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At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2015 (SIHH) in Geneva, Montblanc presented its Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky in a warm red gold case with a striking bright dial. The limited collection comprises of just 18 pieces, was a strongly requested piece.

Innovation, precision and determination – the same values that guided Vasco da Gama on his historic expedition, drove the pioneering spirit of Montblanc. To honour the explorer’s legacy, the Montblanc master watchmakers created a second timepiece that pays hommage to his exploratory spirit, setting off  hither on the unknown ocean route to India with the stars in the nightsky as their only guide.

At Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong, the Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces, which unites a cylindrical tourbillon and a uniquely functional worldtime indication, is now making its first-ever appearance in 18K white gold in a limited edition of 18 pieces telling the story of Vasco da Gama’s navigation through the Nightskies of the hemispheres in a precise yet spectacular way.

The Discoverer

Vasco da Gama set sail from Lisbon’s Restelo harbour on 8 July 1497 with a small fleet of four ships. His flagship was the nau (carrack) Sao Gabriel with a crew of 60 men. The vessel weighed 120 tonnes, was 27 metres long and 8.5 metres wide, had a draught of 2.3 metres, and could raise a total sail area of 372 square metres. Vasco da Gama’s destination was the coast of India. If his expedition succeeded, he would become the first seafarer to find a southern sea route to India.

Today, we know that he did indeed succeed. This enabled him to bypass Arabian, Persian, Turkish and Venetian middlemen who had made it extremely expensive for Europeans to import precious stones and valuable spices such as pepper. With this voyage and subsequent expeditions, Portugal reinforced its predominance as a seafaring and trading nation.

The success of Vasco da Gama’s expedition can ultimately be credited to its commander’s courage, his thirst for action, his willingness to take risks and, above all, his obsession with precision – a trait that is equally important in fine watchmaking today.

The fleet reached Saint Helena Bay on the southwest coast of Africa on 4 November 1497. Several days later, the three Portuguese ships sailed in a large arc around the Cape of Good Hope and landed in Mosselbaai on 25th November. Vasco da Gama finally reached India at a point near Calicut on the Malabar Coast on 20 May 1498. For the first time ever, European sailing ships had made the voyage to India via a sea route around the southern tip of Africa.

Fully laden with a bountiful cargo of precious spices, Vasco da Gama’s fleet began its homeward voyage to Portugal on 8 October 1498. The first ship in his fleet reached its homeland on 10 July 1499.

It was on 9th September that Vasco da Gama himself landed in Lisbon, where a triumphal reception was prepared for him. With this expedition, Vasco da Gama became the first European to establish a sustainable and safe way to travel from Europe to India and thus built a bridge between the northern and southern hemispheres that his successors further extended by establishing Macau as a center of commerce between the East and the West.

His feat connected people’s lives in both hemispheres for centuries, not only geographically but also commercially and culturally. The Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces pays homage to this great explorer and likewise builds a bridge between the two hemispheres – on the stage of a wristwatch.

Montblanc Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces

As Montblanc’s center of expertise for movement development, the Villeret Manufacture continues to enrich fine Swiss watchmaking with ground breaking innovations. It was Vasco da Gama’s drive to discover new worlds and his unswerving courage that inspired Montblanc’s watchmakers to new horological achievements.

The Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces is more than just an intricate watch, it is an eye-catcher with the 47 mm case and the large sophisticated dial.

The following functions are provided by the hand-wound calibre MB M68.40: a triple time zone with local time is displayed in the form of hours and minutes; the continually running and independently adjustable display for the home time is presented on a three-dimensional twelve-hour compass rose at “6 o’clock”; and a pair of globes depict the World´s 24 time zones in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, along with the passage of the days and nights.

The Dial

The 18 K gold dial is constructed in various parts and on different levels. Inspired by the two impressive globes, Montblanc’s designers have selected on round shapes and rounded décor. The upper section of the dial, which is night-black and adorned with aventurine, reflects the nightsky and is the perfect backdrop for the tourbillon mechanism with its arcing, convex, polished tourbillon bridge.

The lower section of the dial, elaborately finished in dark grey, bears two globes and the home-time indication in the form of the three-dimensional compass rose. The hand that sweeps above this rose to indicate the hours is likewise styled in a “Fleur-de-Lys” shape.

The Globes

The two miniature globes illustrate the passage of the days and nights in the northern and southern hemispheres. Engraving and miniature painting on these two halved balls indicate in relief the outlines of the continents, their borders and the oceans that separate them.Their elaborately crafted and finely detailed design also shows the circles of latitude and longitude.

The two globes are motionlessly affixed to the movement, while two 24-hour worldtime indicator discs with the day/night display make one revolution per day around them. The disc for the northern hemisphere turns clockwise; its counterpart for the southern hemisphere rotates anticlockwise.

This arrangement enables the watch’s wearer to view, in the course of a single day, the sunlit halves of the two globes and the halves that are currently turned away from the sun. With the aid of the meridians of longitude, the viewer can read the current time in any desired part of the world by following the 24-hour world-time display on the two discs.

