Montblanc’s 4810 collection might get its name from Western Europe’s highest peak, but what it offers is something much more down to earth: value for money. Jens Henning Koch, the brand’s executive vice-president of marketing, takes us through the highlights.
It is a well-known fact that no one can resist a good bargain. Not the average Joe, nor a One Percenter. Humans are genetically hardwired to be attracted to value-for-money deals, especially if the item in question is well-made and easy on the eyes. Montblanc knows this all too well, and has played this understanding to its advantage. Its recent watch collections have been noted not only for their good looks and strong watchmaking content, but also their affordability.
First came 2014’s Meisterstück Heritage (later rebranded as “Heritage Spirit”), followed by 2015’s Heritage Chronométrie. This year, as Montblanc celebrates its 110th anniversary, the brand’s third value proposition, the 4810 series, made its debut. The collection comprises eight timepieces, ranging from basic three-hand timekeepers to more complicated instruments such as a limited-edition tourbillon model with automatic winding, priced from $4,200 to $48,100.
Certainly, the instability of the economic landscape — the new normal, really — has made it necessary for many brands to have an accessible offer. The latest figures (September 2016 at the time of writing) from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry offer irrefutable proof: Exports of Swiss watches to the US grew 4.7% y-o-y, while Hong Kong posted its biggest contraction in 20 months, falling 39.6%. Japan returned to positive growth territory after six month of falling sales, rising 8.9%, while China shrank 0.6 %. A post-Brexit UK reported a third month of steeply rising sales (up 32.4%), but its continental counterparts saw sales tumble.
One can only imagine what effect the new Trump administration will have on US figures come January.
But for Jens Henning Koch, Montblanc’s executive vice-president of marketing, “price is [not] an argument”. He is more concerned about value. “We work hard to produce our fine watchmaking collection, so why shouldn’t we work as hard within [the entry-level segment] to create the same level of refinement?” he asks rhetorically. “We did not lower the price; what we did was add watchmaking content. That is what the concept is all about.”
The number 4810 refers to the height (in metres) of the Mont Blanc massif, Western Europe’s highest peak, and is symbolic of the brand’s desire to succeed. It is also a throwback to the Montblanc’s early days, particularly the founders’ epic transatlantic voyages, which spurred the development of the company into a pioneering pen — and, later, leather goods and watchmaking — powerhouse.
Travel, therefore, is an important theme of the collection. The top-of-the-line 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim 110 Years Limited Edition (price on application) features a new in-house calibre and a dial embellished by hand-painted maps that depict either North America, Europe or Asia (the latter is limited to 38 pieces). The calibre, MB 29.24, combines Montblanc’s patented ExoTourbillon with a stop-seconds mechanism, and took three years to develop.
“This tourbillon, with higher precision than a normal one, can be stopped by pulling the crown. It’s a stop-seconds mechanism. As a reference to sea travel, the stop-seconds indicator is [designed] in the style of the engine room telegraph, where the captain would go, ‘Full steam ahead!’” explains Koch during an interview in Geneva.
The stop-seconds feature allows wearers to stop the tourbillon and set the time to the precise second, something that very few tourbillon movements can boast. It is a milestone of Montblanc’s watchmaking expertise, so much so that it fitted another watch, the ExoTourbillon Slim ($48,100), with the same movement. The latter differs from the former by having a guilloched, rather than hand-painted, dial, a red-gold case instead of white gold, and is produced in an unlimited run.
The travel theme is also strong in the 4810 Orbis Terrarum ($9,200), which boasts a world time function with 24 time zones and a beautifully executed world map on the dial centre. This model is a follow-up to 2015’s Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, and sports a bigger case — 43mm versus 41mm — and more colours on the map, which Koch says indicate the different climates.
A similar execution of the world timer also appears on the 4810 Orbis Terrarum Pocket Watch 110 Years Edition ($13,300), which, as its name suggests, is a modern pocket watch housed in a 53mm steel case. The bigger case meant more space for the dial, so Montblanc took advantage of this by incorporating half time zones (for example, Caracas, New Delhi and Yangon) as well as summer and winter time shifts. Limited to 110 pieces, the pocket watch can also be used as a desk clock.
For frequent flyers with more technical tastes, there is the 4810 TwinFly Chronograph 110 Years Edition ($10,800), limited to 1,110 pieces. The in-house calibre comes with a second time zone, day/night indicator and world map sub-dial, while the chronograph allows you to time your flights, if that is your thing.
Rounding out the collection are the 4810 Chronograph Automatic ($6,200), a dead ringer for the TwinFly watch except that it is powered by a more economical — but no less robust — Sellita movement; the 4810 Day-Date ($4,700), a three-hand automatic with a calendar showing the date and day of the week, and available with a choice of silver or black dials; and the 4810 Date Automatic ($4,200), which has just time and date indications.
With the 4810 collection, as with Montblanc’s earlier accessible offerings, the thing to note is that the build quality and finishing throughout is superb and consistent, regardless of whether they are entry- level basics or high-end complications.
“Last year, we launched the Heritage Chronométrie series, which was all about classical elegance and fine watchmaking. Now, we have created watches with masculine elegance. And we wanted to enhance the level of fine watchmaking — you see the fine guilloche engraving on the dial, nicely applied indices, the stepped profile of the bezel and lugs — lots of sophisticated details. This level of sophistication and refinement is of great value,” maintains Koch.
And that, ultimately, is what keeps watch enthusiasts so intrigued.
Besides chronicling developments in the luxury watch industry, Aaron De Silva also runs The Time Traveller SG on Instagram (@thetimetravellersg) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/thetimetravellersg)
This article appeared in the Options of Issue 759 (Dec 19) of The Edge Singapore.