SINGAPORE (May 28): It is hard to keep up with the pace imposed by Matthieu Dupont, president of Montblanc Southeast Asia, as he speaks enthusiastically about the things he is passionate about. The range is wide and varied, from his personal interest in horology to Montblanc products, and, of course, the brand’s latest boutique opening at Paragon.

Dupont has been in the luxury business since 2005. He assumed his current position about a year ago. The first thing he did was to understand the brand from a Southeast Asian perspective. “That was, for me, the most important element,” he recalls.

Dupont says Montblanc is both a complex and beautiful brand because while offering several distinct product categories under one maison — timepieces, writing instruments, leather and jewellery, they all bear the brand’s iconic and instantly recognisable snowcap emblem: the ultimate seal of performance, innovation, quality and expression of style.

Surveys have proven that awareness of the brand is very high, according to Dupont. “People from the various Southeast Asian markets associate Montblanc with different products. But across the region, the brand is consistently recognised for its quality, innovation and our star emblem as a symbol of success,” he explains.

Dupont adds: “Singapore has a very mature understanding for luxury goods. We’re already opening our sixth boutique, which shows you just how well the brand is performing here.”

Dupont is looking sharp in his suit as he talks to ­Options after officiating the opening of the Paragon ­boutique recently. During the interview, he spoke about what the new boutique has to offer and where Montblanc is headed. The good news is, by the time you read this, Montblanc would have reopened its Raffles City boutique. This marks its 25th year — a significant milestone in Montblanc’s commitment to its local clients.

Following are excerpts from the interview.

Can you tell us more about this new boutique? What do you want shoppers to experience?

We see that personalisation remains a strong trend in the market today. In the past, our personalisation services took time. Today, we offer the same service in just a couple of minutes. If you come in on Valentine’s Day and buy a leather product or writing instrument, you’re literally able to exit within 10 minutes. It’s a meaningful gift for anyone, to show you’ve put in the thought to personalise their present for them.

Consumer trends change very fast, so anticipating and responding quickly to the next one will be the challenge for all luxury brands. But the promise from Montblanc is that our clients will always have an excellent customer experience and a product of the highest quality and craftsmanship.

There is someone there all the time, doing this?

Correct. If you need embossing done during your lunch hour, we will offer it in minutes. We know our customers are busy, so we must give them the best in a short time. The team has been trained to make sure the embossing or engraving is done in exactly the way you would like it.

With the new boutique, we’ve introduced new materials that identify with the category. They are usually associated with sleek bronze-sheen brass for our timepieces, rich walnut wood for our leather and polished lacquers for our writing instruments. As you enter, you can hear the delicate sound of fine watchmaking, the touch of the many textures and the distinctive smell of exquisite leather. The overall design is a true sensory experience.

Is it correct to say that Montblanc customers would have done their research before they walk into the boutique?

Absolutely! Montblanc has been the leader in men’s luxury accessories for some time now, and the beauty of our products is that they are carried as lifestyle accessories, but worn as a statement. They speak of where we stand today, but more importantly where we’re going.

The success of Montblanc has always been to innovate and to bring in new ideas, new categories and relevant products. Our capacity to do all of this and stand the test of time through quality and design is a promise for all the different product categories.

The majority of our customers come in knowing what they want — a leather good, a writing instrument or a watch. They might not know exactly which design or variation, but they have seen it in the press or saw their colleagues using it. When they walk into our boutique, our staff will provide curated recommendations. It is about presenting the best that we can offer, and also ensuring the customer leaves absolutely satisfied with their purchase.

When you buy Montblanc, you buy a lifetime companion. The quality is always a promise.

In the regions you cover, are we likely to see expansion plans?

Montblanc is always looking to expand its footprint in a proactive and qualitative way. Long term desirability is key. However, expansion is just one aspect of growth. Ensuring consistency for existing clients and building upon what we have now is our priority.

Clear market opportunity, a strong distribution network, skills to build the brand and a core of customers already wanting to buy Montblanc are some push factors. Once we understand the risks and opportunities, we decide. Ultimately, it needs to support the overall business strategy and provide added value to our customers.

Our plans this year are ambitious. We will reopen Siam Paragon in Bangkok and make it the flagship in Thailand. Same for Indonesia. We will relocate [to a new boutique in] Plaza Indonesia and it will be the new flagship. We’re working on these projects to make sure we provide the very best for our customers in a visible and qualitative environment.

Obviously, we’re very proud to have opened the sixth boutique in Singapore at Paragon and we will unveil the new boutique at Raffles City soon. It doesn’t stop there. We will continue to expand in key territories such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia, which are showing significant growth.

From a product perspective, the brand also naturally expands as we deliver on our offerings. Year on year, we present stronger collections as we work with new materials and develop new technical ingenuity. We’re really pleased to see an increase of clients coming to Montblanc too.

(From left) Montblanc’s new friend of the brand Desmond Tan, Dupont and SPH Retail Property Management Services general manager Jaylyn Ong at the opening of the Paragon boutique

It all started with the writing instrument and now the product categories have increased. Which sells more, timepieces or writing instruments?

You are right indeed. Until today, there is no other writing instrument as identifiable as our Meisterstuck, and none as recognisable as a signal of one’s success. The brand has always been pushing boundaries of the impossible, starting with the creation of the Meisterstuck in 1924. Writing instruments remain an important component of Montblanc, but the brand has grown tremendously since then. We’ve hugely expanded our product offerings.

