ePlaza Magazine
Submit news for free

Montblanc celebrates 160 years of its ground-breaking Minerva manufacture – CEO interview

At no point during GQ’s meeting at this year’s SIHH with Montblanc CEO Nicolas Baretzki did he bandy about the term “bandwidth” – but he likely could. His business, which spans writing instruments to leather goods, with smaller segments inbetween, serves as an example of highly successful diversification.

Nevertheless, Baretzki (above) prefers to highlight the brand’s “multinationalism” (pens are still made at the company’s home in Hamburg and leather goods are made at its own pelletteria in Florence) while recognising that, for its loyal customers, Montblanc is still very much a “local business”, driven by the discreet charm of a perennial classic – whether that’s a limited-edition fountain pen or, in the case of its watch division, a classic complication.

And in this last regard, Baretzki is in the position of being able to offer considerable “bandwidth”: Not only is he celebrating the 160th anniversary of Montblanc’s in-house manufacture (the renowned Minerva, based in Villeret, above) this year, but Baretzki is able to talk knowledgeably about the luxury sector’s response to the smartwatch, following the 2016 launch of the Summit, developed in conjunction with Google.

Consolidating all this technological ‘intel’ is Baretzki’s main task, a process he describes as taking “a very systematic approach, [but] always using this amazing tool we have, the Minerva manufacture. And not just the manufacture: but the whole archive, to give all our collections the spirit of Minerva.”

This has been achieved, in part, by shrinking the overall number of collections, as well as harnessing a recent trend in the watch industry towards adventure-inspired pieces, an approach Baretzki describes as telling “the story of the outdoors, nature, and our journey. Which is typically our inspiration [in watchmaking] from the Twenties and Thirties – readable watches with a lot of character. And that’s a very important story to our millennial customers.”

This approach was immediately apparent at SIHH, where in the new 1858 collection celebrating Minerva’s birthday was unveiled. The ‘hero piece’ is the Geosphere, which features an unusual world-time function that deploys two domed hemispheres displaying the 24 time zones inscribed around their each aperture. In addition to this poetic display of the earth’s rotation, the Geosphere features a second time zone display at nine o’clock, a day/night indicator and comes in a striking bronze case – making it a useful participant in the everyday adventurer’s global travels.

Minerva’s heritage in high complications can be observed, too, in the vintage-inspired 1858 Monopusher Chronograph. A design based on a Minerva wristwatch from the Twenties, it featuring a slightly raised crystal, cathedral-shaped hands and luminous Arabic numerals, as well as a vintage Montblanc logo. Fitted with a bicompax dial and tachymeter display, it’s powered by Montblanc’s Calibre MB M16.29 movement and is limited to just 100 pieces.

In keeping with Baretzki’s desire “to go with a very clear – high end, entry level, core collection and an exceptional piece – approach”, the managing director of Montblanc’s watch division, Davide Cerrato, unveiled the latest iteration of the newly revamped TimeWalker collection, now dedicated to the heritage, technology and competitive edge (not to mention growing value at auction) enshrined in motorsport-inspired chronographs as they developed along the lines of early rally timers created by Minerva.

The new Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph features a classically presented tri-counter “Panda” dial atop a brand new in-house movement, housed in a handsome 43mm stainless-steel case. High-quality touchstones include a fixed tachymeter-inscribed bezel in black ceramic as well as a useful stop-second function that allows for the precise setting of the time.

And as for the likely impact of the smartwatch on Montblanc’s classic, Swiss-made timepieces? Baretzki is clear: “I think it is a very important world and in the next five, ten years, it will become huge. And Montblanc is the perfect brand to lead its luxury positioning. But I’m not sure we will convert guys from smartwatches to traditional watches, I don’t think that is the approach. The approach is more to conquer the smart products sector and from there what we know. Which is luxury.

“It’s a long-term process, so we will need to do something else. But we need to keep the Montblanc approach, which is innovation. If we are to do a second generation [Summit] we would need to find the same breakthrough, and it would need to build on our competency in what would then be a digital line.”

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition (in bronze) £5,100

Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition, £24,400

Montblanc TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph, £4,600

montblanc.com

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More