The story of Montfort Strata is like many great stories, it starts with a chance meeting in a bar. Philippe Kuratle, an epicurean serial entrepreneur meets Jérémie Senggen, a Swiss watch designer, and they hit it off. This meeting was the first step in an epic story that spans 12 months. It usually takes years to build a brand – Philippe and Jérémie have created Montfort in 12 months and this Kickstarter is the culmination of thousands of hours of R&D, Design and testing.
The newly formed duo were fed-up with watches scratching so easily. Philippe solicited the help of his Engineer of a brother that manages an R&D company that had worked with Stainless Steel hardening before and had adapted it to watches. Hardening Stainless Steel brings with it a lot of benefits to the user but also a lot of production constraints to the manufacturer. Everything gets more complicated with hardening; design and polishing need to be adapted for what is effectively a new material.
In their first trials Jérémie and Philippe found that after hardening the steel would look very granular and almost mineral (due to the growth in the crystalline grains within the steel).
This, usually unwanted, effect was compelling and ultimately became a central theme of the Montfort DNA. Philippe and Jérémie wanted to use this granularity and not shy away from it. While the watch cases are exquisitely finished as any Swiss watch should be, they needed a way to show this technological heritage that wasn’t apparent after polishing.
Thomas’ company AIM SA had been developing Stainless steel parts with an additive manufacturing company, using this form of production could give a natural ‘granularity’ to the dials and also allow for complete creative freedom – a ‘win win’ opportunity both entrepreneurs couldn’t pass up.
The blueprint for the Montfort ‘Strata’ (geological layers) had been laid.
Jérémie Senggen, Co-founder and creative director of Montfort trained under Gerald Genta, possibly the most iconic watch designer of the past century. Jérémie’s designs are a tribute to a ‘form follows function’ ethos that means the watch is quite compact (only 11.2mm thick) and can be worn for every occasion.
The 4 piece ‘lugless’ case design is contemporary and timeless with a hint of Genta DNA. The use of a sapphire dial ring with sculptural hands and appliques gives this watch undeniable character while allowing for easy reading.
The Montfort Strata sits low and snug on the wrist and fits both slim and larger wrists as well as women looking for a more masculine design identity.
Our models are named after modern day heroes (fictional or not) – can you guess which ones and why?
Strata 3330-1 - 'James'
The James is Inspired by and built for, the British-sports-car driving, Savile-row-suit wearing, sophisticated gentleman. It boasts a reinterpretation of the classic ‘clous de Paris’ design and is the chic one of the bunch. It can easily be worn with a nice suit, at the races or while you’re driving through the country side top down with wind in your hair. A true modern classic.
Strata 3330-2 'Frank'
Frank is Built for the artists, bikers, dj’s and hipsters that turn up to work on Monday morning in a suit and tie. The Frank isn’t burdened by convention it breaks them. Frank has the Montfort original ‘les massifs’ dial that is a reinterpretation of the mineral beauty and chaotic disorder of the Swiss alps. Frank’s middle bezel is coated in black DLC coating.
Strata 3330-3 'Bruce'
The Bruce is the alter-ego, the super-hero you never knew you were. The Bruce is smart, sophisticated yet mysterious and obscure. As with the Frank the Bruce features the ‘les massifs’ dial and is completely coated in black and grey DLC coatings.
Strata 3330-4 'Vador'
The Vador is a limited edition of 33 pieces. As with the Bruce, it features the ‘les massifs’ dial but is completely coated in black DLC, with black dial and grey printed numerals.
Movement: Swiss made Sellita SW200 Automatic Movement in black galvanic coating, blued screws, “CÔTES DE GENÈVE” on oscillating mass, 26 Rubies and 38 hr power reserve
Case: 4 piece case in hardened “SUPER STAINLESS STEEL”.
Back: sapphire crystal
Coating: Deep black DLC & Dark Grey DLC
Height: 11.20 mm
Diameter: 44 mm
“JAMES” 3D printed stainless steel dial “CLOUS DE PARIS” Hour & Minute: Skeleton Rhodium Polished with ‘Cool Grey’ Luminova Second: Blue PVD Coating
“FRANK” and “BRUCE” 3D printed stainless steel dial “Les Massifs” Hour & Minute: Skeleton Rhodium Polished with ‘Cool Grey’ Luminova Second: Red PVD Coating
Glass: Sapphire crystal top and bottom, with anti-reflective coating
Water resistance: Water-resistant up to a pressure of 100m (10 ATM)
Strap: Black, semi matte Italian leather strap with black/red stitching and red ‘LORICA’ lining - 22/20MM
Super Stainless Steel has been developed in conjunction with AIM SA of Switzerland and Expanite A/S of Denmark. Initially developed for offshore and aerospace applications this gaseos carbo-nitriding technology is unparalleled in its flexibility, hardening performance and anti-corrosive properties.
Selecting the right Steel. In order to treat our watches we have to start with the grade of steel to use. Low grade 316L’s do not allow for safe hardening results (Steels with high Sulphur content can have corrosion issues). We have therefore had to carefully select the steel we use.
Manufacturing the parts. The different parts of the watch have to be stamped, turned, machined and practically finished. They can then be hardened.
Hardening in High. Temperature Furnace First the parts have to be treated in a vacuum retort furnace for between 2 – 4 hours. This carefully monitored high-temperature process allows Expanite to anneal the steel and diffuse the nitrogen (nitriding) that increases core hardness of the material as well as the corrosion resistance.
