When Jérôme Lambert became CEO of Montblanc in 2013, he told the world his plans were to bring the brand’s watchmaking expertise back to the forefront. No one doubted the man’s words. Lambert’s background is impressive, having led great watch companies such as Jaeger-LeCoultre and A. Lange & Söhne before joining Montblanc, then already one of the top luxury brands in the world.
Three years later, Montblanc, whose legacy has long been in writing instruments, has transitioned into a serious player in high-end mechanical watchmaking. Lambert’s penchant for legacy and functionality is clear in his vision for the brand. “Montblanc has [always] been [about] functionality when it comes to writing instruments and leather. When it comes to watches, we have always been willing to develop and to enrich the functionality of our watches,” he says. Asia in particular, he notes, pays a lot of attention to technical content, and thus the challenge for the brand is to bring new and revamped products that not only emphasise Montblanc’s rich heritage, but also impress on the technical level.
One of the novelties presented at this year’s Watches&Wonders is the Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire, a new addition to the Heritage Spirit collection. The collection, one of the first Lambert established when he joined the German Swiss luxury company, pays homage to the spirit of the iconic Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen that was launched in 1924. The perpetual calendar first made its appearance at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) last year and was well-received for its beautiful design and price point.
At Watches&Wonders, the 2015 version is even more innovative. While still bearing the brand’s signature craftsmanship, timeless design and flawless functionality, the 18ct rose gold timepiece now showcases the perpetual calendar grand complication movement through a transparent dial of smoky sapphire crystal, a feat that combines traditional aesthetics and technical prowess. All the components of the perpetual calendar function are visible through the modest 39mm dial, including the month and leap-year cams and the moonphase wheels, and the self-winding MB 29.15 calibre can be seen through the sapphire crystal caseback. At six o’clock, the moonphase disc is shown in its entirety, with the lower half engraved with a concentric guilloche to differentiate it from the upper half showing the present moonphase.
The Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time was revealed earlier this year, which introduces a new dual time complication produced in-house. At Watches&Wonders, Montblanc will present the Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time Vasco da Gama Limited Edition 238. “[It is] a brand-new complication that will only be available during Watches&Wonders,” Lambert says. The watch is limited to 238 pieces, inspired by Vasco da Gamma’s travels that began in 1947 when he sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, where a lighthouse is built 238 metres above sea level.
Conceived for travellers, the timepiece, with a red gold-plated bezel and red gold-plated indexes against a silvery-white dial, is 41mm and houses a highly functional complication developed in-house at Montblanc. It simultaneously displays two time zones – a gold-plated hand for the time in the place being visited, and a blue hand showing the time in the zone of departure. A sub-dial at 12 o’clock displays the home time counter against a representation of the night sky in the southern hemisphere. At six o’clock, the second counter features a miniature map of the world.
Montblanc is also extending its feminine Bohême collection to include two new highly functional complications. The Bohême collection was launched in 2014, with the Bohême Perpetual Calendar at its core. The latest additions are the Bohême Moongarden and the Bohême Day & Night. Developed in-house at the brand’s Le Locle manufacture, the Bohême Moongarden displays an elegant moonphase indication and showcases the 12 names of the different moons of each month in a crescent-shaped window starting at the 9 o’clock mark.
The Bohême Day & Night holds a unique day and night indication. The day is represented through a light blue base and golden sun, while the night is shown through a dark blue base and smiling golden moon adorned with stars. Lambert says finding success at the fair is all about striking the right balance. “To develop a good watch, we need time. We need to find a balance between the quick expectations of our Asian clients towards new watches, and the time we need to develop and make that happen.”
With more than 50 boutiques in China alone, and about 100 boutiques around Asia, Lambert and his team are in the region quite often. Asian clients, he finds, prefer elegant watches that fit well on the wrist, and are not as eager to see larger watches, unlike their American and European counterparts. The average age of the brand’s Asian clientele is also generally 10 years younger.
Montblanc will be taking a more hands-on approach at its booth at the fair. “When you arrive at SIHH, you can see the product but you cannot interact with the content,” Lambert explains. “While in our [Watches&Wonders] booth, you will have the opportunity to work on a balance wheel and to do a master class.” The brand is bringing one of its watchmakers from its manufacture in Villeret to teach visitors how to assemble watch parts. Lambert is hoping that the experience will help guests develop a further appreciation for Montblanc’s timepieces.