From the watchmaking wizardry of Montblanc comes two innovative grand complications crowned with the manufacture’s unique and patented Exo Tourbillon
Its labyrinthine construct and enigmatic presence make the tourbillon indisputably the single most mesmerising feature of any such grand complication timepiece. As much a part of the movement as it is a part of the dial, its job is purely functional – to ensure optimal chronometry – and yet this historical regulating device comports itself with the elegance of a pirouetting ballerina. Wherever you find it, the tourbillon is always the star of the show. And when it combines beautiful watchmaking heritage with an innovative spirit, we get the one-of-a-kind and state-of-the-art Montblanc Exo Tourbillon.
In spite of its ethereal beauty, the traditional tourbillon is far from perfect, so the Exo Tourbillon is Montblanc’s riff on a centuries-old classic. First, instead of containing the balance wheel, hairspring and escapement within a tourbillon cage, Montblanc placed those components outside the tourbillon cage, hence the Exo prefix.
Next, since the tourbillon cage no longer has to house the regulatory components, the balance wheel can be enlarged and the cage, made smaller. Finally, everything moves at a leisurely pace. The tourbillon rotates once every four minutes and the balance oscillates at a breezy 18,000vph. This helps the movement achieve better chronometric stability and energy efficiency, while also offering a magnificent view of the entire device.
That magnificent view just got even better with the new Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon. This breathtaking timepiece is the singular result of the Montblanc engineers developing an architecture that has made the Exo Tourbillon even more visible. Raising the massive balance wheel higher than the dial, the gilded oscillator is suspended in mid-air thanks to a cantilevered tourbillon arm. Its movement, Calibre MB M16.68, gets all the traditional hand-finishing, engraving and decoration.
As it sits overhanging within a large open- worked aperture, the Exo Tourbillon looks all the more ethereal as it appears completely detached from the movement. It’s like an asteroid hurtling through space, against a backdrop of stars courtesy of that shimmering dark blue aventurine dial. Or it could be a golden ball of fire like the sun, completing a figure eight with the quiet moon as portrayed by the pale glow and calm stillness of the opaline dial. Or a spaceship traversing the galaxy. The celestial references are endless.
This 18-piece edition timepiece in white gold is one of only two Exo Tourbillon grand complications emerging from Montblanc this year. Marrying the Exo Tourbillon with another Montblanc signature concept, the Star Legacy Metamorphosis uniquely transforms itself at the push of a button. Introduced in 2010, the Metamorphosis concept began as a halo watch of sorts, showing off the best of what Montblanc is able to accomplish. Years of fine-tuning followed, allowing the manufacture to truly push the boundaries of luxury haute horlogerie.
An eight-piece limited edition, Star Legacy Metamorphosis took Montblanc five years to bring to life. Master watchmaker Frederic Kehrli devoted thousands of hours to creating the prototype. He then trained a select team of specialist watchmakers from the Villeret manufacture to help assemble this 718-part behemoth and its movement, Calibre MB M67.60.
Constituting a two-part performance, the dial is a work of art. Multi-tiered in construct, it has an 18-carat gold base highlighted with exquisite hand-applied guilloche in the classical grain d’orge technique, as well as some matte sandblasting around the flange bringing a touch of modernity.
This contemporary spirit continues with the oversized rhodium-coated balance wheel and its blued hairspring held securely in place by a sapphire crystal bridge – perfectly transparent so you almost don’t see it. Mirroring its location is a three-dimensional dome representing the northern hemisphere indicating world time. All blanketed in a dapper azure blue with just hints of silver tones, it is undoubtedly a thing of beauty.
But of course that is only the first half of it. In the Star Legacy Metamorphosis, the magic really happens when you push down on the sliding lever to witness the shutters of its subdials opening up like two pairs of butterfly wings. As they disappear beneath the dial, the top half reveals the Exo Tourbillon in full. Here’s where Montblanc’s decision to use a sapphire crystal bridge paid serious dividends. Not only can we admire the Exo Tourbillon in its entirety, this bridge, which is screwed down to a steel bar, holds the tourbillon more securely as well.
On the bottom, the three-dimensional dome is now surrounded by a midnight blue aventurine sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. To keep it company, Montblanc added a realistic three- dimensional moon that always shows its exact position in the sky relative to Earth. Perpetually accurate, this astronomical moon phase display needs only one adjustment every 122 years.
Mesmerising, transportive and not to mention incredibly cool, Star Legacy Metamorphosis is one of those watches you buy not to tell the time but to see where time can take you. Likewise, the Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon takes us through the beauty of watchmaking art as interpreted by Montblanc. Sitting at the crossroads of science and art, they bring mastery of classic and traditional savoir faire with the innovative techniques of our time. But more importantly, they tell us about the dreams of the manufacture and to what lengths it’ll go to make them a reality.
This story first appeared in the July 2021 issue. Purchase it as a hard or digital copy, or have luxury delivered to your door by subscribing here