During the early 20th century, the world started to seem smaller thanks to increased mobility. Countries and cities with direct access to the world’s oceans that became the most important hubs for trade, culture and innovation. Hamburg was one such city, gaining the nickname of Germany’s “Gateway to the World”, being a centre for trade and the manufacture of many of the country’s ocean liners.

The Hamburg America line was the transatlantic shipping enterprise that included the Blohm & Voss-built SS Hamburg and her sister ship SS New York. But one of the most exciting of the German liners was the SS Bremen – named for Hamburg’s neighbouring city – and one of a pair of ocean liners commissioned by the Norddeutsche Lloyd Line (NDL) for transatlantic passenger service in 1929. Both Bremen and her sister ship Europa – later renamed Liberté – were among the first of a new breed of large, expensive liners with a low streamlined profile and modern interior design.

On her July 1929 maiden voyage, Bremen made the journey from Bremerhaven to New York City in four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes, taking the westbound Blue Riband – the prestigious prize for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean – from RMS Mauretania with an average speed of 27.83 knots. On her next voyage she captured the eastbound Blue Riband with a time of four days, 14 hours and 30 minutes, the first time a liner had broken two records on her first two voyages.

Recalled by the Kriegsmarine high command on 30 August 1939, Bremen spent the following two years being used as a barracks ship before being set alight by a crew member and eventually broken up in 1946. It was a sad end to a magnificent ship that in her heyday had carried society’s finest, from actors Cary Grant, Henry Fonda and Marlene Dietrich, to businessman William Randolph Hearst and boxers Jack Johnson, Max Schmeling and Jack Dempsey. Even Winston Churchill sailed on the Bremen when he travelled to New York in 1931 for a lecture tour of the US.

Among the list of transatlantic passengers of the early-20th century was a trio of German entrepreneurs – engineer August Eberstein, merchant Alfred Nehemias and stationery trader Claus Voss. Inspired by the mechanical innovations they discovered in 138 the US, the three men came together to develop a non-leaking writing instrument and founded Hamburg’s Simplo Filler Pen Company. In 1910, the company name changed to Montblanc, after the highest peak in Europe, representing the founders’ aim to produce the highest quality objects offering ultimate performance and unparallelled craftsmanship.

New Look Numbers
Fast-forward 105 years and Montblanc was planning a new look for its 4810 Collection of luxury watches – originally launched in 2006 for the company’s centenary and named in honour of Mont Blanc’s highest point of 4,810m. A genius among those who anticipate the whims and demands of the watch market, and no stranger to the appeal of 1930s design thanks to his 11 years helming Jaeger-LeCoultre, CEO Jérôme Lambert decided to look to the three company founders and the days of luxury ocean travel to inspire the new line of watches for the 4810 family.

The brief for the new look was to create: “A strong, elegant and sporty design, offering a new, sophisticated interpretation of the much-loved 4810 Collection for the modern traveller who needs a performance timepiece he can rely on.” Despite looking to the Art Deco period, the interpretation of the styling is far less obvious than that of, for example, JLC’s Reverso, Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques American or the Jean Dunand Shabaka, feeling more like an homage to an era rather than a retro reinterpretation.

So, with the glory days of transatlantic ocean crossings at their core, the 2016 watches for 4810 were inspired by, and created to celebrate, “the golden age of travel across the Atlantic”, as well as championing the maison’s 110th anniversary. On the aesthetic side, the collection lives up to the brand’s bold mission statement to “share the passion”, with larger cases, guilloché dials featuring the exploding Montblanc star motif, Roman numerals and newly-designed indexes and hands. In recognition of the pioneering technological era in which the company was founded, 4810 includes three new in-house movements plus a number of manufacture complications. On the following pages are just four stars from the collection.

Montblanc 4810 Twinfly Chronograph 110 Years Edition
In a 43mm steel case with white guilloché dial, this easy-to- use chrono allows the wearer to stop, reset and restart the blue central chronograph seconds hand and the red-gold central minutes chronograph hand with just one press on the pusher at 4 o’clock. Another pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph.

The watch houses the manufacture, self-winding Calibre MB LL100.1 with a column wheel, vertical clutch chronograph mechanism. Both chronograph and dual-time indication are shown via central hands. Small seconds and date window are at 6 o’clock, while a sub-dial at 12 o’clock shows a map of the world that acts as a home time day/night indicator. Now, that’s a lot of innovation for £5,200.

Montblanc 4810 Orbis Terrarium Pocket Watch 110 Years Edition
Montblanc’s first pocket watch features a world timer function and is powered by the in-house Calibre MB 29.20. Again ease of use is paramount, with home time set by pressing the pusher between 5 and 6 o’clock until the home city is in front of the arrow at 6 o’clock. The hours and minutes and day/night indication are then set via the crown at 12 o’clock. The 53mm dial shows the continents as seen from the North Pole, is constructed from multi layers of sapphire crystal and the names of 24 cities around the dial represent the different time zones. A rotating disc below the map indicates day and night. Only 110 pieces will be made, priced at £6,430.

Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim 110 Years Editions
The most literal representation of travel comes in the form of the magnificent ExoTourbillon Slim 110 Years Edition, powered by the automatic Calibre MB 29.24 with micro-rotor. Each 42mm white gold watch featuring a unique miniature hand- painted map of North America, Asia or Europe. The only hour index is a rhodium- plated “XII”, supplemented by a minute track with a red “60” at 12 o’clock. Only 110 examples will be made, at £32,900.

Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim
This watch showcases Montblanc’s patented ExoTourbillon with quick stop-second function. The tourbillon uses a large screw balance – increasing the inertia and leading to better chronometric stability.

In a traditional tourbillon, this would require a large and heavy rotating cage, but with the ExoTourbillon the balance is outside and above the cage. This allows the cage to be kept small so it requires less energy for motion, leading to energy savings of about 30 per cent while at the same time increasing precision. The quick stop-second mechanism instantly stops the balance, instead of halting the tourbillon cage, allowing the user to set the time to the exact second. All functions of the automatic Calibre MB 29.24 are set via the winding crown at 3 o’clock.

The case measures 42mm, with a total height of 10.14mm. The silver-white dial is decorated with an exploding star guilloché design on the upper section and a Côtes de Genève motif on the lower third surrounding the ExoTourbillon at 6 o’clock. Red gold-plated Roman numerals and regate-shaped hands filled with white SuperLumiNova for plus a minute track at the edge complete the dial. And that’s a huge amount of technology and beauty for a mere £26,100.