PARIS — Executives at Montblanc were rethinking the brand’s strategy before the crisis hit. The company is over a century old, and the label’s famous snow-cap emblem is stamped on products ranging from leather goods to writing instruments and watches. It felt like a more global approach was needed.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2021 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“What is important is to understand the brand — and that is why, more and more, we are working on brand topics…not just every category being played as a silo,” said Nicolas Baretzki, Montblanc’s chief executive officer, speaking to WWD through Zoom.
“That way it can be much more powerful,” he added.
“How can we rethink Montblanc as a global luxury business maison and go out of the very silo approach where I talk about writing instruments in one way, or watches in another way, or leather goods — and how do I convey ‘What is Montblanc about?’ and ‘How is Montblanc this amazing luxury business lifestyle maison?’ and how to convey that spirit,” Baretzki recalled thinking.
The brand, which belongs to Compagnie Financière Richemont, signaled its new label-driven approach with a global campaign last fall featuring filmmaker Spike Lee, actor Taron Egerton and singer, actor and writer Chen Kun in minute-long films reflecting on shifting work habits and measures of success. “What Moves You, Makes You,” goes the slogan.
“What is important to understand at Montblanc, we’re not fashion and not a marketing maison, we rely on either our own heritage — over 100 years old — that’s what we’re going to work on, that’s going to be a very strong brand theme,” he said.
“At the same time [we] work on very authentic things,” he added.
“You don’t tell Spike Lee what he has to say,” noted the executive, citing the campaign with Lee as well as work with Italian explorer Reinhold Messner, known for climbing Mount Everest, as lending credibility.
At Watches and Wonders, the brand is showing an 1858 Geosphere watch in sandy colors, a limited edition meant to symbolize Messner’s solo trek across the Gobi desert in 2004. The landscape is depicted on the back in titanium, with laser engraving.
The Geosphere watch, in its fourth edition, has become a hero product of the 1848 line, thanks in part to its distinctive features, said Baretzki. The two round globes depicted on the face make it quickly recognized, he added, lifting his wrist to show a blue-faced version of the watch.
The brand is reducing stock keeping units, focusing on fewer lines while emphasizing hero products.
“We can say we make classic watches but we will create a strong way of differentiating them, and thanks to this, people will recognize the brand,” said Laurent Lecamp, who was named director of Montblanc’s watchmaking division at the start of the year. Lecamp started his career at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton managing wines and spirits in Switzerland.
“This is my job today — how do we differentiate our products while maintaining a concept that dates back dozens of years or even a century,” explained Lecamp.
Montblanc executives have been active during the pandemic, pushing further into digital channels by revamping its website to be more user friendly — a new version will be launched in the coming months — and joining Tmall a year ago.
“We’ve been really using this time to accelerate and to focus more,” he added.
The Tmall partnership has helped the brand recruit new clients as well as address a younger audience, he said, noting a strong partnership with the Alibaba platform.