SINGAPORE (Sept 16): The two things that luxury brand Montblanc and the winners of the Billion Dollar Club have in common are: staying relevant and having the foresight to diversify before the need arises. Montblanc has 113 years behind it and is one of the world’s most visible and recognisable luxury brands.
Matthieu Dupont, president of Montblanc Southeast Asia, says: “[Montblanc] has a strong history and heritage and is a highly successful example of diversification. We started with writing instruments in the early 20th century, diversified into leather in 1926 and watches in 1997, and launched our first-ever smartwatch in 2017.”
This success is attributed to Montblanc’s vertical thinking. Dupont says the beauty, yet complexity, of Montblanc lies in its ability to evolve, which has become one of the hallmarks of quality that it is famous for. It also helps that the company locates its manufactures where the finest craftsmanship is found. As a result, it has three manufacturing sites: Italy for leather goods; Switzerland for timepieces; and a historical manufacture in Germany for writing instruments.
The brand has been growing steadily, with decisions made based on market research and future trends. One example is the leather goods category, where the brand has seen a significant growth in sales. “We have an explosion in demand for leather goods and travel accessories as a whole. We forecast a changing demand for small leather goods and a growth in medium and large leather goods. True enough, we are seeing the latter segment grow at a very strong double-digit rate every year,” Dupont observes.
The reason? It is as simple as responding to consumer habits, he says. “Today, people are increasingly going cashless and using their phones as a payment device.” Dupont himself uses his phone to pay for purchases in Singapore.
Another trend he notes is how often people travel these days. With this in mind, Montblanc has launched a suite of travel accessories called the #MY4810 Nightflight Trolley, and even collaborated with Pirelli for a limited edition collection. “Flying has become a common mode of transport. Some people travel so often for business that they take the plane like they take taxis. One day they are in Singapore and the next day they are in Bangkok or Jakarta.”
Another reason that Montblanc has been attractive to consumers is its price elasticity. Customers can walk into a boutique and enjoy Montblanc for as little as $95 or up to €1.5 million ($2.3 million) for unique, limited edition pieces.
From writing instruments to timepieces
Mention Montblanc, and what usually comes to mind are exquisite writing instruments. Dupont says, “Writing instruments represent a sizeable part of the business and, today, Montblanc is the absolute leader in the category.”
The same ethos that contributed to the success of its writing instruments is being applied to its timepieces.
“In the past few years, we have made strong consolidation on our side to manufacture timepieces that provide fair value, across the collections as well as in the complications we offer. We have refined the watch categories and are seeing growing demand.”
In the timepieces category, Dupont explains that the integration of Minerva instantly added 161 years of expertise to the brand and enabled Montblanc to gain considerable watchmaking expertise. In 2007, Montblanc’s watchmaking expertise was further enhanced by the setting-up of the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie in Villeret, in the Bernese Jura, Switzerland, a foundation dedicated to classical fine watchmaking and the upholding of traditional skills and special complications.
Dupont points out that Montblanc’s new timepieces — in terms of sophistication and technical excellence — have been highly impressive. “The market has responded well to the novelties we launched over the last few years, so much so that limited edition timepieces are usually snapped up quickly.”
Dupont says, “On top of technical legitimacy and design, we have refined our watch families. Today, we have four main product lines centred on sport, classic, contemporary and vintage.”
This gives customers a clear idea of which timepiece is suitable for them. TimeWalker is the sports line, incorporating components such as rubber and ceramics as well as chronograph functions to enhance the sporty appeal. The new 1858 collection straddles vintage and contemporary, combining bronze cases with highly functional complications. Inspired by classical watchmaking, Star Legacy exudes formal elegance and the Heritage collection, newly relaunched last month, blends time-honoured horological know-how with vintage flair.
“So, when you come into a Montblanc boutique looking for a sporty product, it is clear you belong to the TimeWalker family. If you want something more professional, then we would recommend the Star Legacy or Heritage because of their elegant design codes and complications. Finally, if you consider yourself a modern-day adventurer seeking challenges, then the 1858, inspired by mountain exploration, is definitely for you.”
Asked about the perception that Montblanc is a predominantly masculine brand, Dupont clarifies that Montblanc communicates a shared language of success to people who want to leave their mark in society, and it already has a strong presence in the corporate world among CEOs and executives.
Dupont says, “We also know there is a large proportion of female executives who naturally use Montblanc. Using a Montblanc is a statement to others. It sends a clear message in the boardroom.”
Dupont has a few projects lined up but is not at liberty to disclose them to the media at the moment.
When asked, he gladly shares three reasons for the success of Montblanc. First, the emblem has solidified its status as a symbol of success and the brand continues to be used by leaders around the world. Second, Montblanc has been able to constantly offer new and innovative products that are relevant through time. Finally, he says, “[Montblanc] products are lifetime companions, and for two reasons. Our products are able to mean something in every facet of your life, whether for business or leisure. The iconic Montblanc snowcap is a seal of quality with lasting appeal. These will always be strong elements of our success and an everlasting promise to our clients.”