This year, the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard welcomes a new Official Timing Partner, and it’s a name that might surprise some.
JUN 29th 2017
Montblanc brings its tradition of time‑keeping to FOS
Beyond the champagne, live music, flypasts and concours d’elegance, at its heart the Festival is still a competitive hillclimb in which serious drivers in some very serious racing cars attempt to set the fastest time up a challenging stretch of road. Fractions of seconds count, and accurate timing is as important on Lord March’s drive as it is on the world’s F1 circuits.
For the next five years, that timing will be provided by Montblanc. Founded in 1906, it is of course best known as a maker of fine writing instruments. But with its acquisition of the Minerva ‘manufacture’ in Switzerland’s Jura mountains, it became a highly credible and desirable watchmaker too.
It also acquired a long and enviable association with motorsport. Founded in 1858 in Villeret, Minerva made some of the world’s most accurate and innovative precision timers. Its purely mechanical instruments could measure time to one-fifth of a second as early as 1911, and to one-hundredth of a second just five years later. It made both hand-held stopwatches and wrist-worn chronographs, and registered a series of patents.
Naturally, Minerva’s instruments were sought-after by early, pioneering racing drivers and aviators. In 1960 it introduced the famous Rally Timer, a dash-mounted stopwatch which would now grace the cockpit of any period Ferrari competing in one of the world’s great historic rallies.
Montblanc will of course use the latest technology to time competitors on the Goodwood hill, but it will also be showing its current range of TimeWalker mechanical chronographs, made in the same spirit and in the same manufacture as the original Minerva instruments.
The most extraordinary is the Montblanc TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition 100. This large, 50mm chronograph is a direct tribute to the original Minerva Rally Timer, but with a series of refinements. It can be worn as a watch, and can be rotated on the wrist to be easier to read when driving. Its straps can be removed, allowing it to be used as a hand-held stopwatch, or fixed to the dashboard of a car with a bespoke, leather-covered mount. Lastly, two tiny legs emerge from the case, allowing it to stand alone as a desk clock. The Montblanc in-house movement which powers it is a manual-wind monopusher chronograph design, acknowledged as one of the finest currently made.
The other watches in the TimeWalker collection are classic racing driver’s chronographs, made using an appealing range of materials such as high-tech black ceramic, satinated steel, titanium and rubber. The knurled finish on the bezel, crown and pushers echoes the design of classic racing car cockpits, and the large, legible central seconds hand is finished with the iconic Minerva arrow.
You’ll see them on the wrists of some of the drivers ascending the hill this weekend, and in future Festivals. The official Montblanc timing might be electronic, but its mechanical instruments are as accurate as any driver could need.