Interview Nicolas Baretzki : CEO Montblanc

You’ve been at the helm of Montblanc since last spring ; what do you see as the key highlights of 2017 ?

For several years, Montblanc has been enjoying continuous and stable growth, and we are keeping up this pace of performance over our entire range of activities. Montblanc’s success is not due to one element in particular, but rather to a whole range of factors. We must for example be capable of accelerating in the field of leather goods and of conquering new territory in watchmaking, and a combination of these parameters leads to growth. As far as watches are concerned, the huge success enjoyed by Summit exceeded our expectations, while the soft revival of the iconic 4810 line surprised us by its booming sales, as did that of the TimeWalker.

“Minerva’s integration within Montblanc must now be explained to clients”

In a world that sometimes appears to be losing its bearings, on what do you base your strategy ?

We actually adopted a somewhat avant-garde approach four years ago by repositioning our Maison in a far more aggressive price segment. Today, a number of brands are taking this strategic turn, but we are already on a roll in that respect. That being said, everything happens increasingly quickly. One must be more ready to listen, more capable of foresight, all of which does not necessarily mean changing, but rather of being ready, as we are witnessing full-fledged trend shifts. Understanding what customers are looking for is becoming a must. We therefore convene representatives of our biggest markets three times a year, across all product categories, because some lines of action can be implemented simultaneously for writing instruments, watchmaking and leather goods. These encounters are always highly instructive and we use this information to take the right decisions and to fine-tune our strategy.

What does this strategy currently entail ?

MontblancWe are continuing along the lines established by my predecessor Jérôme Lambert : offering distinctive Fine Watchmaking at a very affordable price, while accentuating the strong character of our watches. We are not competing in all price segments, but mainly on watches between 2,000 and 5,000 euros, as well as those retailing at 20,000 euros and above as far as the complicated Villeret watches are concerned. At the same time, we are streamlining the number of collections from ten to six, with two specific focal points : on the one hand, classic watches with the 4810 and Heritage lines for men, Bohème for women and Star for a mixed clientele ; and on the other, a new world of sports-oriented and professional watches such as the TimeWalker and 1858 collections, respectively relaunched in 2017 and 2018. This new segment should in due course generate one third of our sales. Each line has its own field of expression and its own origins, given that our expertise is intrinsically bound up with the Minerva heritage.

Are Montblanc watches bearing the Minerva DNA proving as successful as hoped, and what is their potential ?

Beyond the already wide circle of Minerva collectors, we have seen a great deal of attention since our decision to use its monopusher chronograph, first in pink gold, then in steel and now in bronze. The Minerva theme clearly holds tremendous potential. We have customers who buy these models above all for Minerva’s competence and expertise, and this demand exceeds our production capacity. The goal is not to develop Minerva as such, but to incorporate its spirit within the various lines of the Maison. This is intended to convey the entire message of the collection, as well as to bring considerable expertise in high-end models symbolizing the cream of the collection. And all this with an extremely attractive price point.

« L’exploration est un thème fort chez Montblanc »

Do you see the trend of neo vintage-style watches as a deep and lasting one ?

Nothing really lasts that long, but this is a strong phase, especially as it it affects several generations at once. Millennials are strongly drawn to vintage products, to the 1970s, whether it comes to fashion or to phenomena such as Star Wars. It’s a tidal wave whose effects will be seen for quite a few years, and which also influences watchmaking aesthetics.

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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