Time Writ Large

Montblanc Table Clock

Table clocks paired with pocket and wrist watches have proven highly popular with watchmakers and collectors alike. Breguet’s Sympathique sets are perhaps the most famous historical examples, and in modern times, a similar project started F.P. Journe along the path to creating his own brand. This year, Montblanc teams with esteemed clockmaker Erwin Sattler to create its own variation on this theme.

Montblanc’s interpretation pairs a Sattler-manufactured clock with a high-tech automatic winder on which rests an 18K rose gold Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic Limited Edition wristwatch. The set is known as the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec Horological TimeWriter. Enlarge the images below with a click.

Rieussec Horological TimeWriter

In addition to the central time display, the indicators from left to right are: a 15-day power-reserve display for the clockworks that power the time of day; a counter for 60 elapsed seconds beside a 60 elapsed-minute counter for the chronograph function; and second 15-day power-reserve display for the chronograph’s clockworks. Two apertures in the dial next to 3 and 9 allow winding the barrels of the two clockworks.

Rieussec TimeWriter displays

The time of day is shown on the large central dial. Clou de Paris guilloche surrounds black Arabic numerals, and another guilloche pattern encircles the inner black minute-circle. All hands are made of blued steel. The dial is first blasted with glass beads, then plated with silver. A cam and a cable convey the mainspring’s force to the time display while maintaining a constant level of torque throughout the 15 days of power autonomy.

As in Montblanc’s Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronographs, elapsed time intervals are measured via rotating disks turning beneath motionless hands. A bow-shaped bridge bears the disks and holds the hands. The disk for 60 elapsed seconds rotates at the left, and the counter on the right can tally up to 60 elapsed minutes.

A large barrel allows the chronograph to run continuously for 15 days. The barrel transfers its power via a chain and fusee mechanism, which compensates for the steadily declining torque in the long mainspring. The gradual release of stored energy is regulated by a screw balance with a blued hairspring of the kind used in marine chronometers. The balance oscillates at the classical frequency of 2.5 hertz (18,000 A/h).

Viewed from the back.
Viewed from the back

The tabletop chronograph is well protected beneath its glass case, but the chronograph mechanism can nonetheless be started, stopped and returned to zero without removing the glass. The buttons controlling these functions are located on the wood panel, below the clock on the front. The start and stop button is on the left, and the button to return to zero is on the right.

Sitting atop the clock is an intelligent electronic winder capable of calculating the correct winding interval for the Nicolas Rieussec wristwatch chronograph and for any other automatic wristwatch the owner might care to place on the winder. New programming is entered via a USB interface. After each winding interval, the wristwatch is automatically halted in the “12 o’clock” position to assure optimal legibility. The winder’s electrical motor is produced by the same manufacturer that NASA commissioned to provide motors for its two Mars rovers.

Rieussec Chronograph Automatic

Of course the set is not complete without the wristwatch. The Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Automatic Limited Edition is equipped with a manufacture Caliber MB R200. Its mono-pusher chronograph movement combines traditional column-wheel control and modern disk coupling. Twin barrels provide a 72-hour power reserve, and twin openings in the dial provide views of the date and day/night indication for the second time zone provided by a second hour hand on the primary time display.

Consistent with Montblanc tradition and with the clock, the chronograph tracks time intervals via disks turning below stationary hands. The dial features grain d’orge guilloche. The crystal caseback provides a view of the classical automatic-winding chronograph mechanism, and the power reserve indicator. All this is tidily packed in a 43-mm case made of 18 carat rose gold.

Caliber MB R200

The ensemble is ensconced inside a metal case with vertical satin-finishing on its front. The case is kept inside a glass enclosure to protect its mechanisms against dust. This copula must be lifted regularly to wind the clock and the chronograph barrels, so Montblanc devised a practical solution. The weighty mineral crystal dome is lifted and lowered by spindles which, in turn, are powered by an electrical motor and drive belts. A touch sensor, concealed inside the case, issues the commands.

With the glass cover raised.
Glass raised

The entire unit functions without need for unsightly electrical cables thanks to a rechargeable gel battery in its pedestal which supplies energy to the watch-winder, to the mechanism that lifts and lowers the glass dome, to the LED lighting and to the chronograph’s trigger buttons.

This set will be released in a limited edition of only nineteen specimens priced at about $140,000, but don’t reach for your American Express card. As of mid-January, 12 sets had been completed, and 25 orders received, so the best chance of finding one may be in the pages of an auction house catalog.

Number 1 of 19, photographed in the Montblanc booth at SIHH.

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