During the first week of November, we had the privilege of being invited to Rocca 1794‘s Milanese Boutique to get an exclusive first look at Montblanc’s 1858 Collection.
Rocca 1794 has held the title of officially authorised dealer for Montblanc’s timepieces for 3 years now. In celebration of this anniversary, they’ve given Montblanc their very own designated space (decorated entirely by the Swiss watchmaker) in their prestigious boutique in Piazza del Duomo – the heart of Milan.
This isn’t the first time that the two brands have manifested their close relationship. In 2018, they held an event to celebrate the launch of Montblanc’s first smartwatch, and last year, the boutique flaunted the release of the Heritage collection, which focused on the role which Minerva played in the watchmaker’s manufacturing operations. This year, though, it’s all about the 1858 collection.
If you haven’t already seen the Instagram Stories on our profile, where we paid a visit to the Montblanc-Rocca 1794 exhibition, this article’s for you. Let’s begin!
Located in the very centre of Milan, in Piazza del Duomo, Rocca 1794’s flagship boutique has been magnificently transformed into a Montblanc-themed space for the first week of November. As we mentioned before, this collaboration is to celebrate the release of the already hugely successful 1858 collection. The iconic Rocca gold and white banners are still on the outside, but they are overcome by the wave of blue and white Montblanc decor and instantly grab the passers-by’s attention. In fact, as you walk along the main double doors, the Montblanc logo (as well as the blue-toned 1858 Geosphere model) is featured front and centre. Did you know that the logo’s “star” shape actually reflects the silhouette of the Mont Blanc seen from above? You really do learn something everyday.
Whether you’re a Milanese through-and-through, or you just live there, you’ll know that Rocca 1794 has expertly preserved their sharp and sophisticated image. As you walk through the cosmopolitan streets of the city centre, you really can’t miss it, yet it’s not “in your face”. It truly parallels the Milanese fashion: immediately recognisable, but never overdone – and always tasteful.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-related circumstances, this celebratory week has been cut short. Not to worry though, we’ll tell you all about what it was like.
The 1858 Collection
1858 isn’t just any old number, nor is it the serial number (at least, I don’t think it is?). 1858 is a date, a year: the year in which the Minerva company was founded. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, have a read of our article here, because it’s a very meaningful subject for Montblanc.
After talking to Lara Doddi (Montblanc’s Marketing Training Manager), I immediately understood how important and significant this partnership was, as Minerva was the vessel which really propelled Montblanc into fine-watchmaker and high-end timepiece territory.
And fine-watchmaking is something we at ItalianWatchSpotter know a thing or two about – but we’re always learning, too. Getting our hands on today’s hottest watches and tomorrow’s icons is something we never shy away from, so we couldn’t say no when given the opportunity to get up close and personal with the 1858 collection.
Our top picks
This seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme in our latest articles, but through our “top picks” format, you can be sure that you can see the very best that these brands have to offer. And trust us when we say that it was so difficult narrowing our choice down to two watches. But, in our opinion, the two timepieces that you are about to see are truly reflective of the spirit of not only Montblanc’s new range, but Montblanc as a brand.
Bronze Automatic Monopusher Chronograph
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. When it comes to monopushers, I have pretty high standards… and Montblanc really hit the mark here!
Nowadays, it’s certainly not uncommon for watchmakers to experiment with bronze cases, and at IWS, we’re all here for it. It gives an unassuming feel to the watch, but still looks incredibly good. What sets it apart from its steel counterpart is not only the case material, but production numbers. This bronze version is a limited edition of – you guessed it – 1858 pieces.
It’s still a very contentious topic, but I think that the “pre-aged” patina is a nice touch: it gives a sense of “wear”, thus adding a layer of sentiment, straight out of the box. There will obviously be many who disagree, but hey, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion!
