Watches: Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 Metamorphosis II (+live pics & video)

By Thierry Ané on October 17, 2014

At the SIHH 2010 the team behind the refined Villeret 1858 collection at Montblanc created the buzz with an astonishing regulator model hiding a monopusher chronograph. Named Metamorphosis this marvel of technology introduced the notion of mechanical transformation to the world of Fine Watchmaking: through a concept of overlaid dials, the owner of the watch can transform it from a classic time only model to a sportier chronograph and back in a spectacular change of design and function never seen before.

From this breathtaking concept watch to the production of reliable models for seasoned watch collectors, it took the Manufacture four more years in development to make sure the 746 components of this exceptional timepiece interact smoothly to create this new type of grand complication representing the perfect symbiosis of tradition and innovation. Montblanc chose the exhibition Watches & Wonders 2014 to unveil the long-awaited Metamorphosis II, the perfectly operational version the brand will produce in a very exclusive edition of only 18 pieces.

Although extremely complex from a technical viewpoint, this “metamorphosis” complication is easy to understand, almost intuitive. A slide on the left side of the case allows the user to transform this two-face watch from a classic time-only model to an instrument for the measurements of short intervals of time. The process that borrows traditional methods from the art of automaton takes around five seconds to complete. It is of course reversible at will and quite impressively, the time-date or chronograph functions remain active independently of the watch face on display!

In its classic time configuration, the watch exhibits all the attributes of traditional Fine Watchmaking the Montblanc Manufacture is renowned for. The master watchmakers even opted for a delightfully outdated way of indicating the time: a regulator display. But even here, the brand revealed its highly innovative thinking through a useful twist.

The "closed" state of the watch, featuring a light-coloured dial with a date at 6 o'clock

Indeed, the hours are classically indicated by a single gold hand at 12 o'clock on a gold circled dial featuring Roman numerals and a beautiful satin brushed finish. Facing this sub-dial, at 6 o'clock, is not the usual small seconds but a very useful date indication by hand, large enough to be highly legible and boasting the same type of finish as the hours dial for uniformity. Here, you will also find a gorgeous sapphire bridge holding the date hand and part of the mechanism for the transformation.

The rest of this elegant dial is decorated with hand-crafted silvered Grain d'Orge guilloché and surrounded by a raised seconds track. The minutes are on the central axis just like the seconds but in order not to hide the lower part of the dial where the important minutes indications of the chronograph function will appear on the chronograph mode, they are retrograde, only tracing a 210 degree arc between 8 and 4 o'clock.

The "open" state, with a more contrasting dial, and the chronograph minutes counter at 6 o'clock

The switch from this flawless rendition of classic elegance to the more contrasting display suitable for a chronograph is as dramatic as it is fast. At 12 o'clock, in no more than five seconds, two wings fold in on themselves inside the upper part of dial to reveal the an Arabic numerals version of the hours sub-dial, still with a satin brushed finish, but now on a contrasting black-coloured Clous de Paris guilloché background, and with a finely engraved centre.

Simultaneously, an even more spectacular show happens at 6 o'clock when two wings also disappear on both sides to unveil the 30-minute chronograph register. This black-coloured disc rises gradually like a lifting ramp inside the movement until it “absorbs” the hand that indicates the date. A small arrow-shape pointer just below the central minutes and seconds axis serves as an indicator for the 30-minute disc.

As a tribute to the legacy of the legendary Minerva chronographs, this watch is equipped with a monopusher column-wheel chronograph mechanism. The in-house MB M67.40 calibre also features a horizontal clutch and a large balance wheel with Phillips terminal curve. This manually-wound movement beats at the leisurely 18,000 vibrations per hour of Haute Horlogerie and offers 50 hours of power reserve. 494 of its 746 components are dedicated exclusively to the metamorphosis function and this extraordinary calibre that ranks among the most complex on the market is subject to numerous patents. It is entirely decorated by hand in accordance with the strictest standards.

Unlike the Metamorphosis concept that was presented in a drop-shaped white gold case, the Metamorphosis II is housed in a classic 52.00 x 15.80 mm round case crafted in red gold with a sapphire crystal back and a fluted crown with a mother-of-pearl Montblanc emblem. It is mounted on black hand-sewn alligator leather secured by a triple folding buckle also crafted in red gold.

Technically and aesthetically, the Metamorphosis II is clearly an exceptional timepiece that counts among the crème de la crème of this year's unveilings. Considering how innovative it is, one can safely say that it will be regarded as a turning point in creative Fine Watchmaking when it will appear at auctions in a decade or so. This is therefore a model not to miss for grand collectors.

For more information please visit the Montblanc web site.

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