Ice Diver: The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 Issue of the WatchTime print magazine. Photos by Montblanc and Olaf Köster.

Both an iceberg and a diver appear in a 3D-relief engraving on the caseback of the Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date dive watch. The six-screw attachment, together with the 42-mm solid case body and a screw-down crown ensures that the watch is water resistant to a depth of 300 meters. The impressive relief engraving is created with a technique rarely used on such a small surface. The metal is engraved with a laser until a 3D-structured relief is created that conveys a realistic impression of depth. The elaborate caseback is just one result of the extensive design work undertaken for the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date. Taking its inspiration from the icy sea of the Mont Blanc glacier, which has solidified into an intertwined network of crystals over thousands of years, Montblanc created a dial that uniquely reflects this unusual aspect of nature. It was no simple undertaking to depict a realistic impression of a glacier on a disk that is only 0.5-mm thick.

Three Colors for Three Different Kinds of Ice 

The age-old technique known as gratte-boisé, which means “scraping with a wooden utensil,” is the process used to create the impression of a dial covered in ice. Viewed through a loupe, it’s possible to recognize the crystalline structures of the ice between the gray, blue and black tones. The blue dial of our preview watch reflects the crystal color within the glacial sea on Mont Blanc, which occurs when air bubbles are trapped within. Another version has a dial that takes its inspiration from the green ice that occurs in the Antarctic region, taking its color from microscopic snow algae. Black ice forms when there are no inclusions or air bubbles at all, and the ice absorbs so much light that it appears black. However, black ice can also be caused by particles of volcanic ash and can sometimes be found in polar regions, or as a third dial option for the Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date.

The blue dial on our preview watch offers sufficient contrast to meet the requirements of a professional dive watch. Eight rhodiumplated index markers and the applied numerals at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock rise above the surface of the polished and lacquered “glacierlook” base. White Super-Lumi-Nova filling glows brightly at night in a wonderful ice-blue color. In contrast, the luminescent filling of the rhodium-plated cathedral hour and minute hands, as well as the arrow tip of the central seconds hand, has a nuanced green glow in the dark. This color difference allows you to identify the various elements and keep an eye on the time whether diving in a glacial sea, or wherever you may be.

Definitely a Professional Dive Watch 

The counterclockwise, unidirectional rotating dive bezel with its two-tone, bead-blasted ceramic inlay works according to all rules of the ISO 6425 dive watch standard. It is exemplary and accurate almost to the minute with highlighted 10- and 5-minute markings. It clicks in 1-minute increments in accordance with the standard and only a few other manufacturers of rotating dive bezels achieve this level of precision. As a result, the minute track on the bezel aligns accurately with the minute track on the dial, although this railroad-type display may be too finely rendered for some.

The grooved edge around the rotating dive bezel is easy to grasp. It clicks firmly and accurately in one-minute increments. In the dark, the orientation point for setting the dive time glows as brightly blue as the markers on the dial.

While most rotating dive bezel markings are limited to the first 15 minutes of the track, here, this section stands out from the rest with a dark blue background. The result is a very attractive and highly functional rotating dive bezel design.

A professional dive watch also needs a functional bracelet attachment system. Here we have a very high-quality stainless-steel bracelet and folding clasp. The bracelet attaches to the case with fixed lugs. Integrated levers on the underside of the bracelet retract the bars in order to easily exchange the bracelet for the rubber strap. The stainless steel bracelet tapers from 20 mm to 16 mm and is equipped with several screwed links near the clasp so that it can easily be adjusted to the size of your wrist. The single-sided folding clasp offers additional variability. Here, an integrated lever can be used to vary the length of the bracelet over eight positions with a total span of approximately 10 mm. Shortening the bracelet is possible even without removing the bracelet. Despite its high level of functionality, the tapering bracelet and high quality clasp ensemble has a very elegant look. Production at this level is costly and therefore, all the more remarkable for a dive watch priced at less than $3,200.

A Sporty, Elegant Watch with Good Value

All in all, the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date is not just a professional dive watch. In addition to the ISO 6425 certification, it is also subjected to the rigorous Montblanc Laboratory 500-hour test to assess stability, resistance to magnetism and temperature, water resistance and the strength of all fasteners. The only thing we were not able to provide was a reliable rate report of the Sellita-based automatic Caliber MB 24.17 since this 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date contained a prototype, which prevented us from including the rate results in our assessment.

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