Montblanc Introduces a New Version of the Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph

One of the most rewarding things about this hobby once you start to really see a lot of watches is coming across something that tells the time or gives you information in a different way. It’s actually quite rare to encounter a watch that really does something different. Horology, as a technical pursuit, is famously slow moving, and the mechanics that go into modern timekeeping haven’t really changed that much over the past century, or even longer. So you end up with time telling interfaces that are largely fairly predictable, making a wandering hours complication or any of the more adventurous creations by the likes of MB&F that much more satisfying. One watch that falls into this category that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves is the Nicolas Rieussec line of chronographs from Montblanc. To be more precise, the actual time telling here is pretty straightforward, but the chronograph is executed in a way that’s noteworthy enough for fans of the complication to take notice, with a result that’s surprisingly legible and intuitive. 


Before we get into the watch, it’s important to have just a small bit of background on its namesake. Nicolas Rieussec, who lived from 1781 to 1866, was the royal watchmaker to the King of France. He served at a time when horseracing was gaining in popularity, and developed an instrument suitable for timing races that would place a drop of ink on each of two rotating timing counters whenever a horse crossed the finish line. Those counters, displaying minutes and seconds, could then be used to determine who quickly a horse circled a racetrack simply by looking at where the ink fell on each disc. When presented to the Academy of Science in Paris, members dubbed it a “chronograph,” marking the first recorded use of that word. 

You can see why Montblanc, famously a maker of fine writing instruments, would be drawn to the story of Nicolas Rieussec, and a watch bearing his name was the first to feature a movement made in-house by the brand in 2007. Montblanc’s interpretation of Rieussec’s invention is so straightforward it’s the kind of thing you have to ask yourself why nobody else had come up with it previously. It’s a chronograph, of course, with registers for minutes and seconds aligned across the dial, but instead of using hands to gauge elapsed time, the subdials themselves rotate around a single marker, just as Rieussec’s device used rotating discs. It’s a surprisingly elegant implementation of the chronograph, and it adds some additional drama to the dial when it’s set in motion while always remaining easy to read. 

The newest versions of the watch seen here, officially dubbed the Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph, seek to pay tribute to the city of Paris, where the inspiration for the complication was born. Montblanc has also sought to make some refinements to the typical Rieussec case design, making it more contemporary and easier to wear. To that end, the big news here is that the case now comes in at 43mm, down from 44.8mm in the prior version of the watch. The shape of the case itself has also been subtly changed (Montblanc describes it as “pebble like”), and while it’s still large by most standards, it’s no longer in the gargantuan category. There are two case variants, a DLC coated version limited to 500 pieces, and another in polished and brushed stainless steel that is part of the permanent collection. 

Montblanc designers have included a number of details to tie these watches to Paris. First and foremost, the dials have been accented with a Cloue de Paris guilloche pattern, which is repeated on both the included strap as well as the winding rotor, which can be seen through the display caseback. “Academy of Sciences, Paris” is engraved on the flange near the 6:00 position, serving as a reminder of the complication’s history. Other design notes are meant to be more contemporary, including the custom designed typeface, the use of contrasting grays and blues throughout, and exposed blued screws on the dial side. 

Aesthetically, these watches are something of a bridge between a classic style and a more contemporary design language, with a toe dipped in haute horlogerie territory. The layout consisting of a main dial for time telling (complete with second time zone functionality) with two smaller dials for the chronograph plus a date window packs a lot of information into a tight space and recalls classic pocket watch design tropes. But other design aspects, particularly the gray dial and blacked out case on the DLC version, are strikingly modern and almost sleek. 

In addition to the novel implementation of the chronograph, the movement is feature packed and actually represents a real and surprising value. The MB R200 is a caliber made in-house by Montblanc with a monopusher chronograph controlled by a column wheel and vertical clutch via a pusher at the 8:00 position. This is also a low-key fantastic watch for travelers, featuring a day/night indicator (the aperture at 9:00) and second time zone functionality on the main dial. And, yes, the local hour hand can be jumped in one hour increments, without hacking the movement. When you start comparing the feature set of this watch to other travel watches in the $10,000-ish price range, it feels like the Montblanc holds up remarkably well.

The retail price for the stainless steel version of the Star Legacy Chronograph Nicolas Rieussec is $8,200. The DLC version is $8,600. Montblanc

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.