Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date Hands-on Review

by Chamath Gamage
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Pros:

  • The blue glacier pattern dial 
  • Interchangeable strap – takes seconds to change between a steel bracelet and a rubber strap
  • Bang for buck Divers watch with all the right features 

Cons:

  • 41 hours of power reserve is too short in today’s standard
  • Between the bracelet and the rubber strap, the rubber strap wears much nicer on the wrist 
  • Some may not appreciate the details on the dial

Overall Rating: 8.25/10

Value for money: 8.5/10

Wearability: 8.5/10

Design: 8.0/10

Build quality: 8.0/10

Every watch manufacturer has a timepiece that’s iconic to the brand. The Royal Oaks, Submariners, Daytonas, El Primeros, Navitimers, and Speedmasters are all watches that are well known for their respective brands. Can the new 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date be one of those watches for Montblanc? 

This new 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date certainly has an element of uniqueness to it. What makes this watch stand out is the new “frozen” dial. When the designers at Montblanc wanted to create a new divers watch, they went for the extreme. While most other watch manufacturers would go to the world’s tropical waters for their diver’s watch inspiration, Montblanc went straight to the glacial lakes of the Mont-Blanc Massif. 

The designers ascended the Chamonix Valley to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), where they were fascinated by the texture of the glacial ice. The interlocking network of crystals that have been frozen in time for millennia inspired the design of this new 1858 timepiece. 

It’s one thing to have an idea and another to execute. The Montblanc designers had to figure out a way to get what they had seen at the glaciers onto the dial of this new 1858 model. Certainly, no easy task, as the designers had to create the illusion of looking into the depth of a glacier onto a watch dial that measures approximately 0.5mm! Montblanc achieved this through an ancestral technique called gratté boisé, used as the base of the dial. 

Design:

Montblanc’s 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date comes in a stainless steel 41mm case with curved horns with polished and satinated finishing. The knurled ceramic uni-directional bezel has the same colour finishing as the dial, accompanied by large bezel markings in contrasting white. 

The watch is offered in three colour variants; a vivid polished charcoal blue dial, a charcoal green, and a charcoal black dial. The dial is kept relatively simple, with only the date window at 3 o’clock being the extra feature. This is the perfect design for this watch. Being a diver’s watch, the dial is kept bare to allow for easy readability and to showcase the glacial ice dial design.

The white hour indices and large minute and hour hands contrast beautifully against all three colour variants. This certainly helps with readability. Our pick of the three colour variants has to be the blue dial. Seeing this colour in person is just something else! It draws your attention from afar, making you want to see more, only to be nicely surprised by the beauty of that blue glacial dial up close.

Montblanc offers three watches with two bracelet options. These can be changed quickly without using any tools, meaning no more painful scratches on the inside of the lugs. A standard stainless-steel bracelet option that features a 20-16mm taper to have a more snug fit on the wrist or a rubber strap that matches the colour of the dial (except the green dial variant offered in a black rubber strap). The stainless-steel bracelet can also be adjusted on the go without any tools. While the stainless-steel bracelet gives the watch a more luxury appeal, the rubber strap makes this timepiece stand out and practical for everyday use (we will cover more later).

Movement:

The movement used on these new 1858 models is Montblanc’s Mb24.17/SW200 automatic movement. Operating at 4hz (28, 800 VpH), this movement also gives a power reserve of approximately 41 hours. The watch’s case is rated to a water resistance of 30bar (300m), which is quite decent for a diving watch. Being a divers watch, the 1858 Ice Sea has a closed caseback. However, the caseback features an artistically 3D relief engraving of an Iceberg and a scuba diver exploring the glacier waters below. The depth and realism of the 3D relief image are achieved by the metal being structured by a laser.

How does it wear?

On paper having the dimensions of 41mm for the case size, the thickness of 12.9mm, and the lug to lug of 51mm looks promising for a divers watch, and it did. For a 6.5-inch wrist (16.5cm), the watch sat well balanced and weighed just 126 grams, making it comfortable to wear for longer periods.

Having this watch over a week-long period meant we had ample time to test it out. This watch was used for day-to-day activities during this time, and we are happy to report that it didn’t disappoint. From morning exercise to mid-day office meetings, running errands around the city to picking up groceries. This watch complemented any attire worn. What caught us by surprise was the dial and how playful it gets when outdoors. If you catch a glimpse of the dial under the sunlight, you will notice the depth of the glacier, that Montblanc has tried to recreate.

The only downside we saw during this time was the power reserve. With just 41 hours of power reserve, if you were to use this watch in rotation with other watches, you would have to most likely wind the watch next time you put it on.

Closing thoughts:

Montblanc’s first diver has a lot of potential, it ticks a lot of the right boxes for a diver’s watch. Does this watch have the potential to be a daily beater? Absolutely. This watch will fit most wrist sizes considering the dimensions, especially the lug to lug and thickness. The quick change straps means one can get more use out of this timepiece in any environment. Here is a short video that showcase how easy it is to change the straps.

Divers watch segment is a competitive market and the price point set for the Iced Sea Automatic Dates, is a big plus for the Montblanc diver. We showed some fellow watch enthuisiasts the Iced Sea, and asked them what they think the price point would be, and they were pleasantly surprised to find out that the rubber strap version cost $4470.00 AUD and $4800.00 AUD for the steel bracelet version. We feel as though, in current times, some collectors consider pricing before looking at a watch in more detail. This is where the 1858 Iced sea shines well. In the current market, we had a hard time finding another Divers watch with similar characteristics and price point to the 1858 Iced Sea.

To answer the question raised at the beginning, “will the 1858 Iced Sea become an icon for Montblanc?” It certainly has all the right characteristics to become one. We will just have to wait and see.

Reference: 129369

Specification:

  • Case: 41 mm, Lug-Lug 51mm and thickness 12.9mm
  • Case Material: Stainless steel case with curved horns featuring polished and satinated finishing
  • Dial: Polished charcoal blue coloured, lacquered dial with icy impression, rhodium coated and blue coloured luminescent applied Arabic numerals, rhodium coated and blue coloured luminescent cathedral shaped hour and minute hands Black date on white background
  • Crystal: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating inside
  • Water resistance: 300 meters
  • Movement: MB 24.17/SW200
  • Power reserve: 41 Hours
  • Bracelet: Interchangeable stainless steel bracelet/Blue Rubber strap with double deployant buckle and adjustable strand (20-16mm)

Australian Recommended Retail Price: $4470 AUD for the Rubber strap and $4800 AUD for the Steel Bracelet

Availability: Available now. Enquire from your nearest Montblanc Boutique

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