Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the Montblanc TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph. This watch, launched at SIHH 2014, incorporates a contemporary case design featuring black DLC-coated stainless steel and interesting open-worked lugs.
There is a certain band of thrill-seeking individuals who seek sports which challenge the mind and body, placing their very existence on the line. BASE jumping, cliff diving, sky diving, parkour and wing-suit flying are just a few examples of sports which seem to some, myself included, to be absolute madness. However, in recent times these sports have become increasingly popular with a fearless band of adrenaline junkies. Indeed, it is the very risk of gambling one’s mortality which makes some of these participants feel genuinely alive.
Earlier this year, Montblanc, the brand synonymous with making fine writing instruments, luxury leather goods and, most notably of late, interesting watches, revealed a new chronograph. The suitably named TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph seems to tap into this masculine world where alpha-males explore the limits of their physical and mental capabilities.
The TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph looks the epitome of “cutting-edge coolness” with its covert black exterior, ideal for stealthily BASE jumping from altitudinous buildings in the early hours. The watch has a robust mien, incorporating some interesting design details which demand further discussion. Recently, I had the pleasure of temporarily wearing a TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph for a few days, appraising its form and embracing its youthful personality.
Black is ubiquitously employed on the TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph. The hour and minute hands are black, lined with luminescent material to their centres and feature truncated tips. They are presented against a predominantly black dial canvas, detailed with white Arabic numerals and simple strokes. Despite the discreet demeanour of the hand and dial ensemble, interpreting the time presents no difficulty with excellent ease of read-off.
A red tip introduces a smattering of colour to the central chronograph seconds hand. Moreover, when the hand is in use, the red hue enhances readability, especially in conjunction with the white markings gracing the circumference of the dial.
The tri-compax layout of the dial includes a 30-minute chronograph counter at noon, a 12-hour chronograph counter at 6 o’clock and a small seconds display at 9 o’clock. Each subdial is snailed and features simple white strokes to mark the integers. The two chronograph registers are larger in scale and feature Arabic numerals. All the subdials include a small smooth circlet framing their perimeter.
The central dial area is, once again, snailed, albeit in this instance the space between the concentric circles is greater and the motif is more pronounced. Positioned between 4 and 5 o’clock, a date display resides. The date is highly legible, presented in white text sans serifs, against a black date disc.
Positioned adjacent 3 o’clock, the watchmaker’s name is shown in the house font, beneath which the wearer is reminded that the watch contains a self-winding movement.
The case, constructed of black DLC-coated stainless steel, has a matt appearance and doesn’t seem to deliberately crave attention. However, in reality, I found its shy personality actually attracted many admiring glances. Montblanc seems to have timed the launch of this model perfectly; with an increasing number of new car buyers selecting matt paintwork, the finish of the TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph seems perfectly en vogue.
The knurled motif of the crown exudes an air of modernity. Its textured profile facilitates simple operation and the brand’s snow-capped logo graces its vertical flank.
Open-worked lugs seem reminiscent of the suspension arms of a Formula One racing car, eschewing mass and providing merely the essential. The resultant outcome is a visual lightness to the lug design which is highly attractive.
The caseback is retained with six screws and features a sapphire crystal centre stage, revealing the self-winding movement within.
An interesting strap also justifies further discussion. A black twine is used to join the leather to the rubber backing. An innovative process textures the leather and impregnates it with a treatment, enhancing its flexibility and longevity. The treatment is said to protect the leather from abrasion, water and fire. I found the treatment also bestowed an agreeable woven appearance to the outer surface of the strap.
The Calibre MB 4810/507 is a cam-actuated chronograph. The balance oscillates with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz). The movement contains 25 jewels and has a power reserve of 42 hours.
Whilst there is no evidence of high-end finishing beneath the oscillating mass, this is not surprising, bearing in mind, the relatively accessible price of £4300 (RRP as at 7.9.2014). The oscillating mass is adorned with Côtes de Genève motif and engraved with black text, indicating the movement reference and jewel count.
During my time with the TimeWalker Extreme Chronograph, I also had temporary possession of one of the brand’s new, costlier Nicolas Rieussec models. The finissage of this latter watch was excellent, in some respects highlighting the rationale for the significant price differential. Ultimately, the prospective purchaser has to decide on the importance they attribute to both the superior finish and the higher specification of the more expensive model. In my opinion, both options make a compelling case for ownership.
Another aspect of chronograph ownership is the action of the push pieces. A column-wheel chronograph will exhibit less stutter when actuated and its push pieces will accord a buttery feel. In reality, it is a keen eye that will note any stutter with this cam-actuated chronograph and for the majority of wearers it will fulfil its stopwatch duties admirably.
Pressing the push pieces reveals they have a positive action and, whilst they don’t feel as silky as those on the Nicolas Rieussec, they remain pleasing to operate. Where this movement offers a distinct advantage over a column-wheel chronograph is the relevant ease of servicing and the resultant lower maintenance costs. Often, would-be buyers overlook such matters, but any watch requires a regular lubrication service and the on-going overhead should be considered prior to purchase.