It was 200 years ago this week, on September 1, 1821, when French watchmaker Nicolas Rieussec attended a horse race at the Champs-de-Mars Arrondissement de la Seine in Paris intending to test his newest invention. The device, a chronometer clock with two rotating counters and a fixed nib that inscribed black ink marks on them when each horse crossed the finish line, was the first machine dubbed a “chronograph” — from the Greek words chronos (time) and graphein (to write) — by no less an authority than France’s Academy of Sciences. Today, Montblanc — a luxury brand known for both writing implements and watches — pays tribute to that original “time writer” with a limited-edition wristwatch.
The Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph LE 200 is the latest member of the Rieussec watch family, established by Montblanc in 2008, and pays the most direct aesthetic tribute to its historical predecessor (below). The gold-colored base of the watch’s complex, six-part dial is embellished with a traditional grain d’orge guilloché motif, and the domed, rotating chronograph disks on the bottom left and right are also gold-toned. Reminiscent of the historical device’s stationary inking nibs, a blued, applied double hand is fixed between the two disks to tally 60 elapsed minutes and 30 elapsed seconds. A monopusher at 8 o’clock on the case activates the chronograph.
Rounding out the dial are an off-center, domed, white-lacquered subdial at 12 o’clock that displays the hours and minutes with blued hands on Roman numerals. In addition, a third, openworked hand from the subdial’s gold-colored, sunray-finished center points to the hour in a second time zone on the same scale, abetted by a subtle day-night indicator at 9 o’clock. On the dial’s periphery are applied inscriptions reading “Nicolas Rieussec” and “Homage 200 ans” (Tribute to 200 years) and a decorative border with a filet sauté guilloché pattern. Finally, a vintage-look, gold-colored date window fixed with blue screws appears at 6 o’clock on the main dial, under the chronograph disks.
A sapphire exhibition caseback allows a view of the movement, Montblanc’s automatic, monopusher chronograph Caliber MB R200, equipped with a column wheel and a vertical disk clutch and storing a 72-hour power reserve in a double barrel. The versions of the caliber installed in this anniversary watch — which is appropriately limited to 200 pieces — feature a gold-colored grain d’orge guilloché finish on their rotors and a special engraving marking the date of the now-legendary horse race in Paris where the first ink chronograph was tested (“1 September 1821”). Other decorative movement elements include bridges with Geneva stripes and beveled and polished edges, blued screws, and gold-coated wheels.
The pebble-shaped case, in polished stainless steel, measures 44.8 mm in diameter and is mounted on a new brown alligator leather strap that fastens to the wrist with a steel triple folding clasp. The Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph LE 200 is priced in the U.S. at $8,700.