If you like your dual-time zone chronographs large and easy to use then this TwinFly from Montblanc looks, at first glance, well worth investigating.
The TwinFly in the name is a reference to the elapsed-minute hand as well as the elapsed-seconds hand being a flyback. This dual flyback feature is reasonably rare and made even more interesting because the elapsed-minute hand is centre mounted, making it look like a split-seconds chronograph. It’s something that fell out of favour in the 1970s but was introduced in the Montblanc TimeWalker TwinFly Chronograph back in 2011.
The feature these two watches share – apart from the name – is their movement, the MBLL100. This was the second in-house movement from Montblanc, the first being the calibre MB R200, which was used for the wonderfully archaic-looking Nicholas Rieussec Chronograph collection.
As well as being automatic, the MBLL100 uses a vertical clutch and column wheel for its chronograph function – the former for precision and the latter to help the chronograph’s longevity – and has a 72-hour power reserve thanks to the movement’s two barrels.
It’s impressive in what it does but isn’t the most attractive thing to see through a sapphire caseback. It looks modular, a bit basic and, dare we say it, agricultural. The movement is almost a microcosm of the watch as a whole – impressive in the doing but needing a little work cosmetically. The combination of complications on a modular movement also makes the watch pretty tall off the wrist – not helped by a pretty deep dial. Having said that, it wears thinner than it looks – we had no problem fitting it under a cuff. This is not, I should point out, my wrist…
On the one hand, you could put the case for the 4810 TwinFly as a highly capable business watch. It has a legible and easy-to-set dual time zone function with the sub-dial under the 12 o’clock giving the hometime day/night indication, which is linked to the blued central hour hand. The size of the date window makes it visible at a glance (which could be a major minus point for those of the view that a date window generally ruins a perfectly good dial design) and the rose-gold applied indices add a touch of bling but not too much; this is not a watch that will make you look flash around the boardroom table.
On the other hand, there’s the whimsy of the twin flyback chronograph. It’s great in a one-upmanship sense, and those that take an interest in unusual chronographs – soccer timers; regatta timers – may also find it appeals. But it’s a very niche offering. A normal flyback is a pretty cool thing, and even if you don’t have a practical use for it (who does?), it makes for a fun thing to demonstrate every now and then. That’s not hugely improved upon by adding minutes to the flyback offering; people aren’t going to wait around the 10-15 minutes it takes for your watch’s party trick to be sufficiently impressive.
What you can do, though, is admire the workmanship. Chronographs are all about feel, so while the movement isn’t winning any beauty contests, we can happily report that it’s very smooth to use. The pushers have a good “give” to them, with none of the harsh snap you often find on a 7750. There’s no wobble to the second or minute hands when they fly back, and barely a trace of a delay. If you push, hold and release before letting the flyback go (as Peter Roberts explains here, that’s the way flybacks were originally used), it’s especially slick.
This is sort of the problem about this watch; it’s good at what it does, and it does a lot. But having so many strings to its bow has perhaps taken its toll on the design. Lots of elements on the dial, plus quite a strong guilloché in Montblanc’s star pattern, and those emphatic numerals – nothing’s glaringly wrong but it’s not quite coming together as it should.
The 2011 TimeWalker that originally housed the TwinFly function had a touch of sportiness about it, while the limited edition version in titanium with DLC coating was pure Bruce Wayne.
This more traditional-looking version feels like the horological equivalent of an off-the-peg suit – all the elements are there, and all of them work exceptionally well, but it lacks the flair of other recent Montblanc releases. It’s possible that it just needs time to bed in a little bit – certainly its technical prowess should mean it is remembered in years to come.
It’s worth adding that for all of this functionality – dual timezones, interesting and rare chronograph – on an in-house movement, you would be asked to part with no more than £5,200. In all honesty, that makes us look twice at the TwinFly. It may not be a home run in design terms, but (and this is a phrase we feel like we need permanently on copy-paste these days) you’re getting a lot of watchmaking for your money from Montblanc here.