Montblanc is determined to keep the spirit of adventure alive with its latest watch just unveiled at Watches and Wonders 2021. The newly launched 1858 Geosphere Desert Limited Edition is inspired by Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, one of the world’s greatest living adventurers.

Now 76, Messner was the first man to conquer Everest without supplemental oxygen and is perhaps most famous for scaling the Seven Summits, his list of the highest peaks of the seven continents – in descending order, Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson and Puncak Jaya. In 1986 Messner became the second person to climb all seven summits, having been beaten to it by Canadian Pat Morrow several months earlier.

1858 Geosphere Desert Limited Edition: the inspiration

Montblanc has worked with Messner since 2019, and with its new watch is celebrating not his climbs but his 2004 solo expedition, 2,000km across the Gobi Desert on foot. Even in this inhospitable wasteland there is beauty to be found, and the new managing director of Montblanc’s watch division, Laurent Lecamp, is particularly pleased with the watch’s tribute to the desert’s Bayanzag, also known as Flaming Cliffs. This starkly striking feature was on Messner’s route and is one of the world’s palaeontological hotspots. Its English name was coined by the American Roy Chapman Andrews, who discovered the world’s first fossilised dinosaur eggs there in the 1920s as well as bones of velociraptors – appropriately, Andrews is said to be one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones.

The 1858 Geosphere Desert Limited Edition features a 3D rendering of the cliffs on its titanium caseback. ‘The process is incredibly complicated and time-consuming,’ says Lecamp. ‘The image is first engraved by laser, then coloured by oxidisation, [then engraved] again by laser. It is one of the most advanced examples of this process in the world and has to be carried out on the individual caseback itself, which means each design is effectively unique.’ The company that creates the renderings is the only one in Switzerland that uses this technique and Montblanc is the only company that uses it on such a scale.

It is a perfect celebration of the past, the future and Messner himself. As Lecamp says, ‘When you speak to him, it’s as if he is from a different era. He is not a great believer in modern communication – you wouldn’t catch him taking selfies on the slopes of Everest. He is very traditional and this is a perfect marriage with our belief in traditional watchmaking.’

Desert tones

The 42mm case itself is based on a design from the 1930s, scaled-up for modern tastes. It is made from satin-finished bronze and has a brass bi-directional bezel with a brown ceramic finish. The colour on the dial graduates from smoked brown to beige. ‘Everything is inspired by the astonishing colours of the desert, as described by Messner,’ explains Lecamp. The indexes and the cathedral-shaped hands are finished in rose gold. As every explorer of the great unknown will tell you, readability in a timepiece is key, so the hands, Arabic numerals, compass indications and hemisphere globes are all coated with an unusual, beige-coloured, hand-applied Super-Luminova.

Defining details

The distinctive rotating Geosphere globes are part of the piece’s world-timer function. The northern hemisphere turns anti-clockwise while the southern goes clockwise; each is encircled by a 24-hour marker to show time around the globe. The second time zone display is found at nine o’clock. At three o’clock, rather than the familiar white star logo representing the snow-covered peak of Mont Blanc (created in 1913) the one featured here is in a retro italic font bisected by a silhouette of the mountain, based on a historic design once found on Montblanc pens.

All great adventures require the right kit and the watch is powered by the Calibre MB 29.25 automatic movement, an in-house manufacture with a 42-hour power reserve. The 1858 moniker refers to the year that the renowned watchmaker Minerva was founded in the Swiss village of Villeret. It became part of Montblanc in 2007 and today the Villeret collections boast the brand’s finest – and most complicated – movements.

Lecamp himself was born in the Pyrenees, but he finds his thrills on the flat. ‘My passion is running marathons,’ he says. ‘The most extreme was in Siberia, where temperatures were below minus 45°C. Now I am in training for a race at the North Pole.’ Montblanc’s 1858 Geosphere Desert Limited Edition, not to mention Lecamp’s plans to pound the pack ice, suggest it will take more than a virus to quell the quest for adventure. §