There was a time when you went to the doctor’s office and it wasn’t a mechanized cuff putting a squeeze on your arm to figure out your pulse in a digital readout. It was actually the doctor or nurse who gave the personal touch by feeling the beat in your wrist while doing a count the old-fashioned way.
Today the chronograph is more an expression of mechanical artistry than a tool that’s used to measure intervals. However, back in the 1930’s, the chronograph experienced its heyday, ruling sea, sport and industry, essential for its ability to capture moments in time down to 1/100th of a second. The Minerva factory in Villeret, established in 1858 and owned by Montblanc since 2007, specialized in high-grade chronographs. Their archives show the history of these measurement scales on enamel dials. That’s why the Vintage Pulsographe from the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858 bears a face of enamel as a backdrop for its pulse scale.
So how did doctors employ the chronograph in their jobs? Pulses are measured in beats per minute. For a doctor, taking the pulse of 40-50 patients during the course of a day could take up a lot of time. What a pulsographe scale did was cut the time in half, if not more. The doctor would start the chronograph function while at the same counting the patient’s pulse up to 30. Wherever the chronograph hand stopped at the end of 30 beats determined the pulse rate per minute, by referencing the scale on the dial.
Montblanc made the Vintage Pulsographe in two versions: 18k red or white gold. The red gold model has a black dial with white markings; the white gold version features a white dial with black markings. As are all Montblanc Villeret dials, these are crafted from gold underneath the grand feu enamel. The pulsographe scale, in red for the red gold model and blue for the white gold, rings the edge of dial and is marked, “GRADUÉ POUR 30 PULSATIONS” (i.e. “calibrated for 30 pulse beats”). The subdial at 3 o’clock keeps track of a maximum of 30 minutes, while the subdial at 9 o’clock marks the continuous seconds.
In a very wearable 39.5mm case, which is the smallest in the Villeret collection, this traditional monopusher chronograph with its pusher located at 2 o’clock utilizes a column-wheel and horizontal wheel coupling. Per the manufacturer’s mandate, all components are hand finished and decorated, making the rear view as compelling (if not more so) than the front.
The Vintage Pulsographe is wrapped up with a hand-sewn alligator-leather strap and a solid gold buckle. The red gold version comes with a brown band and red gold buckle, while the white gold comes on a black brand with a white gold buckle. Both are produced in limited editions of 58, in reference to 1858, the establishment date of the Minerva factory.
With the Vintage Pulsographe, Montblanc has captured the spirit of a bygone era with their characteristic meticulous handicraft. Looking at this watch certainly kicks my heart rate into overdrive.
Red gold: $46,20
White gold: $48,900