at six o’clock for the tourbillon, and the rest of the dial. Here, all three parts have been luxuriously dressed up. Starting with the dial at 12 o’clock, it’s a solid piece of gold relief-engraved with the Minerva Goddess. According to the brand, the portrayal is based on an antique coin that was used in the company’s advertising and was more recently rediscovered in its archives.

However, the highlight is actually the larger dial, which is also decorated but unusually made of a piece of walnut wood. Engraved with a frieze pattern, the wood gives the dial a natural warmth and texture that’s impossible to replicate with printing, thus adding a dimension to the character. To make the sparse dial more interesting, the wood dial has been topped with olive leaves and branches, all fashioned from gold.

 

Finally, the ring around the tourbillon has also been adorned with an engraving of the laurel tree pattern. And once again, it’s made of gold to contrast with the surrounding wood. Together, the engravings on the entire dial take over 70 hours to complete, with the engraving of the Minerva Goddess itself taking over 50 hours of handwork.

 

Notably, the handwork is not only impressive in terms of craftsmanship but also in terms of design. The use of gold and wood perfectly complements each other and creates a rich, warm look, yet the two materials are different enough in texture and sheen, so there’s a good amount of contrast and depth. And the symmetrical arrangement of the dial also allows for a more magnificent look after the regal decorations are applied.

Engraved wood and gold dial

Exo Tourbillon

Almost concealed amidst a sea of artisanal decorations lies the technical highlight of the watch: the Exo Tourbillon. As visible through the six o’clock opening, the Exo Tourbillon features an unusual construction in which the balance wheel is positioned above and outside the tourbillon cage. This contrasts with the typical tourbillon, where the cage encloses the entire balance assembly. This construction is a development by the manufacturer in Villeret and is patented. It addresses some of the inherent challenges associated with a tourbillon. 

 

First, by relocating the balance wheel outside the tourbillon cage, it allows for a larger balance wheel than usual. Traditionally, the size of a balance wheel would need to match that of the cage, presenting a dilemma: a larger cage results in more friction and wasted energy, whereas a larger balance wheel enhances inertia and timekeeping stability. Here, the balance wheel is substantial, measuring almost 1.45 cm in diameter. 

 

Second, with the cage having no need to enclose the balance, it can be designed to be as small as possible (as long as it encloses the escapement). Here, the cage is small and lightweight, discreetly positioned beneath the balance. 

 

In short, the Exo Tourbillon offers two advantages: not only does it reduce the cage’s size to enhance energy efficiency, but it also accommodates a larger balance wheel, thereby improving timekeeping stability.

The MB M16.68

Turn the watch over, and the movement continues to impress. The MB M16.18 features a classic construction inspired by the maker’s historical pocket watch movements. More importantly, it has been meticulously finished, as one would expect from Minerva. For instance, the bridges have been expertly crafted with polished bevels along the edges, exhibiting sharp outward and inward angles, to say the least. Another intriguing detail is the “devil’s tail” arrow on the winding click for the barrel ratchet wheel.

Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon Limited Edition Ref. 131624 Specs and Price

Movement: MB M16.68 ; hand-wound; 50 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and tourbillon
Case: 44.8 mm x 15.3 mm; 18k rose gold; water resistant to 30 m
Strap: Alligator strap with gold folding clasp
Limited edition: 8 pieces

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