The Compass Rose

The continually running and independently adjustable display for the home time at 6 o’clock on the dial of the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces is inspired by the gigantic marble compass rose at the base of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos. This monument, which commemorates Portuguese discoverers, stands in the civil parish of Belém in Lisbon. Comparable to a miniature sculpture, the watch’s compass rose is composed of four parts, each of which is entirely handmade and manually decorated.

The Tourbillon

Montblanc developed the 281-part hand-wound Calibre MB M68.40 featuring a 91-part tourbillon mechanism with a cylindrical hairspring which guarantees a power reserve of 48 hours.The balance-wheel frequency is 18,000 vibrations per hour, or 2.5 Hz. The moment of inertia, thanks to the 14.5 mm balance wheel, is 59 mg.cm².

Today, very few Manufactures still have the necessary expertise to produce balance-wheels and hairsprings. It was only possible for Montblanc to develop a cylindrical balance-spring for the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces because of the capacity to manufacture both components in the Montblanc Manufacture.

Unlike their flat counterparts, cylindrical balance springs were regarded as the summum bonum and installed only in the finest and costliest marine chronometers. Valuable ship’s chronometers were indispensable for seafarers because only with the aid of a clock that continued to show the correct time with great accuracy for a lengthy period of time were mariners able to determine their longitude on the high seas.

Today too, a cylindrical balance spring continues to embody the utmost precision. Like a conventional balance-spring, a cylindrical balance-spring is a concentrically wound elastic metal wire. However, instead of being wound side by side, at increasing distances from a common centre and all on the same plane, its individual turns are all of equal diameter and are wound one atop the other. This eliminates the slight eccentricity of the centre of gravity, which has always been the Achilles’ heel of the conventional balance-spring.

The challenges for Montblanc’s watchmakers were to miniaturise this type of balance-spring and to install it in the tourbillon mechanism of a wristwatch. The extremely high degree of in-house fabrication skill at the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret, combined with the expertise accumulated here over many years, enabled these specialists to create more than merely a “simple” cylindrical balance-spring: they further equipped it with two Phillips terminal curves. The upward curvature at each end of the spring significantly improves the regularity of the balance-spring’s “breathing”, thus further reducing the isochronism error. Consequently, in this masterpiece, Montblanc achieved a highly accurate rate.

Incomparable beauty distinguishes the styling of the doubly curved three-dimensional endless loop of the tourbillon bridge, beneath which the tourbillon’s large cage completes one rotation around its own axis every sixty seconds. For the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces, Montblanc’s typical tourbillon bridge departs for the first time from its usual planar shape and acquires a convex form.

It thus perfectly harmonises with the two globes on the dial. A master watchmaker requires more than seven days to handcraft this distinctive tourbillon bridge completely and give it an absolutely immaculate polished finish.

The Operation

The indicators on the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces can be set via the crown, the visible pusher at 8 o’clock and the inset corrector on the case’s flank at 4 o’clock. After pulling the crown outwards, the user can set the local time and simultaneously adjust the worldtime display along the two globes’ 24-hour scales.

The corresponding buttons on the case are used for the fine adjustment of the local time in the centre and the home time on the compass rose at 6 o’clock, which runs along with the local time.

Once all indicators have been correctly synchronised, a new local time in a different time zone can be set simply by pressing the push-piece at 8 o’clock. Operating this pusher advances only the hours-hand in single-hour increments. It does not affect the minutes, which are shown from the dial’s centre, nor does it alter the home time at 6 o’clock or the two displays along the globes.

When the watch’s owner is travelling, he or she can conveniently read the local time by referring to the hours- and minutes-hands in the centre, check the home time at 6 o’clock and see the time anywhere else in the world by referring to one of the two 24-hour discs around the globes.

The Case

The 16¾-line Montblanc calibre MB M68.40 is embedded in a 47-mm-diameter and 15.38-mm-height white gold case. The alligator-skin strapis attached to the watch by four rounded horns that have been thoroughly and lavishly polished by hand. The names of 24 cities in the Northern Hemisphere and another two dozen metropolises in the Southern Hemisphere are engraved along with the matching time zones on the back of the case. The limited numbers from 01/18 to 18/18 are engraved on the sapphire crystal in the back of the case.

A Voyage into Unchartered Territories of the Watchmaking World

The pioneering spirit of the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret honours the legacy of one of history’s greatest explorers. For 157 years, Villeret’s master watchmakers have practised traditional Swiss watchmaking with the same combination of innovation, precision and determination that guided Vasco da Gama on his historic expedition.

Uninterrupted and unique artisanal production in strict accordance with traditional Swiss craftsmanship distinguishes Montblanc’s Manufacture in Villeret. Scarcely anywhere else on Earth is impassioned craftsmanship pursued as single-mindedly as it is at the Manufacture in the St Imier Valley. Since 1858, the valley’s artisanal watchmakers have created elaborate mechanical movements from components that they personally crafted step by painstaking step until they achieved the highest quality and the ultimate refinement.

Now their voyage into uncharted territories of the watchmaking world continues with the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces, a timepiece with the unprecedented combination of a cylindrical tourbillon and à unique triple-time-zone indication.

Strictly limited to eighteen pieces, the Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères NightSky Limited Edition – 18 pieces is a revolutionary wristwatch that pushes back the boundaries of fine watchmaking with its exceptional performance and spectacular artisanal beauty.