Swiss watchmaker Montblanc summits a new mountain with its 1858 Iced Sea Minya Konka Limited Edition, a variation on the immensely popular Iced Sea range of dive watches launched by the brand last year. When we met Montblanc’s Managing Director for Watchmaking Laurent Lecamp in Geneva in 2022, he told us that people had started calling the collection the ‘Iced Tea,’ and the Minya Konka model finally has the right dial colour, a deep and bright red. You might wonder what is going on here, and for that we have to go back a bit to the 2018 debut of the 1858 collection, and Montblanc’s quest for the right sort of dive watch to fit its mountaineering ethos.
The 1858 collection was meant to celebrate the literal Mont Blanc, and the brand’s attendant love of all things high altitude. If you know your mountains, this explains the name of this latest limited edition, with Minya Konka being the highest peak in China’s Sichuan province. In any case, it was unusual in early 2022 when Montblanc announced that its first proper dive watch, with bracelet and everything ISO 6425-certified, would be part of the 1858 collection. The watchmakers and executives at the brand struggled to figure out how to connect the winning mountaineering spirit they celebrated with the depths of the sea that so fascinated watch buyers everywhere — the dive watch is likely the most popular type of high-end tool watch in the world. According to Lecamp, the solution was to be found in glaciers, and that is what the dials of the Iced Sea models evoke.
Just as the blue, green and black of the core collection Iced Sea are all colours that one can find within glaciers, the red of the Minya Konka is also tied directly to what you can see on that mountain at sunset. While we have not seen the watch in person, Montblanc suggests that the 3D laser-engraving of the mountain, in colour, explains the colour of the dial; the caseback is also engraved with the Chinese characters ‘中国四川 贡嘎瑞霞’ (China Sichuan “China Sichuan ‘Gong Ga Rui Xia’”). It looks quite lovely, but it seems one must look elsewhere to discover the inspiration for the red.
This must have something to do with the red rocks at the Hailuogou glacier, and the way the light hits the mountain, as the brand illustrates in its visuals promoting the 1858 Iced Sea Minya Konka Limited Edition. The watch is a limited edition of 285 pieces, which is a tenth of the altitude of that the aforementioned glacier. It must be a happy coincidence that there is also a connection here with tea, in our opinion, which is amongst the many things China is associated with.
In all other ways, the Minya Konka Limited Edition is the same as the core collection Iced Sea watches, including the knurled unidirectional bezel with ceramic bezel insert, the once-forgotten gratté–boisé dial technique, the 300m water-resistance, and general size (41mm diameter and 12.9mm height). While this watch is mainly targeted at the Chinese market, we are told that it is available in Singapore ($5,500) and Malaysia (MYR15,900). It comes with both an interchangeable steel bracelet and black rubber strap with a red outline.
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