Montblanc Tradition Automatic Date 32

Normally in these hands-on reviews I leave the sticky question of the price until the end. But this time around I’m putting it front and centre. This Montblanc Heritage Automatic has an Australian RRP of $3410. And for that amount of coin, you get a lot of watch.  The steel case is well-sized — 40mm across and 11.65mm high, with 20mm lugs packing a really nice grey croc strap with a slight sfumato effect. The lines of this case err, as the heritage name would suggest, towards the more classic in style. Fairly simple construction, a mirror polish, and pleasing, swooping lugs. The movement is a third-party number, reliable, but nothing too exciting, which is why the brand has opted to hide it away behind a nicely engraved picture of the Montblanc, née Minerva, facility in Villeret. It’s worth noting that the caseback is about as close as this watch got to that building, which is strictly the domain of their top-tier pieces — this watch was assembled in the brand’s Le Locle facility.

The dial, though, that’s something else. The salmon colour is on-trend for 2019, and very much the right choice for this three-handed heritage offering. Really, though, it’s the details and the complexity of this dial that make it such a ravishing watch. It’s multi-layered and multi-textured, with a sunburst centre section, surrounded by a finely grained moat upon which float the applied hour markers, and at the outer edge sits a neatly printed chapter ring, with vintage-sized luminous plots. The hands are sharply faceted, and in the dauphine style (with a slight central reservoir of lume), and the seconds hand is blued. The level of care and detail in this dial — and the sophisticated design that has become a hallmark of Davide Cerrato’s work — is really great, and goes a long way to making the Montblanc Heritage Automatic such a winner of a watch.  It’s a Montblanc Tradition watch that manages to be both very contemporary in style but also relatively timeless, a trick that isn’t too easy to pull off. And for a sticker price of under $3500, it’s hard to go too far wrong.

For me, this International Women’s Day feels somehow different or perhaps more poignant to previous years in our horological microcosm. That’s because, I think, perhaps we are seeing a shift in the way that women and indeed the larger concept of gender is portrayed in watch culture.

For over a century, watches have been clearly defined as female or male based on their aesthetic. To dig right into stereotypes here (though there are, of course, exceptions), broadly speaking a masculine aesthetic is linked to the notion of men as strong and heroic types that like mechanical things, rugged activity and displays of conspicuous wealth. Women, on the other hand, are  “the fairer sex” with a penchant for fashion, gems, the colour pink and no interest in mechanical objects or timekeeping.

In recent years, however, we have seen women challenging the traditionally narrow definition of the women’s watch aesthetic and manufacturers are starting to follow. As I see it, there are three main ways women interact with watches today. Firstly, there are watches created in a jewellery style that honour traditional aesthetics. Secondly, there are watches that include women in a traditionally masculine aesthetic and finally there are more non-binary watches, a far more progressive notion.

But before we look to history, I want to look forward Montblanc Tradition watch to a modern and frankly brilliant interpretation of what the women’s watch world could be.

You’d have to have been living under a rock to have missed the rise of gender fluidity and non-binary identification. For the uninitiated, traditionally society has defined gender as a male or female polarity, without a continuum between or an opportunity for non-conformity altogether. Those brave enough to challenge the norm have historically been at best ostracised and at worst criminalised or physically harmed. Though many continue to fly a gender-normative flag, thankfully society is shifting towards inclusion. Taking society’s cue, the watch industry is also beginning to embrace inclusion spurring a welcome explosion of gender-neutral watches by size and design, of which German watchmaker and Glashütte local Nomos is a notable forerunner and one of my personal favourites.

With the Bauhaus design ethos of function and form in harmony at its core, Nomos watches naturally sideline gender as a driver of design in favour of legibility, simplicity and proportion. As I see it, the only relevance gender may have in Nomos’ design is case size, where women on average have smaller wrist circumferences, but you could equally argue case size as an extension of Bauhaus where, quite simply, the watch size matches the wrist size. As such, across most of the collection, Nomos offers a smaller and larger case without significantly altering the overall design.

Nomos also bucks the gender trend where movements are concerned. Since its creation in 1969, quartz movements have often been preferred for women’s watches due to the arcane view that women are not mechanically inclined. Nomos, however, only produce mechanical movements and what stunners they are; completely in house, exceptional quality and finish, even more brilliant given a comparatively low cost-point. Similarly, with their now infamous use of bold dial colour, larger watches come in traditionally feminine colours and visa-versa, further challenging the gender norm. Though I have many favourites in the Nomos collection, my pick to highlight gender non-conformity is the Club collection and the recently released Club Sport is a case-in-point. The watch is a classic overall design without embellishment that would define a specific gender. It sits in that Goldilocks 37mm case size that suits pretty much any wrist circumference and the website depicts the watch on both a larger and smaller wrist where gender is imperceptible based on styling

The Polar (blue) and Petrol (green) colour choices are similarly gender neutral and the sunray finish is arresting when it catches the light. For watch geeks like me, the sapphire caseback shows off that insanely well considered and finished DUW3001 automatic movement. Check out this link for a full review of these beautiful pieces. If you do want to express gender a little more strongly, the Club Campus, available in either 36mm or 38mm cases in a rainbow of colours, has you set. Women with smaller wrists like me looking for a touch of feminine should look no further than the 36mm in deep pink. I personally own and absolutely rate this watch even with its long lugs. Not be to left out, men with larger wrists looking to flex their feminine side can also get into a pink dial in the 38mm case. Now that’s progress.