The new Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100 is one of several exciting pieces from the maison this year. Montblanc is, by the way, under new leadership as well — it is former Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Jerome Lambert’s first full year at the helm. With 1/100 second accuracy and similar color scheme, I immediately thought of the TimeWalker Chronograph 100 as a toned-down version of the ultra-exclusive (and uber pricey – ~$300k) Bi-Frequence 1000 which measures time to 1/1000 second.
For starters, the case is 45.6mm with carbon fiber middle and titanium lugs, caseback and bezel (DLC-coated) — the watch has a very technical look to it. A patented chronograph function enables the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100 to perform a feat that’s seldom achieved by mechanical timepieces: it can measure elapsed intervals to the nearest 1/100 of a second. This is thanks to the manufacture calibre MB M66.25 with a second set of dedicated components including a hi-beat balance wheel operating at 360,000 bph (50Hz), a second barrel and gearing.
There is a small running seconds sub at 9 o’clock as well as co-axial, concentric elapsed seconds and minutes 6 o’clock. The 1/100 seconds are via the center-set red hand and are indicated on the outer ring of the dial.
A little known fact is that the Minerva Manufacture (now the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret) launched its first mechanical 1/100 second stopwatch in 1916. Subsequent versions were equipped with a chronograph hand that requires just one second to complete a full 360° circuit of the dial. The same principle is employed by the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph 100 caliber M66.25, as is the inspiration found in the large, screwed balance, swan neck regulator and Breguet overcoil.
In a conventional chronograph, there is a single balance wheel which drives both the time and the chronograph and it typically operates at 2.5Hz to 4Hz. Not so with the Timewalker 100 which requires the 50Hz oscillation in order to achieve 1/100 second accuracy. The chronograph function has a power reserve of 45 minutes whereas the normal timekeeping part of the movement, which runs at 18,000 bph, has a 100 hour power reserve. Both are wound via the crown, clockwise for normal time, counterclockwise for the chronograph barrel; chronograph timing can be extended indefinitely simply by winding the crown while the chrono is still engaged.
A large, massy, screw balance oscillates at a frequency of 18,000bph (2.5 Hz) to ensure the precise rate of the normal timekeeping functions, while a small hi-beat balance runs at 360,000bph (50Hz) frequency to regulate the chronograph function. As Montblance explains:
Rather than remaining continually in motion, the separate balance for the chronograph begins to vibrate only when the “start” function is activated by a flexible steel lamella (called fouet) mounted behind the arrowhead of the chronograph rocker. When the “stop” function is triggered, this slender steel plate arrests the tiny 50-Hz balance and holds it motionlessly in place until the next elapsed-time measurement begins. The chronograph function is powered by its own barrel, which stores enough energy to measure intervals up to 45 minutes in duration. An elapsed-time measurement can be indefinitely extended by turning the crown anticlockwise while the chronograph is running, thus adding fresh energy to the chronograph’s barrel. The going train for the ordinary time display draws its energy from a second barrel that guarantees a 100-hour power reserve.
The TimeWalker Chronograph 100 is equipped with two zero-return mechanisms: one for the 100ths of a second and another for the elapsed minutes and seconds. This is a patented mechanism, and for you technically minded folks, here is the detail:
A two-level column-wheel separates the functional level for starting and stopping the chronograph from the zero-return level for the elapsed-time counters. The column-wheel bears four narrow and four broad pillars, between which alternately higher and lower switching levels are positioned. The higher level controls the chronograph rocker: its arrowhead carries the slender steel lamella that starts and stops the finely toothed 50-Hz balance. When the measurement of an elapsing interval commences, the column-wheel gives an impulse to the chronograph rocker, which then moves away from the high-frequency balance and transfers the impulse via the steel lamella (fouet) at its tip to the balance, which instantly begins vibrating at an hourly frequency of 360,000 semi-oscillations. When the measurement of the elapsed interval is halted, the column-wheel moves the chronograph rocker toward the chronograph’s balance so that the steel lamella presses against the balance’s rim, thus halting both the balance’s vibrations and the progress of the chronograph’s elapsed-time hands.
A limited edition of 100 pieces the TimeWalker Chronograph 100 will retail for €50,000 (~US$68,000 at current f/x). That is, by the way, a fraction of the aforementioned Bi-Fréquence 1000 which will set you back more than $300,000.