Watchmaking is an art. There have been many attempts to define the elusive concept of Fine Watchmaking.  The “Fine Watchmaking“ denomination embraces a centuries-old, living history, a rich and specific culture, a professional ethic, the enduring expertise of the artisan, and a burning passion. In a word, Fine Watchmaking is a culture of knowledge and know-how. While Fine Watchmaking is heir to a long tradition, it nonetheless looks firmly to the future. Its values are research, innovation, development and training new generations.

To present what it takes to handcraft a fine timepiece, I have visited the Institut Minerva der Recherche en Haute Horlogerie.

For it is 150 years since Minerva, a company specializing in handcrafted watchmaking, was founded in Villeret. Minerva soon began focusing its attention on timing and has since developed the chronograph to the peak of perfection. Only very few watch manufacturers can look back on such a long, uninterrupted history,and over the years Minerva has held fast to the working methods traditionally associated with Swiss watchmaking at its best. It is none other than the art of traditional haute horlogerie, which is exercised mainly by hand.

Only a handful of master watchmakers today have the know-how and expertise needed for this rarest and most exclusive form of watchmaking. Important components like the generously sized balance with its high moment of inertia are made in-house,the active length of the tailor-made balance springs is counted by hand as it was in bygone ages,and the mise en fonction of the chronograph control carried out meticulously by hand for each individual movement. Only very few watch manufacturers today are able to produce such vital components for their timepieces by hand,using traditional methods.Two years ago, in order to nurture and preserve its tradition, Minerva joined forces with Montblanc, which in its turn is devoted to preserving and practising handed-down manufacturing traditions in all its business activities. As a result, Minerva has since been known as the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie. Montblanc is thus making a vital contribution to keeping a unique form of expertise alive and preserving this invaluable expertise for posterity. The unwavering commitment of the Institut Minerva to handcrafted watchmaking makes it the perfect complement to Montblanc Montre SA in Le Locle, which recently designed and produced its own chronograph movement: an achievement that firmly established it as a manufacture - as companies that make their own movements are known - successfully blending the art of traditional Swiss watchmaking with the production methods of the 21st century.

In the entire world there are only a handful of watch brands that can offer the entire spectrum of watchmaking expertise from Switzerland's traditional, handcrafted expertise through to the cutting-edge watchmaking of today. Reason enough to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Minerva's foundation with the inauguration of the fabulous new premises in Villeret, which have been renovated from the bottom up over the past 18 months. And for watch lovers,we are marking the occasion with the Grand Tourbillon Heures Mystérieuses from the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858: a timepiece that has never existed in quite this form before.

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