Today, we are a maison representing the finest of European craftsmanship and have established manufactures where savoir faire is at its highest: Our watches are made in Villeret, Switzerland, our leather in Florence, Italy and our writing instruments in Hamburg, Germany. In fact, our watch manufacture celebrates its 160th anniversary this year.

The Montblanc manufacture in Villeret is one of the last to perform a large portion of traditional horological skills — with all their micromechanical refinements — meticulously by hand. Sport and professional watches have been an exciting development for the brand, but with the traditional expertise and innovative eye of our watchmakers, we will keep creating new calibres and pushing the boundaries of micromechanical horology.

With leather, it is the fastest-growing category. Our pelletteria is in the heart of Italy’s leather trade, the best in the world. We have the most perfect materials and the best craftsmen, but we also introduce a high respect for quality and reliability at fair value. We’ve entered certain markets where the brand was already very strong and today we see double-digit growth. In Singapore, there’s an amazing enthusiasm for our leather goods, small and large overall, so we’re very happy to see that.

Montblanc has also successfully entered the digital age with the smartwatch and augmented paper. Have your customers embraced this new technology?

They have. We don’t have enough Summits!

For us it has been about keeping true to what Montblanc stands for: tradition, luxury and quality, but bridging it with the digital world. It is precisely because we have mastered writing instruments, leather goods and watches, that we are capable of presenting smartwatches and other digital products. It is also about understanding what is out there today, and giving it to clients from a Montblanc perspective. The response has been amazing and we are ecstatic about that.

As a mechanical timepiece enthusiast, I also wear the Summit Smartwatch because it fits perfectly into my active lifestyle. Analogue and digital complement each other; they fit different parts of your life.

You’re the perfect example too [referring to this writer]. You are recording with a digital device and writing with a pen at the same time.

Look at the augmented paper that you have pointed out earlier on as being an absolutely great product. It upholds the beautiful tradition of writing with ink on paper, and yet is also able to immediately translate your writing into a digital copy. With the Montblanc app, you can download the data onto your phone or tablet in various formats as well as share it with friends and colleagues with the click of a button. Again, a perfect example of how tradition and innovation come together to make a fantastic product.

The luxury market has been a little slow but industry watchers are optimistic for 2018. Do you share the same view?

Clients want to show that they are part of the movers and shakers of this world and the Montblanc snowcap emblem has come to symbolise that.

When we develop products, it is important that they’re new, modern and creative. Yet they also have a companion quality, reflected not only in longevity, but also in long-term desirability. Our products have stood the test of time, not because of marketing, but because they have substance. That’s what we produce.

I look at 2018 as very positive. Our product lineup is absolutely fantastic. The year has certainly started very well.

A new boutique concept

Montblanc offers a whole new shopping experience at its new boutique at Paragon. As part of the Maison of Fine Lifetime Companions theme, shoppers will get a multisensory experience at the 82.5 sq m luxury boutique in the heart of Orchard Road’s main shopping belt.

For the first time, shoppers have access to on-the-spot embossing and engraving on Montblanc’s small leather goods and writing instruments. The embossing process takes just minutes and clients can choose from a curated selection of fonts and colours to personalise their purchases.

The new boutique is designed by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, a well-known French-born designer of objects and spaces. He has created an immersive retail environment that features a pure and uncluttered aesthetic, mixing black, white and wood, revealing the collections in a display that enhances the fine qualities of each piece.

The Montblanc Boutique is located at:
#01-28 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
Tel: 6732 1635
Opening hours: 10am to 9pm

Star qualities

Montblanc is a leader in men’s luxury accessories. Here, we highlight two of its outstanding timepieces.

Montblanc Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon
This mechanical beauty with automatic winding mechanism, chronograph and double barrel comes in a limited edition of 28 pieces. It has 54 baguette–cut diamonds of 2.35cts. Here are its specifications:

Movement: Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB R200
Chronograph: Monopusher with column-wheel and vertical coupling
Dimensions: Diameter ­— 31mm; height — 8.46mm
No of components: 319
No of jewels: 40
Power reserve: Approximately 72 hours
Balance: Screw balance, diameter — 9.7mm; moment of inertia — 12mgcm²
Frequency: 28,800A/h (4Hz)
Hairspring: Flat
Plate: Rhodium-coated with circular graining
Bridges: Rhodium-coated with ‘Côtes de Genève’
Going train: Special toothing for more efficient power transmission
Displays: Off-centred hour and minute hand, second time zone on same axis as hour- and minute-hand with day/night display; date in a window at six o’clock; 60 elapsed-second and 30 elapsed-minute counters on rotating discs with central motionless hand

Montblanc Homage to Nicolas Rieussec
This timepiece, which features the first patented chronograph from 1821, clearly stands out from the crowd. It has a mechanical movement with double barrel and automatic winding, and a Chronograph monopusher with column-wheel and vertical coupling.

Movement: Montblanc Manufacture Calibre MB R200
Dimensions: Diameter — 31 mm; height — 8.46 mm
No of components: 319
Number of jewels: 40

Power reserve: Approx 72 hours
Balance: Screw balance, diameter — 9.7mm; moment of inertia — 12mgcm²
Frequency: 28,800A/h (4Hz)
Hairspring: Flat
Plate: Rhodium-plated with circular graining
Bridges: Rhodium-plated with ‘Côtes de Genève’
Going train: Special toothing for more efficient power transmission
Displays: Off-centred hour and minute hand, second time zone on same axis as hour and minute hand with day/night display; date in a window at six o’clock, and 60 elapsed-second and 30 elapsed-minute counters on rotating discs with central motionless hand
Special feature: Travel function with rapid reset of hour hand and date display either forward or backward