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Review-Montblanc: Montblanc Star Nicolas Rieussec GMT -- An In-Depth On the Wrist Review

Date: Apr 06, 2009,18:45 PM -  (view entire thread)

Montblanc Star Nicolas Rieussec
Chronograph GMT/Date Review

by Michael Ting and Anthony Tsai

© April 2009




There is an often quoted belief that men are attracted to timepieces because they allow us to express our individuality in a subtle and socially acceptable manner.  I am not sure if this accurately describes the motivating factor behind my infatuation with horology but I can say with certainty that the Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec will make its owner stand out amongst the crowd.


The Rieussec product line with its novel in house movement was introduced to the public at SIHH 2008 after ten years of development. It was a stunning achievement for Montblanc and its presentation raised more than a few eyebrows from other executives in the industry who were not expecting this level of accomplishment from a manufacture of fine writing implements.  In October PuristSPro reviewed the Limited edition yellow gold Star Rieussec Chronograph Date model.  click here


This time Montblanc has given PuristSPro the opportunity to examine and review the regular production model of the Rieussec Chronograph GMT/ Date model.




Case, Lugs, Crown



The case and lug shapes have not changed from the limited edition precious metal versions to the standard production ones constructed of stainless steel.  The diameter is still a contemporary standard of 43mm but more importantly the thickness is retained at 14.7mm. 



Keeping the thickness constant is important.  The Rieussec, in my opinion, can be worn in both casual and more formal settings.  At its current dimensions the watch is substantial but avoids being bulky.  Although it adds another two inches to the circumference around my wrist, it still fits under a standard dress shirt cuff.  Also Montblanc is subtly hinting to observant connoisseurs that different complication modules can be adapted to the Caliber MBR200 without modifications to the current case.


On the wrist the Rieussec gives off an immediate visual and tactile impression.  The rounded bezel slopes downwards which allows the dial to dominate the visual field.  I had to measure it three times but in reality the domed sapphire crystal is only 35 mm in diameter.   Trust me; the optical illusion of this watch appearing much larger on the wrist is surprising.  Complementing the look is the watch’s heft.  The Rieussec weighs in a full 130 grams.



The crown shape and size has remained unchanged in this serially produced model.  Even though this is an automatic version, the winding action via the crown is smooth.  The Montblanc star adoring the top of this crown is made of black and white lacquer. 



The chronograph actuator is located at the 8 o clock position. Unlike other monopusher chronographs which incorporate the button coaxially with the crown, I find Montblanc’s implementation ideal. This eccentric placement prevents accidental activation of the chronograph with the back of the hand when the wrist is hyper extended.  More importantly I think this location provides a more anatomically comfortable position when using the chronograph functions with the thumb.  Overall the action is crisp with a good clear break through each of its functions when the button is depressed.



The case back is secured with six screws and contains a 30mm flat sapphire crystal through which the movement can be admired.  One well thought idea is the wedge-like cutout on the case back underneath the crown.  This provides extra room for the fingers to wind or to pull out the crown with ease.







The Dial



I honestly believe that the dial design “makes or breaks” a watch.  Not only is it essential for the dial to present information clearly but it also needs to captivate its observer’s attention. The Montblanc Rieussec is successful on both points. The regular production version comes in two different color motifs: a dark grey or very light silver background color for the dial.  I like the monochromatic version which Montblanc issued to PuristSPro for review. 







I would not consider this a true multilayered dial but rather there are decorative components with different finishing styles added to give it that impression. While I normally dislike any superfluous information printed on the dial, the text is symmetrically placed in this model and achieves a harmonious balance.






The center time indicating ring is bisected by the two smaller chronograph disks.  It has a brushed finish and a polished beveled edge with minute markers except near the date and day/night display windows.  Unfortunately on this example, the edge of the ring is rough at the four o clock position.  This can be observed at specific angles with the naked eye but I think it is an easily correctable oversight. The overall printing is sharp and layered to give the numerals a bit of height and the script is very attractive. 



There are two dots with luminous paint at the twelve and six o clock positions.  These are functionally useless.  In the dark they are too small to be clearly seen and they don’t hold their luminescence long.




The two chronograph disks are finished with a sunburst pattern. Coupled with the mirror polished curvaceous connecting bridge, this grouping of elements is what makes the Montblanc Rieussec unique.  Notice that the flamed blues screws are countersunk and the surfaces are polished as well.



Upon close examination what initially appears to be a thick plate decorated with angled Côtes de Genève is actually a thin metal sheet applied onto the base of the dial.  The same angled waves decorate the movement bridge and can be appreciated through the display back. 