Low temperature case hardening. The parts now spend between 6 – 8 hours in a low temperature furnace that will diffuse both nitrogen and carbon into the surface of the material. The case thickness is approximately 0.04mm (0.0016 in) and hardness around 1200 HV (Hardness Vickers scale). This can now be called ‘Super Stainless Steel’.
Micro machining polishing. As can be imagined, polishing normal steel that has a surface hardness of 150 – 200HV is easy compared to polishing Super Stainless Steel. Montfort uses technology developed for the aerospace industry (for polishing jet turbine blades) to polishing the cases. This process requires the parts to be fixed to a customized tool and processed for 6 to 12 hours.
Final finishing Once the entire part is polished our polishers can put on the finishing touches and give the Montfort the world class finishing it deserves.
Developed with a Swedish company called Digital Metal from Sweden, the 3D printed dials on the Montfort Strata models are so complicated no other manufacturing technique would have been possible. The extreme precision and ultimate scalability of the digital metal solution makes this the perfect choice for the striking dials we have on offer.
Design the dial in 3D
The process starts with designing a 3D representation on a 3D cad software program. This file is then converted to an ‘.stl’ file format that allows the object to be printed in layers or ‘strata’.
Much like an inkjet printer, the dials are printed in a print box filled with stainless steel powder. Instead of using ink the printer uses glue to bind the powder that will make up the dial. Once this step is finished the dials are removed from the build box and cleaned.
Once the dials are printed they are very fragile and about 40% bigger than their desired size. They then have to be placed into a furnace to allow the stainless steel powder to fuse together creating a sturdy and striking dial. The fusion of these stainless steel particles shrinks the part to the desired size. Managing this ‘shrinkage’ to allow for a repeatedly dimensionally precise dial is what makes digital metal the perfect partner.
The final step is to sandblast the part to remove rough edges and give the dial the rock-like matte grey finish.
Because ETA movements are no longer sold to brands outside the SWATCH group (believe us we tried) we were happy to know that their longtime partners SELLITA based in La Chaux-de-Fonds would be able to supply us customized SW200 movements. The SW200 is a compact single barrel spring, 26 ruby, automatic movement with 38 hours power reserve and a frequency of 28’800 beats per hour (4Hz).
The full technical specifications of our movement can be found here: Sellita SW200
DLC (Diamond Like Coating) coating that MONTFORT uses is not new to the watch industry but this coating is usually used in watches that cost well over $10'000. The much cheaper alternative (10x cheaper to coat) is TiC (Titanium Carbide). TiC is also Grey or Black but doesn’t attain anywhere near the hardness of DLC. DLC is an amorphous coating of Carbon atoms (SP2 and SP3 bonds similar to those present in diamonds) which has impressive tribology and hardness properties. DLC generally has a hardness between 1’500 – 4’000HV – Our deep Black DLC (difficult to obtain) has a hardness of about 1’500 – 1’800 HV.
Our Italian leather straps feature a red ‘lorica’ lining. Lorica is a highly resistant synthetic material that is bio-compatible and resistant to sweat.
The Straps we have on offer come in different designs and colors. The Stainless Steel buckles with the Montfort Logo are quite special because they have been hardened but not polished. You can hence witness the enlarged grain size and crystalline structure of stainless steel – if the watch case wasn’t polished this is how it would look.
All our straps feature ‘easy click’ pins that allow for quick assembly/disassembly of the straps.
Our packaging was designed by our brilliant co-founder Jérémie. He was tired of all those huge, useless watches that usually come with watches. The Montfort watch box is a compact travel case that allows you to carefully store your Montfort (or any other watch you may have) when you travel.
Our ultra-practical packaging also features a genuine leather card holder (you are welcome to use it as a wallet!) and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
By bypassing traditional distribution (that can take up to 50% margin!) we are able to give you an incredible deal on our fantastic watches.
As Montfort grows we will evaluate how we can combine our direct sales through our website and distribution through carefully selected retailers. We also have a couple ideas up our sleeve about how we can get great exposure and proximity without having to give crazy margins to distributors! Stay tuned for more!
Philippe, Co-founder and CEO
Philippe has extensive media marketing and entrepreneurial experience. He is the owner and manager of a Hotel and Bar in Nyon, Switzerland, a local politician and now watchmaker. As a serial entrepreneur Philippe enjoys challenging himself. Despite being an avid watch collector Philippe is a relative newcomer to the watch industry. He sees this as a fresh competitive advantage and is more than ready to disrupt the Swiss watch industry with his Montfort Brand.
Philippe is half Brazilian and the proud father of 3. He enjoys skying, paddle boarding and fine Gin.
Jérémie, Co-founder & Creative Director
Jérémie is a seasoned watch designer. After 3 years training under Gerald Genta at his eponymous brand he left and freelanced for 10 years and has worked with all the best brands in the industry. Upon meeting Philippe, Jérémie saw the potential of his vision and decided to take up the challenge of starting his own brand. Jérémie finds inspiration in technology, nature – especially the mountainous regions of his home canton of Wallis in South-west Switzerland.
Jérémie is the proud father of two future football stars and lives in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The modular design of our watch case and unlimited possibilities available to us with 3D printing technology allow us, on demand – to offer a completely customizable Montfort Strata. Stay tuned for more about this as Montfort grows.
Risks and challenges
Our team consists of seasoned industry professionals that have extensive experience in the watch industry and have already managed production and supply chain for larger established brands.
Since we have done 99% of all the R&D already we do not foresee any major challenges ahead. Should we encounter any issues with mass production we could eventually experience some delivery delays but we will keep all the participants informed of their expected delivery dates.
None and we have all the approvals we need to go ahead with this project. Most of the IP is ours and we have approval where needed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)