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Review: Montblanc 1858 Geosphere

The world timer is one of those complications that’s actually pretty useful. For someone who travels or liaises with people in other countries frequently, a quick wrist-worn reminder of who’s awake and who’s asleep can be the difference between sealing the deal and calling the CEO of a multinational corporation when they’re at home … in bed … asleep. Many competent world timers include a globe to aid use, but the trouble is, the two-dimensional nature of the dial doesn’t lend itself to the sphericity of our planet—Montblanc, however, thinks it’s found a solution.

Before we go any further, let’s familiarise ourselves with the aspects of the traditional world timer. More often than not, the designs are specific to the originating locale—this Montblanc Orbis Terrarum here, for example, is aligned to London—and of course that means the complementary globe will be representative of the appropriate hemisphere, northern in this case.

You can see at a glance what time it is in London, whether it’s day or night and, thanks to the globe, along which lines of longitude and latitude the city is in, but none of that is really particularly special in and of itself. A normal watch will tell you what the time is, you can see if it’s day or night by looking out the window, and I don’t know why any normal person would be especially interested in the longitude and latitude of their home.

This is of course where the ‘world’ in world timer really comes into play. Leave the main display set to home time and you can skim the outer wheel to see what the rest of the world is up to—having dinner in Dakha, perhaps, or snuggling in Sydney, laying in in Los Angeles. Whatever’s going on, inappropriately timed phone calls will be a thing of the past. Then, if you actually go to one of these places, you can cycle through the cities with the pusher and make the main display read local time, with home still readable around the outside. Genius.

But what of the cities not listed on the outer ring? If they’re in the northern hemisphere, it’s quite easy: locate them on the globe, follow the line of longitude—those are the ones running from the centre out—and align it to the time shown on the 24-hour ring.

Pretty straightforward, until you consider the cities not listed that are in the southern hemisphere—and there are many. Sao Paulo, for example, the largest below the equator. Instead of being able to place it on a map, you just have to remember that it’s in the same time zone as Rio de Janeiro. Same with Jakarta, Lima, Melbourne, Johannesburg—the list goes on. So, what’s Montblanc’s big fix?

It seems that the £4,500 Montblanc 1858 Geosphere has the answer—or at least an answer. Certainly an answer for those with good eyesight, because instead of having to choose which hemisphere you get on the dial, you get both. It’s like two world timers in one. The globe is sliced down the middle and butterflied top to bottom, which means you can—perhaps with a little squinting—identify any city in the world, follow the line of longitude and read the time from the 24-hour ring around the outside.

That might seem an impossible task given the scale of the hemispherical displays, but for approximating time anywhere in the world, it’s surprisingly usable—just as long as your geography is up to task. You’ll notice the absence of the traditional city ring around the edge of the dial, which is usually representative of each of the 24 lines of longitude that divide our 24-hour day into equidistant time zones. Given the watch’s already substantial 42mm size, you can see why Montblanc chose not to include it in the calibre MB 29.25, a Sellita base with in-house module on top.

But the 1858 doubles down on its apology because in the place of the city ring is not one, but two adjustable time zone displays. With the globes aligned to home time—you’ll see that Montblanc still highlights your locale with a thicker line of longitude—you can independently set both the primary display hour hand via the crown and the secondary 24-hour display with the hidden pusher. This way, you need only refer to the globe displays to initially locate the time zone of a place of interest; once you’ve set either the main or secondary displays accordingly, reference is much more immediate.

If your eyeballs are up to the task of reading this watch, you’ll have probably spotted the little red dots on both hemispheres, and you’ll probably be thinking what I did, which is, ‘Excellent! A handy reference for the largest cities in the world!’ You will then, like me, be disappointed to discover that the eight red dots represent the world’s tallest summits, a theme carried onto the case back. If you’re into your mountains, you’ll know the tallest are known as the ‘seven summits’—listed on the back—so why the eighth red dot? Mont Blanc, of course. The reasoning becomes a little clearer.

The explorative nature of the watch is continued through the compass-style bi-directional bezel dressed in ceramic, and perhaps more in spirit through the Howard Carter-esque 1920’s era design touches like the cathedral hands and aged luminous paint. Even the strap has a feeling of the desert about it. One for Indiana Jones, perhaps?

Whether the 1858 Geosphere answers the right questions in the right way for you is for you to decide, however there is a universal appeal in the exploration of not just mountains, but new ideas that’s present here. Watches have been around for a very, very long time, and fresh designs are few and far between—and most often priced rather exclusively—so to see a company still in its burgeoning era of watchmaking bringing something different into the mix should be at least acknowledged, if not applauded. At least it’s not another dive watch.

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