Once better known for its writing instruments and leather goods, Montblanc has positioned itself as an increasingly serious player in the haute horlogerie world, thanks in no small measure to its former CEO Jérôme Lambert.
During his four-year tenure, Lambert – who was promoted to chief operating officer of Richemont group last year – made several important changes, including introducing more coherent storylines to Montblanc’s collections and launching contemporary partnerships with designers
Tellingly, he upgraded the more accessible timepieces produced at Montblanc’s own Le Locle workshops with more sophisticated movements from the brand’s Villeret (formerly Minerva) high-end manufacture by merging the talents of the two.
The task of taking these initial successes forward has fallen on the shoulders of Lambert’s appointed successor, Nicolas Baretzki, who unveiled some surprises of his own at this
“Jerome’s era was completely re-showing the legitimacy of watchmaking at Montblanc, creating amazing expansion, innovation, creativity. Now it’s my job to re-simplify and consolidate in the sense of making [our collections] easier for our customers to understand,” Baretzki says.
“Now we will only concentrate on six lines: two sports collections, which are the 1858 and the Timewalker, and four classic lines, which includes the [women’s collection] Bohème, which is clearer; it will always be in the same approach. And, there will always be that one piece for every collection that will offer the best value for the customer – the one they would pick if they could only get one watch.”
Montblanc introduced three new collections at SIHH this year: the 1858 anniversary novelties, the classic Star Legacy line and the TimeWalker collection. Serious watch aficionados naturally will be looking to the Star Legacy timepieces, led by the Suspended Exo Tourbillon.
With a limited edition of 58 pieces, this took more than three years of development at Minerva. The large balance wheel with screws is positioned outside the tourbillon’s rotating cage (hence the name Exo, meaning outside) and eliminates the need for a bigger case to house the MB M16.68 movement. The 18ct red gold case is 44.5mm with a height of 15.03mm. The watch comes in a limited edition of 28 pieces with 54 baguette diamonds set on the case.
Montblanc has also reinterpreted another Star Legacy icon with the Nicolas Rieussec monopusher chronograph. Rounding up the Star Legacy collection are the Automatic Date and the Automatic Chronograph.
If the Suspended Exo Tourbillon was the hero of the Star Legacy collection, the main stars for Montblanc this year came from the 1858 collection, not just for design and innovation but for its price points. The 1858 collection is a nod to the watchmaking history of the Minerva/Villeret workshops which Charles-Yvan Robert founded in 1858, and takes its inspiration from the spirit of mountain exploration.
The pièce de résistance is the 1858 Geosphere, dedicated to the world’s Seven Summits challenge, which only 500 climbers have conquered. The timepiece features a world time complication with two domed hemispheres at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, turning in opposite directions. A second time zone display sits at 9 o’clock with the date showing at a 3 o’clock aperture.
The 42mm case comes in stainless steel and bronze (limited edition of 1858 pieces) with a black ceramic bezel, while the caseback for the bronze model features the engraving of “Spirit of Mountain Exploration”. The stainless steel version is priced at the astoundingly friendly price of €5,200 (HK$50,201).
“This year, this is that ‘one piece’,” Baretzki says. “It’s very functional where you have two hemispheres working to give you a 24-hour reading plus night and day indicators.
“It’s an amazing complication and most people are shocked when I tell them what the price is. It’s basically giving value to the customer.”
Besides the attractive price point, Baretzki believes that the 1858 collection also represents a lifestyle that would appeal to a younger demographic who might be making their first connection with luxury watches.
“The spirit of mountain exploration is a unique positioning; we didn’t want to just do another diving watch. I think it is something that would appeal to millennials; we’re not making a watch that will go up Mount Everest, but I think it represents exploration and the kind of lifestyle that appeals to the millennials.”
Joining the Geosphere are the 1858 Automatic, the 1858 Monopusher Chronograph and the Pocket Watch. The latter two come in limited editions of 100 pieces each.
The maison also unveiled two Timewalker editions: the TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph and the TimeWalker Rally Timer Chronograph Limited Edition 100.