Sponsorships are common practice in the watch world. Brands partner with a variety of organizations and public figures, everything from car rallies and yachting events to sports heroes, Hollywood celebrities, charities and the arts. These alliances are usually forged through common philosophies, values and beliefs rather than from a direct connection. With Montblanc and the Breeders’ Cup there couldn’t be a more apropos or synergistic fit, as natural as a mint julep on a sizzling summer day in Kentucky. Montblanc is the Official Timewriter of the famed race and just last week signed a three-year deal to be the exclusive timekeeper through 2013.
In fact, it was at the track where the chronograph function was born. Translated from the Greek, the word literally means time writing. Nicolas Rieussec invented the first chronograph in 1821 at the behest of the French King who wanted to clock his horses crossing the finish line. In Rieussec’s design, a wooden box housed a clock movement driving two rotating dials on the lid. The push of a button released a drop of ink from a fixed index, the marks indicating the beginning and ending of a period.
In terms of writing instruments, Montblanc is at the top of the game, particularly for the occasion of placing a signature on an important document. Remember the stately lineup of 22 pens when Obama signed the 2010 healthcare bill into law? Nonetheless, they also want to be taken seriously in watchmaking. Montblanc made a smart move by purchasing Minerva and demonstrating technical skill and exquisite hand finishing in the Villeret collection. I talk about the Metaphorphosis here.
However, it’s the first movement Montblanc produced themselves at their factory in LeLocle where they really came strong out of the gate. Inspired by Rieussec’s original gadget, Montblanc introduced the Star Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher Chronograph, which uses rotating counter discs to measure intervals of time. Pretty clever of the writing instrument company to make a time writer for their debut. Montblanc couldn’t have chosen a better moment to announce their continued association with the Breeders’ Cup, which is run on the hallowed track at Churchill Downs.
Even if you aren’t a horseracing fan, you probably have heard of the little mare that could, the incredible Zenyatta who entered into the 5 million dollar contest last Saturday with an impressive 19-0 record. Her story grabbed the headlines round the world from local blogs to a feature on “60 Minutes.” I admit I was dashed that Zenyatta lost a trip to the Winner’s Circle by a head bob to the stallion Blame. It was a hell of a race though with as much drama and excitement that could possibly be squeezed into a little over two minutes. Zenyatta’s comeback push from dead last was an incredible adrenalin-pumping affair–even when viewed on the television screen, which is how I saw it.
The Star Nicholas Rieussec is a chronograph I really admire both for its design and creativity. It’s the perfect watch to represent the noble equine sport and the Breeders’ Cup. And, even though Zenyatta failed to keep a perfect record before her retirement, perhaps Montblanc will give her one to wear one round her hoof. I think this one would suit her style just right.