The Hands





There are a total of five different hands on this watch- hours, minutes, GMT, chronograph seconds, and chronograph minutes.  The time indicating hands are leaf shaped with polished edges and evenly filled with luminous paint.  The tips end perfectly at the indices to allow for easy reading during daytime.  In the dark it is also effortless to read the time because there is a sufficient difference between the lengths of the hands until the luminescence starts fading away.  A full charge provides nighttime visualization for about ten minutes.  My overall thoughts about the luminous is that Montblanc should either get rid of the paint completely or make the luminescence last longer.  I personally would like the luminous to stay.




The GMT hand is skeletonized and blued.  I was going to call it leaf shaped but take a close look.  The hand is actually shaped like the nib of a fountain pen. It is a very nice touch and pays homage to Montblanc’s roots. However rather than calling it a GMT hand, it really displays the “home time” for those travelling abroad. (more on this later )



The Complications


Besides the chronograph function, this model also displays a second time zone, the date, and a day/night indicator.  All these complications are adjusted via the crown except, of course, for the chronograph.


The crown has three positions:


Position 1- The crown is flush against the case; turning it winds the watch.


Position 2- The crown is pulled out one notch.  In this position the quick set hours hand (solid/luminous filled) and date are adjusted.  The hours move in one hour increments forwards or backwards and the date changes accordingly.  This hand should be used to display the time when travelling since adjusting it does not alter the minute hand nor does the balance stop while the crown is in this position.


Position 3- The crown is pulled out two notches.  The minute hand and blued “home time” hand are linked so in this position the Rieussec can be set to the correct local time.  If the owner is not travelling, the quickset hours hand can then be adjusted so that it overlaps and hides the blue hand from view.




Even without a seconds hand, the Rieussec can be perfectly set against a reference time.  How is this possible?  The Caliber MB R200 employs a vertical disk clutch to start and stop the chronograph.  According to Montblanc, this system has no effect on the rate of the movement, which means that the chronograph function can be run continuously- effectively turning the small seconds disc into a small seconds display.  When the chronograph is activated and being used in this capacity, the seconds disk “hacks” (i.e. the balance wheel stops) when the crown is pulled out to the third position allowing the watch to be set accurately.





The date is displayed through a separate window.  I found this to be an excellent alteration from the limited edition models which displayed the date using a pointer mechanism which cluttered the main time readout.  The date change does not occur instantaneously at midnight; rather it completes the transition over fifteen minutes.  Although I appreciate the stylized form of the display window, I wished its size did not allow for visualization of the other dates; a minor distraction.





The day and night complication is represented through the window directly opposite from the date display, forming a nice balance.  It is linked with the GMT hand and can be a useful reference when trying to determine the appropriate time to call home when travelling.  The color white represents day (6A to 6P) while the color blue represents night (6p to 6A).  In my opinion, Montblanc could add a bit of decoration or color to enhance the display.





The chronograph has not changed since the initial review.  The blued chronograph hands are fixed while the second and minute disks rotate clockwise to record the time.  The disks move smoothly and there is no hesitation or slight backward rotation when the chronograph is activated.  Both also fly back to their starting point immediately upon reset, directly underneath the stationary hands.







Movement and Display Back


This Nicolas Rieussec uses the caliber MB R200, which was conceived, developed, and manufactured in-house at Le Locle by the Montblanc team.  The MB R200 utilizes the same components as its manual counterpart the MB R100, only the automatic winding system is added.




With first glance it is obvious that Montblanc placed equal emphasis on both the technical and aesthetic specifications of their first manufactured chronograph movement.  Look at the three plates gradually increasing in size, the symmetrical placement of the blued screws and visible jewels.   Even the plates are cut away at specific locations to expose the interesting mechanical portions of the movement. 






On the MB R200, the column wheel movement is exposed.  On this magnification it is possible to see some excess lubrication on the reset hammer. 




Here is the action on column wheel as the chronograph is put through several cycles: Start, Stop, and then Reset.  Look closely you will see the chronograph finger advance the column wheel, the brake, and reset hammer in action.  The vertical disk clutch cannot be visualized as it is underneath the column wheel bridge.  Where else can watch enthusiasts find a vertical disk clutch column wheel chronograph?  Try looking at the self-winding in house chronograph movement designed by Patek Philippe. 




The smallest details were not overlooked.  The skeletonized Montblanc star logo on the rotor is placed perfectly so the column wheel remains highlighted when the rotor swings over it. 




The angled Côtes de Genève and the beveled edges of the plates look well applied with the naked eye.  Under close scrutiny with the macro lens the quality of the beveled edges has improved since the last review but the signs of machine finishing in some areas can still be appreciated. 





Beyond the aesthetics, the MB R200 performed well from a technical perspective.  Its twin barrel design is reported to provide a power reserve of 72 hours.  I performed fifty turns of the crown to ensure that the mainsprings in both barrels were completely wound and then I left the Rieussec sitting flat with the dial up.  The time it took for the mainsprings to unwind was measured.  This sequence was repeated twice and the results demonstrated the power reserve to be 70 hours.





