Seizing the moment
Brand to unveil several new models at exhibition as it looks to foster closer ties with Asian market, writes Gaynor Thomas
Watches&Wonders will give Swiss brands the chance to interact on a personal level with their growing number of enthusiastic Asian customers.
Alexander Schmiedt, managing director of watches at Montblanc International, believes such meetings will be a highlight of this week's exhibition, following the lead of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), the premier watch showcase event held in Geneva.
"SIHH is the prelude of every watchmaking year, setting the pace. [Watches&Wonders] allows us to bring the spirit of SIHH to Asia," he says. "Most importantly, it presents a unique opportunity to show our novelties and also our watchmaking culture to clients who cannot access SIHH."
This watchmaking culture and the company's 100-year history are based on a philosophy of creating "heirloom collections that are passed from generation to generation".
Whether it is a writing instrument, a timepiece, a leather accessory or a piece of jewellery, a Montblanc product with its iconic white emblem denotes excellence.
Although the brand has had a solid presence in Asia for quite some time, Schmiedt is looking forward to using the exhibition to strengthen ties with consumers in the region. "This has been a very dynamic developing region for Montblanc over the last decade," he says. "This development and the ever-increasing number of clients interested in fine watchmaking in the region merit a world-class event."
Schmiedt observes that there are certain regional preferences for sizes and materials. "However, we see a global desire of our clients for products that are sophisticated, innovative, functional and outstanding in quality - all the requirements we see for a fine watchmaking product from Montblanc," he says.
The maison creates "regional timepieces" that are only available in certain markets, but on a limited basis. Schmiedt says there is a different plan for Hong Kong.
"Instead of a 'regional timepiece', for Watches&Wonders, we have brought a world premiere: the introduction of the ExoTourbillon Rattrapante," he says. "Our newest high complication is happening in Hong Kong before anywhere else in the world."
The ExoTourbillon Rattrapante, which is part of the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858, is a masterpiece of watchmaking, with a plethora of complications sure to excite the collectors who get to see it first in Hong Kong. These complications include a large balance positioned outside the tourbillon's rotating cage, a chronograph with split-second function, and a three-dimensional regulator dial in gold and grand feu enamel.
The "rattrapante", or split-second chronograph, is a grand complication much desired by collectors. They require almost 70 per cent more components and greater delicacy in handling. Fabrication at Montblanc in Villeret, Switzerland, is almost entirely by hand to create a true connoisseur's timepiece.
In an 18ct white gold case, the ExoTourbillon's operations can be viewed through the sapphire crystal viewing window on the back. Only 18 of the timepieces will be made, as the craftsmanship required is laborious and time-consuming. To maintain this extraordinarily high standard, output is constrained.
Another highlight from the maison is the Star Special Edition Carpe Diem collection, which Montblanc is presenting at Watches&Wonders before the official October launch of the three models - the Quantième Complet, the Chronograph UTC with a 42mm case, and a three-hand mechanical timepiece with a 39mm case.
The Star Collection has been well-known to collectors and trade journalists for more than 15 years. The aesthetic is classic in form, materials, techniques and embellishments. The Star Special Edition Carpe Diem collection follows this tradition. Made with stainless steel, these three mechanical watches are distinguished by a red second hand by which the brand symbolises the motto "carpe diem".
Montblanc interprets this famous quote from Horace as a call to savour the "here and now" and the spirit of living in the present.
The name Quantième Complet, in watchmaking parlance, means "full calendar", and the timepiece provides the date, day of the week, month and lunar phase. The day and the month are in traditional windows lined up under 12 o'clock, while the moon-phase indicator is in the lower half of the dial. The date, however, is indicated by numbers on the periphery of the dial, selected by a hand with a small, red crescent tip. The dial, despite displaying so much information, and the brand's cartouche still exude elegant simplicity. In addition to the date ring, there is an hour ring with Roman numerals and a segmented minute ring. The 42mm case has a sapphire crystal back through which the movement - the self-winding mechanical calibre MB 4810/912 - can be seen. The movement can also be manually wound and the various displays easily reset.
As these timepieces debut in Hong Kong, Schmiedt sees a bright future for the development of haute horlogerie, and for Montblanc in particular. "There is an increasing appreciation and understanding for fine watchmaking all around the world, and specifically in Asia. We want to share the passion for fine watchmaking among our existing and future clients," he says. "The sophistication and watchmaking know-how in Asia is among the highest in the world, especially in markets like Singapore or Hong Kong.
"It is increasing rapidly, especially in China, and our clients are more and more interested to learn what ideas, innovations and craftsmanship - in short, what 'substance' - bring our timepieces to life."