Since 2008, Montblanc has produced a select range of wristwatches at a historic factory in the Swiss village of Villeret, in the Jura Mountains, the historic heart of Switzerland’s watchmaking industry.
Opened in 1858, the workshop—called Fabrique d’Horlogerie Minerva, a reference to founder Charles-Yvan Robert’s fascination with Roman mythology—established a reputation for precision timekeeping with a focus on chronograph calibers. Having barely survived the quartz crisis of the 1970s, the firm received a new lease on life in 2006, when the luxury industry holding company Financière Richemont acquired it for Montblanc, which soon began producing its contemporary Villeret 1858 collection of high-end wristwatches at the manufacture.
“The archives we have in Villeret about the Minerva history are a gold mine,” said David Cerrato, managing director of Montblanc Watches. “Thanks to no accidents with the building and all of its history and a lot of care from the people in the company, we have preserved the history of Minerva from 1858 to today.”
Recently, Montblanc staff discovered a hidden box of 38 original Minerva MB M62.00 calibers hidden in the archives. “Inside was a hidden envelope containing a beautiful movement with a high-end Minerva finishing, but it was small size with a simple hour, minutes and small seconds indication,” said Cerrato. “Looking into it with more attention we discovered that a very small number of them had been produced in 2003, when the key complications from Minerva’s history were being reworked to give them new life. This small movement, despite incredible finishing and value, was used on very few watches for ladies and has remained since then in the archive. The preservation was perfect, so we decided to simply refurbish these movements and use the whole batch of 38 pieces to create a collector’s item.”
The watchmaker has incorporated the manual wind movements, which are inspired by Minerva watches from the 1950s, into the new model, a rarefied timepiece that features, for the very first time, the Minerva name on the salmon-colored, two-tone dial—though you’ll have to search for the secret signature between 4 and 5 o’clock.
“For the icing on the cake, and because this timepiece was really born with hardcore watchmaking collectors in mind, we also decided to add a mysterious signature—the Minerva brand name on the dial, which is a demand we have received since we started the relaunch of high-end pieces,” said Cerrato. “It’s a detail, disclosing in a clever way, the fact that inside pulses a piece of history.
The historic calibre originated in 1948 with Minerva’s geometric Pythagore calibre. In 2003, the company redesigned the MB M62.00 into a more classic shape. In addition to a large balance wheel, the movement is hand-decorated with bevelling, chamfered edges, circular graining on both sides, and grained and polished surfaces. The high level of finishing extends to the dial, which has been lacquered and domed; the Dauphine-shaped hands; the black rhodium coated applied indexes; and the Arabic numerals and dots, which have been coated with Super-LumiNova for the first time. And in true manufacture fashion, each model has been built and assembled by the same master watchmaker at the Minerva facility in Villeret.
The $18,900 timepiece, which comes in a 39 mm stainless steel case topped by a domed box-shaped sapphire crystal glass, is limited and numbered.