The automatic winding system appears to be efficient.  Wearing the watch for a complete 12 hour work day yielded a power reserve of 38 hours despite my relatively sedate professional lifestyle.  The rotor is extremely quiet and wobble can only be felt with extreme, sudden movements of the wrist.  




I was impressed with the accuracy of the Rieussec movement.  I measured this by using the chronograph seconds disk as a small seconds display.  The MB R200 is a 40 jeweled movement with a screwed balance wheel oscillating at a rate of 28,800 VPH. It is factory adjusted in 5 positions before being encased.  Over 10 days the watch garnered a remarkable -4 seconds/day.




Strap, Deployant, and Comfort on the wrist



This Rieussec was mounted on a dark brown alligator strap with a nice bamboo pattern and similar colored stitching.  The strap was padded in the middle and lined with leather embossed with the Montblanc name.





The single fold deployant clasp is of the same design as with the limited edition models except it is made of stainless steel.  It has a smooth acting dual button release clasp mechanism.





The other side of the stap is secured via a simple pin.



The previous review noted that the Montblanc name was engraved upside down but his has been corrected. 



The previous review also noted some inconsistencies in the type of polishing found on the varying surfaces of the deployant clasp.  This has been corrected as well.  The surfaces are polished on this stainless steel sample; the edges are rounded and smoothed.

I purposely paid attention to the clasp because I believe it is one of the most important factor in wear comfort which is often overlooked.  In Montblanc's case, the fold is too long and the metal hinge pressed on the bone.  Who says it doesn't hurt to be a moderator?

I immediately swapped the deployant clasp out and fitted the watch with a spare tang backle I had in my drawer so I could wear the Reiussec through its tests.  After the switch, no problems with wear comfort whatsoever.  I sincerely hope Montblanc finds a solution for this painful fitting problem.  The easy solution would be to alter the strap length of the the watch.  Currently the length of the deployant side strap is way too long which is suitable for a tang buckle but not for deployant.  In order to make the wear more comfortable Montblanc should shorten this length. 


Final Impressions

The Nicolas Rieussec product line is positionned to be Montblanc's mid tier offering.  To be honest I find this placement surprising since it gives the Rieussec much less credit than it deserves.  This only makes sense when you consider that Montblanc has the Minerva/Villeret 1858 collection in their portfolio which consists of highly hand finished and specialized timepieces.

There are always small areas which can be improved with any new launch but this iteration of the review clearly demonstrates that the team at Le Locle is dedicated to perfecting the MB R100 and MB R200.  The finishing has gotten better but the rough edges (at least in the visible aspects of the movement, especially on the dial) need to be addressed.  In some macro shots I spotted a few specs of dust on the movement plate and on the blued screw heads.  These are quality control issues which can be resolved but may be so small that they will not be visible nor deter the average consumer.  They key point is that between movement number 10059 (the movement number found on the initial review) and movement number 100460 (the movement number found on this Rieussec) some observable modifications in the manufactoring process have been implemented.

The final question from any enthusiast will always be "Is the Rieussec a good value?"  Rather than giving you an answer, I'll just highlight what impressed me.  This stainless steel model's suggested retail value is less than USD 10,000 and within this range I suspect Montblanc has targeted customers looking at JLC, GO, and IWC.  Based on price alone, I think Montblanc is extremely competitive since it offers a combination of complications not found in any of the watches from the three above mentionned brands.  In fact I can only recall one other modern brand which offers an unique inhouse integrated column wheel chronograph movement at a similar price point...and that specific model does not incorporate any other complications nor a vertical disk clutch. 

But value means more than price alone.  The Rieussec has a certain "je ne sais quoi" that I find very appealing.  Perhaps it was just the absolute symmetry of the dial and the unique rotating disks that capitvated me but I found myself wearing this watch (after I removed the deployant clasp) not because I was reviewing it, but because I enjoyed wearing it.  

Montblanc, as a brand, carries a certain gravitas when its name is invoked.  Despite this reputation many watch enthusiasts wrongly assume that Montblanc's experience in developing and producing luxury products cannot be translated into a successful watchmaking venture.  Only time will tell of course but with its venerable name, substantial financial resources, and technical knowledge from the collaboration between the Minerva Institute for Research and Time Aeon, Montblanc has all the right ingredients to make an impact.   If the Rieussec is an indication of what Montblanc considers as a mid level project, the watch collecting community will be in for a sweet ride over the next few years.


Copyright April 2009 - Michael Ting, Anthony Tsai, & - all rights reserved

Comments, suggestions, and corrections to this article are welcome.  


For Mike's original post in Montblanc forum, please CLICK HERE

Picture Summary (click to view) review-montblanc-montblanc-star-nicolas-rieussec-gmt----an-in-depth-on-the-wrist-review


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