Watchmakers often turn to nature to seek inspiration to create striking timepieces that could evoke a human emotion or a feeling of belonging. Laurent Lecamp, Managing Director, Montblanc Montres, is familiar with this idea. As a marathoner who runs on snow and loves nature, he had been passionate about creating a watch that had a connection to ice long before he even joined Montblanc. Once he joined the brand, inspired by the 1913 Montblanc logo depicting the mountain and the six glaciers around it, he went to the Montblanc glacier to understand why this emblem was created. “And I saw the ice. It looked beautiful. I took a picture of it, came back, and with my team went to a supplier - I said I wanted this as the dial. And after many months and a huge investment, the unique dial of the Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date was created.”
The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date has now come to be Montblanc’s best-selling collection to date. And it is only a year old.
The Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date has now come to be Montblanc’s best-selling collection to date. And it is only a year old. Launched in 2022, the three iterations - blue, green, and black - of the Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date collection showcase the beauty of the frozen Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) glacier, one of the biggest in the Mont Blanc massif, a mountain range in the Alps, on the dial of the brand’s first-ever diver’s watch. The natural pattern of the crystals, and the luminosity and colour of the ice are recreated on a dial that is just .44mm thick using the ancient technique of gratté-boisé, through a process exclusive to Montblanc. “When I started a little over two years ago, my goal was to bring new direction to Montblanc pieces, reduce novelties, and focus on key products. The Iced Sea is our best seller ever. Since the brand existed, we have never had such huge success [with a collection]. This is the best growth ever by Montblanc. It’s booming,” says Lecamp.
The inspiration and the process
So heading into 2023, it only made sense for the brand to further the success of this line. This Montblanc did by introducing two new versions of the watch, a boutique edition green-dial-black-ceramic-bezel iteration, and a striking grey dial, our April - June 2023 Digital Cover. The 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date with a grey dial is inspired by the shades of the Mer de Glace that appear grey when light strikes it, thanks to mineral deposits captured in it for thousands of years. The depth, luminescence, and details of the interlocking crystals seen in the glacier come alive on the dial using gratté-boisé, a technique that involves polishing and lacquering. It creates an illusion that you are looking deep into the glacier. What is different though with the grey dial is that its texture seems more detailed, rugged even, and truer to life, than the 2022 releases.
“The texture is stronger, different now,” agrees Lecamp. “Every time we develop something, it is based on the concept of the glacier on the Mont Blanc. If you go to the Chamonix [a ski resort-town at the base of the Mont Blanc], you will see the exact same colour of the glacier.”
The case, details, and the movement
The new Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date in grey is dressed in robust stainless steel, with polished and satin finishes. Inside its 41mm case sits the ice-inspired, glacier-patterned dial that can be seen through the domed sapphire crystal having a double anti-reflective coating. The watch has Arabic numerals at 6, 9, and 12, and baton hour markers. All, along with the hour and minutes hands, are rhodium-coated with white Super-Luminova® that glows blue in the dark. A chemin de fer minute track encircles the dial, and at 12 o’clock rests the Montblanc logo with the text ‘300m/1000ft’ representing the water resistance of the watch. At 6 o’clock, a logo inspired by a vintage Minerva export seal having a six-pointed star shining above the mountain with the text ‘1858 Iced Sea’, can be seen. (Minerva is the historic movement maker that was acquired by the Richemont group, Montblanc’s parent company, and assigned to the brand in 2006.) At 3 o’clock sits the date aperture.
With a dial that is so detail-oriented, it is perhaps easy to forget that at its heart the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date is a tool watch, Montblanc’s first diving watch no less. Therefore, the unidirectional, ceramic bezel is bi-coloured - the first fifteen minutes are in dark grey, and the rest in black. The bezel is knurled and with a strong ratcheting sound. At 12 o’clock, the dot has Super-LumiNova® with blue emission. The stainless steel crown on the right-hand side has a fluted finish and features the Montblanc emblem in relief. In keeping with the theme, the caseback has a 3D laser engraving of an iceberg with a scuba diver inside the glacial waters.
The case of the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date in grey is flanked by curved lugs and a three-link steel bracelet that comes with a 9mm extension - the fine adjustment system can help the wearer fit the watch to the wrist perfectly. The bracelet, which features satin-brushed and polished finishes, also tapers from 20mm gradually to 16mm, creating wearing comfort. The double-deployment buckle secures the watch on the wrist, and an easy interchangeability feature allows for a quick swap of the bracelet for a rubber strap that comes in addition.
Driving the watch is the Automatic MB 24.17/SW200 calibre, which beats at a frequency of 4Hz and offers a power reserve of about 38 hours. It is based on the Sellita SW200-1 movement, which Montblanc has used in many of its heritage timepieces.
Starting with the 2022 releases, Montblanc ensured that the Iced Sea models met with the highest ISO 6425 diving standards, something that extends to the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date grey dial as well. The watch is resistant to shock, magnetism, temperature, and water pressure, and also meets the parameters of the gruelling Montblanc Laboratory 500-Hour Test. This rigorous testing process puts the watch through a variety of controls and checks over a period of 500 hours that include daily wear and tear, numerous settings and resettings, and different climatic conditions, amongst others.
Montblanc’s expansion of the line not only strengthens a strong collection but the fact that it already has a nickname is undeniable proof of its acceptance by consumers.
Montblanc’s expansion of its 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date collection with a new grey dial is not only a logical move to strengthen an already strong collection but also gives consumers a new option at a competitive price of Rs 2,82,100 for a diver’s watch. And the fact that it already has a nickname is undeniable proof of its acceptance by consumers. “The name [of the collection] has now changed. More than 50 per cent of the customers are asking for the ‘Iced Tea’ - they say you have the green and blue and black. Customers also say that there is a famous brand with the Pepsi, and now we have the Iced Tea. The nickname is a game-changer. I love it.” We’ll drink to that.