A new limited-edition timepiece honors the original muse of the Villeret Manufacture
The Goddess Minerva is considered one of the most important of the Roman divinities. The face of wisdom, justice, law, victory, and the sponsor of arts, trade, and war strategy, it is no wonder that the early watchmakers in Villeret found her inspiring. Following the inception of the Villeret Manufacture in 1858, the Minerva name became associated with the atelier after a trademark was registered in 1887 and officially became the name of the company 36 years later in 1923.
The Goddess of Artisanal Crafts
Minerva is commonly depicted as a tall and athletic woman dressed in armor with a spear in her hand. She sometimes appears with a sacred owl, symbolizing her wisdom and knowledge, as well as a snake and/or an olive tree. Over the centuries, her shrine on the Aventine in Rome was a common meeting place for different guilds of craftsmen who would come to pray for inspiration, creativity and talent at her temple.
Choosing a Goddess
In the 1800s, a thousand kilometers away from Rome, in the small Swiss village of Villeret, the Goddess Minerva also became the muse for the Manufacturer’s early watchmakers and artisans who, like the Romans centuries earlier, were inspired by her. They incorporated her image into watch dials, casebacks and communication visuals, including advertising and packaging. Even until today, Minerva has not lost its ability to inspire and drive the manufacture’s craftsmen in their work at Villeret.
In celebration of Minerva manufacture’s 165th anniversary, Montblanc is unveiling a brand-new Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon Minerva limited edition of eight pieces. This limitation pays tribute to the goddess Minerva and everything she has symbolized for the Villeret manufacture over the years with a celebration of artisanal crafts in a completely new way.
Expanding The World of Montblanc Fine Watchmaking
The dial of the Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon Minerva 165 Years Limited Edition is made of walnut wood that has been engraved totally by hand with a Roman frieze and includes olive leaves in gold applique. This foliage engraving is a recurring pattern found on many historic Minerva watch cases, and here, in wood, it adds an element of peacefulness to the dial. Continuing this bucolic theme, the suspended Exo Tourbillon is surrounded by a gold-engraved laurel tree, another symbol often associated with the goddess, representing wisdom and glory.
At 12 o’clock, a representation of Minerva’s profile has been depicted in gold. This head is a copy of an antique coin that had previously been used in the company’s advertising and was more recently rediscovered in the Maison’s archives. This portrayal of Minerva takes over 50 hours of hand engraving to complete, while the olive branches and wooden dial require more than 20 hours of meticulous work each.
A total of around 82 hours of craftsmanship is required for this highly complicated and sophisticated dial.
Other details on this special timepiece include a seconds hand that is represented by Minerva’s famous spear arrow, while the limited edition number VIII is engraved on a plate to the right of the suspended Exo Tourbillon at five o’clock, in Roman numerals. The timepiece comes in a 44.8 mm rose gold case with an open caseback and is fitted with a blue sfumato alligator strap.
The Suspended Exo Tourbillon Movement
The patented Suspended Exo Tourbillon complication was developed entirely in-house by the master watchmakers at the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret and required three years of development. The “Exo” is derived from the Greek word for external or outside and refers to the large balance wheel with screws, which is positioned outside of the tourbillon’s rotating cage.
The idea of the Montblanc engineers when developing the patented Suspended Exo Tourbillon was to create a one-minute tourbillon that would be more visible, further revealing its beauty. This particular patented construction of the Suspended Exo Tourbillon allowed the watchmakers at the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret to have a large and impressive balance wheel and eliminate the need to increase the size of the movement or the case. The large balance wheel is raised 3.2 mm higher than the dial and appears to be floating above it. This suspended position has been made possible thanks to a new engraving tourbillon bridge with only one stainless steel arm which is curved and mirrors the domed hour circle at 12 o’clock. It creates a three-dimensional look and a new fine watchmaking aesthetic. Due to its asymmetric construction, the alignment of the Exo Tourbillon bridge, with its solitary arm, represents a horological challenge and demands the utmost skill and dexterity to complete. The complexity of the patented Exo Tourbillon comes from the dimensions of the long axis that need to be extremely precise, along with the complication construction itself, which requires that the balance’s axis must be perfectly perpendicular to the movement. A difference in positioning at the base of the bridge by just 5 microns (0.005 mm) can result in a deviation of 0.05 mm at the end of it, that is to say, a gap multiplied by 10.
In terms of performance, this patented mechanical architecture of the Exo Tourbillon saves more energy than a conventional tourbillon as the cage is smaller in size and free of the weight of the balance wheel. The weight of the tourbillon cage has been reduced, which means it weighs less than a conventional tourbillon. It is also balanced by two gold pillars to equilibrate the cage. The fact that the balance is positioned outside of the rotating cage also means that it isn’t affected by the inertia of the cage, therefore improving precision. Another key feature of the Exo Tourbillon is the speed of its rotations.
The cage completes one full rotation per minute, thus able to also indicate the seconds, while also inviting users to admire the beauty of the tourbillon’s movement.
The large balance wheel, beating at the traditional frequency of 18’000 oscillations per hour, has a diameter of 14.5 mm. This plays an important role in the performance of the timepiece thanks to its impressive 18 screws — further improving precision and following the purest fine watchmaking tradition.
Following pure horological tradition, the Manufacture movement calibre MB M16.68 is entirely decorated in the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret with hand-crafted finishings such as Côtes de Genève stripes, inner angles, circular graining, beveling and a mirror-polished pawl with the hand- finished Minerva arrow.
Inspired by the three-dimensional bridge construction, the round shape of the case, with its domed sapphire crystal on the front, has been built around the movement, contributing perfectly to the overall design.
The Goddess Minerva continues to inspire the Maison’s watchmakers, artisans, and craftspeople in their creation of new timepieces that push the boundaries of fine timekeeping into the future.