The second big selling point? As we mentioned in our stories, the second co-star is the Monopusher Chronograph complication
Don’t remember what that is? Have a peek at our guide to refresh your memory. Anyways, this single pusher, co-axial to the crown, gives an unmistakeably and timeless minimalist aura to the watch. But don’t forget! This watch is rather complicated in its own right: it’s a chronograph at the end of the day. And I think that’s one of the most appealing characteristics of this timepiece.
I’m probably not the first person to say it, but this bronze case and monopusher combination is a match made in watch heaven. But that’s not even close to all.
Its sporty nature is accentuated by a NATO strap, which hugs the wrist really well. I’m not a huge fan of them in general, but this one sits very nicely with me and doesn’t cause any discomfort or itchyness. The automatic movement, encase in the 42mm bronze case is a joy to operate via the monopusher. Speaking of dimensions and sportiness, it’s definitely got a good “modern standard” presence on the wrist, but the dial really turns back the clock to a 1930s and 40s feel.
Geosphere 1858 with a gorgeous blue dial
This is undoubtedly our favourite Montblanc ever made, and I’m sure that I don’t speak for just the IWS team. The minute we first saw it on our news feed on that April afternoon, we all commented on how it was the single best Montblanc timepiece we had ever seen, and we couldn’t have been happier to try it on for ourselves at the Rocca 1794 Duomo Boutique.
Let’s have a look at why it’s our top pick:
We wouldn’t normally start with the caseback, but this isn’t just a normal watch.
You may be asking yourselves: “why start on the back?“, “what’s with the mountains?” The answer?
7 Summits, 7 Conquests
The “mountain-top” of mountain climbing – the 7 Summits are the highest peaks of each of the seven continents, ideally all to be climbed with a Geosphere on your wrist. Their names are engraved on the caseback of this watch, and it’s rather fitting as this timepiece just embodies exploration. Its cool, icy tones, mirroring those of glaciers, are complemented by the rugged feel and look of the case, evoking an alpine atmosphere.
Is it a complicated watch? Well, yes and no.
Technically, this watch contains 3 complications (second time zone, date and world timer), yet it doesn’t look all too complicated. What’s more, is that it’s far easier to operate and read with respect to other watches which mount the same scale of technical complexity. The two atlases at 12 and 6 are actually the Northern and Southern Hemispheres respectively, and feature an external scale upon which you can read the time in the coordinates indicated by the blue hand. At 9 o’clock, instead, we can see a secondary time-zone dial, and finally the local hour’s date through a window at 3.
The (entirely handmade) Montblanc leather strap is an excellent touch, but the “beads of rice” bracelet is simply something else.
We mentioned before that, when looking at this watch, the word “exploration” immediately springs to mind. If we couldn’t place our finger on it before, we can now.
The beads-of-rice bracelet configuration is nowadays seen as having more of a “vintage” aesthetic, and since Oyster is king, you don’t see this style often. But this only adds to the pioneering persona that it’s going for: the “old-style” bracelet takes us back to a time and place when explorers did precisely that: exploring uncharted territories, or in this case, mountains. It’s by no means to discredit those who scale the seven summits today, but it’s just… different.
Not only does it add a profound depth to the character of the watch, the bead-of-rice bracelet is, just as importantly, a pleasure to look at: it’s finished so nicely!
The central “rice” links of the Montblanc bracelet are made of steel and are expertly polished, and “pop” as they contrast the satin-finished titanium outer links.
The titanium wasn’t employed just for the sake of using a different material – it drastically reduced the weight of the watch, so you can scale the seven summits and won’t be weighed down by a hefty timepiece!
If you haven’t already done so, I would definitely recommend that you check out the 1858 collection (of which there are many: we’ve only mentioned 2!) for yourself – even if now you have to do it on the Montblanc website, rather than in person. After this lockdown, we’d also recommend that you venture over to the Rocca 1794 Boutique in Piazza del Duomo to try them on… in a socially distanced manner, naturally.
-Translated by Patrick R.