Montblanc’s parent company Richemont took over Minerva in 2006. This 161-year old company, which has produced watches without interruption in Swiss town of Villeret, was primarily known for its chronographs. In the modern era, vintage Minerva chronographs remain revered.
Minerva, which Montblanc promptly renamed Villeret after the takeover in a fit of corporate branding, became the manufacturer of Montblanc’s highest-end watches, outfitted with full manufacture movements, including the difficult-to-produce balance spring, which hardly another brand (except perhaps Bovet and A. Lange & Söhne) goes to the trouble of doing itself. The hand-finishing on these is also fantastic.
Villeret also became the name of this Montblanc line.
Montblanc hardly changed a detail about Minerva’s factory, keeping the impressive files and drawers full of original parts intact, which makes a visit there infinitely interesting.
Since Davide Cerrato joined Montblanc in 2015, he has instituted a number of interesting changes and designs, including once again proudly calling Minerva by its name. This is a move that I applaud, and from all reports the vintage community is also pleased with this reversal of policy.
“We do high-end watches with the Minerva movement of Montblanc; we speak about our history, which is Minerva. That’s it,” he recently confirmed to me. “This was one of the key ingredients to be able to be doing what you are seeing today.”