In the sleepy little Swiss village of Villeret lives a quiet giant. Not big in numbers, but big in abilities. The giant is Montblanc’s Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie. Within the walls of this all-important historic building, the Montblanc Villeret collection of exclusive timepieces is all handmade as though in yesteryear. We wrote a bit about that here.
Also nestled in this building is the brand’s amazing Custom Design workshop. Here, watch designers and artists spend countless hours working with special clients to create a bespoke watch – special both inside and out – made to the demanding specifications of the customer. Now, we bring you a behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes on in this division.
Each time a custom order comes in to Villeret, the specialist designers spend much time in deep conversation first about the look of the watch desired. Generally, say the execs at Villeret, it takes between six and eight months to design the dial and the watch look to the customer’s likings.
At each and every stage, full-color drawings are made to enable the client to see exactly what they will be receiving in finished product. Customers can make changes, tweek colors, designs, patterns and more. The close interaction between a customer and a designer is a time-consuming, enjoyable journey. Later, when the watch is complete, all of the drawings are compiled into a leather bound portfolio and accompany the watch to its rightful owner.
Essentially, the design of the watch dial and case takes a full year. Each dial ‘s finishings, polishings, engravings and paintings is absolutely unique. The assembly of the top-quality hand-made watch movement then takes additionally time – depending on if it is a tourbillon (that escapement alone takes about 6-8 weeks to assemble) or if it is a simpler caliber. However, when the watch leaves the premises – usually about two years later – the movement and case have been specialized in certain ways for the owner, and the dial is a one-of-a-kind.
The work is top secret and I was not even allowed to photograph the watches, only certain drawings. While Montblanc is now under new leadership, with Jerome Lambert at the helm, the brand will always continue its haute horlogerie and high-design custom watch making. According to Lambert (whom we profiled recently here), it is an essential part of the brand’s heritage and demonstrates the amazing knowledge and abilities housed in Villeret.