Montblanc is one of Switzerland’s oldest watch manufacturers. The story began in 1858 when Charles-Yvan Robert founded his workshop in Villeret, in the Swiss Jura Mountains.
The Maison became known for its innovation, particularly in the field of pocket watches and stopwatches, for which it became a leading specialist. Montblanc specialised in monopusher chronographs, and subsequently invented the calibre 13.20, one of the first manually wound monopusher chronographs ever developed for wristwatches. It continued this innovation by designing the legendary calibre 17.29, one of the slimmest monopusher chronographs, measuring just 5.6 mm in height.
Today, Montblanc timepieces continue the journey of the brand’s over 160-year legacy in fine-watchmaking explorations with the Star Legacy, 1858, Bohème and Heritage lines. Led by Laurent Lecamp, Managing Director of the Watch Division, the Maison is continuing to innovate with its latest novelties while ensuring it honours the DNS and heritage of the brand. We find out more about the recent launches and what we can look forward to over the coming months.
Tell us about what you have been working on since you joined Mont Blanc in 2020.
When I joined Mont Blanc almost two years ago I wanted to bring something new to the brand but something that was close to our routes. I read a lot of books to understand the philosophy of the Maison – some about the brand specifically and some about high-end complications to understand the world around it. One of the points I was interested to explore further was the Montblanc emblem and the meaning behind it. Not many people know that the shape of this emblem is inspired by the Mont Blanc from above, it is a visual interpretation of a birds-eye-view of the mountain with six glaciers around it. This was very interesting for me to understand and explore how I could further integrate it into our watches. So, I went to the main glacier of Mont Blanc; the “Mer De Glace” or Iced Sea in English. I stayed there for a day and observed the surroundings. I took a picture and went back to my office and asked one of our suppliers to develop the first “glacier dial” in the watchmaking industry. And that was the beginning of the Iced Sea line.
Tell us more about this watch…
It is a very interesting timepiece because it is connected to our routes. What we have managed to do is to recreate the image of Mer De Glace on the dial of the watch. It is something completely unique in the watchmaking industry. When the light hits the dial, you can see the depth and layers of the glacier. It offers a ‘wow’ moment. It is directly inspired by what you would see if you were above the glacier and the sunlight was shining on it. Within 0.3mm thickness, we managed to create the depth and details of this glacier and it’s really impressive. The collection comes in green, black and blue – and we chose these three colours as these are the hues that glaciers exist in. So once again we try to have a 360-degree story around our communication. With this watch, we are connecting everything around the heritage of the brand. The inspiration came from the emblem so it’s a full circle.
This Iced Sea is the only timepiece in the world with a steel bracelet with a V-shape appearance. The distance between the lugs is 20mm and at the centre of the bracelet, it’s 16mm, so it has a very unique design. We also have a system that makes it easy and quick to remove and change the strap as well as adjust the size, even on the rubber strap. On the case’s back you will find a glacier engraving to remind you of the ice – it’s three-dimensional and even features the silhouette of a diver. The reason for this is to remind the wearer that this is a diving watch; the first by Mont Blanc.
We decided to enter this category because of the name of the glacier (Sea of Ice), and we felt it fits perfectly with the story of the watch and was a great way to enter the category. If you want to enter the world of diving watches then you need to do it properly, so we decided to begin directly with the highest standard – the ISO 6425 certification – which only very few brands adopt. So, we are ISO 6425 certified which means we have the most technical diving watch you can find in the market. It is 41mm in size and is water-resistant up to 300m. The very special element of this watch is the sound that it makes as you twist the bezel – it is the sound of a dolphin. We developed this sound simply because we wanted to have something unique that was our signature. We spent a lot of time trying to get the exact sound right. The watch also comes with a watch pouch made from recycled materials.
And we understand you also recently launched a GMT watch…
Yes, we also have the Montblanc 1858 GMT – the first of its kind in the world with no hand to indicate the second time zone. It is instead indicated using a red colour marker which is something completely new. It has the same strap concept as the Iced Sea which can be easily adjusted, and it has a unique design.
Tell us about the recent launch of the Zero oxygen watch.
As humans, every time we breathe, we get older. There is an oxidation process that happens to all of us, and the same thing happens with objects. So, with the new Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen watch we have removed all the oxygen from the inside of the watch and replaced it with nitrogen. This means there is no oxygenation process happening inside the watch and so the ageing process. On top of that, this means there is no humidity inside – something that is particularly relevant to our customers in the Middle East. Why zero oxygen? Because our key inspiration is mountaineer Reinhold Messner, the only mountaineer in the world who has reached the world’s highest peaks without using supplemental oxygen. This is what inspired the watch and it is also why on the caseback you can find the list of the seven highest summits on the seven continents. We like to have a story behind our watches and that is what our customers are looking for.
What can you tell us about ladies watches at Montblanc?
We have some very exciting ladies’ watches both new and timeless pieces. We have the Bohème collection which is a timeless classic. You can see the image of the moon which features a day and night indication as well as the date. We have several specific finishings for these timepieces and the option of diamonds on the dial. You can also observe the movement on the reverse side.
This year we are launching something very special as part of this collection – it’s a Bohème with a very romantic story to it. On this watch, once a day, the sun will kiss the moon. The two symbols meet every 24 hours at midnight. It’s inspired by a French song, and it has a very romantic story to it. The watch comes with a leather strap and Mother of Pearl detail on the dial.
But going back to your question in terms of men’s and women’s watches, we are seeing the lines blurring more. The Zero Oxygen watch, for example, is 42mm which is quite big, but we have seen great interest from ladies.
What can you tell us about the brand in the Middle East?
We have two launches this month, the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen and the Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec which also has a special boutique edition. This watch also has a very strong story. The design is connected to the invention of the first ink chronograph in the world, invented by Nikoli Rieussec in 1821. It started at the Champs-de-Mars horse racing track where he was testing out one of his new instrument designs when featured with two controls – sixty seconds and thirty minutes – the first of its kind invented to record these precise timings of horse races as they crossed the finish line. That turned out to be the first invention of the chronograph and that is what this watch is inspired by. So, these are the most current launches, both of which will be available in boutiques in the Middle East.
What is a message that you would send to your customers and clients in the Middle East?
I would like to share with your readers a philosophy that I discovered a few years ago and that I have begun to live by. It’s something I discovered when I lived in Japan. I visited the Ryōan-ji temple In Kyoto which features a zen garden that was created by monks in the 15th century. Within this garden, you can find a unique arrangement of 15 stones. Wherever you are in the temple you will only be able to see 14 of the stones – they have been placed in this arrangement, so you need to move to see the missing 15th stone, whatever position you are in. The concept behind this is that there is always something to be looking for or another piece to the puzzle. And this is a philosophy that I live by (I even teach it at a university). The idea is that you should always keep looking for the missing stone because when you think that everything is perfect, there is always something missing. And this is the way I look at Mont Blanc. It means that when I think everything is perfect, something is still missing, and I must find this. So always try to keep moving and search for what else is there.