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Perfect partners

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon5/22/2017 1:52 PM GMT+08  • 12 min read
Perfect partners
Montblanc has upped the glamour quotient by appointing celebrity Diana Seras friend of the brand for the Montblanc Bohème timepiece collection
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Montblanc has upped the glamour quotient by appointing celebrity Diana Seras friend of the brand for the Montblanc Bohème timepiece collection

It is about 10am on a recent weekday and Ngee Ann City shopping mall is slowly getting ready to face another day. At the Montblanc boutique, it is no different as staff dust the shelves and arrange the items for display. Almost unnoticed, Diana Ser floats in with warm greetings for everyone; she is dressed elegantly in a skirt and a lace top ensemble, with her hair neatly pulled back in a pony tail. Early shoppers have started to gather outside the boutique to catch a glimpse of her.

Ser, a well-regarded bilingual journalist, presenter, producer and TV host, started her career in the 1990s. Now a mother of three, she is still as active as when she began. She has a website called Crazy about Chinese, which seeks to make learning Mandarin fun for children.

Ser is also host of Innocence Lost, a heart-wrenching documentary that examines child labour around Asia. Championing the cause of children is something close to her heart. For the documentary, she gets down in the trenches to unearth the amazing stories of these children.

It is her core values of compassion and commitment to her work that has led Montblanc to select her as friend of the brand for the Bohème collection of fine timepieces for women. The choice was only natural, as Montblanc has always been at the forefront when it comes to giving back to society.

The “Montblanc for UNICEF Writing is a Gift” collection is the company’s latest initiative, offering limited edition writing instruments, timepieces, accessories and leather goods. It is available until March next year and proceeds from sales of the collection will help provide more children with access to better- quality primary education. Montblanc believes the written word has the power to change the world and will further help break the generational cycles of poverty and disease through education.

Ser, wearing an eye-catching Montblanc Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewelry timepiece on her wrist, sits down with Options in the VIP room at the Montblanc boutique at Ngee Ann City to talk exclusively about the partnership and the story of her life thus far.

What was your earliest memory of Montblanc?
It really started a long time ago when I was 18. I was working in a French fine dining restaurant. The senior managers there, it being a French restaurant, liked to do things with a flourish, and that included whipping out their Montblanc pens to write. I remember at the time, I was thinking, ‘Okay, so this pen that they are so proud of has a bit of style, a bit of statement, but it certainly has a lot of refinement’ and it is something that I have come to associate Montblanc with.

How did the collaboration between you and Montblanc begin?
With a brand like Montblanc, it is not something that just started. It has many years of history and tradition, and of course I like the idea of that. So, when they reached out to me, I was happy to meet up with them. To put things in perspective: I don’t always go out and meet anyone who sends me an email invite. I mean I do get a lot of enquiries and all, so when senior marketing manager from Montblanc Katharina Ueltschi and her team reached out, I decided to meet them. Suffice it to say, we hit it off right from the start.

We talked about a lot of things and I remember we were talking about the plight of child workers because I was in the middle of that project for the documentary Lost Innocence. We hardly spoke about the watch because, at the end of the day, I realised it wasn’t just about that. We clicked really well and I found Katharina to be authentic — someone who is very happy to be involved and immersed in the place that she’s working in and, of course, as a Singaporean I appreciated that.

That, for me, was a fantastic basis for a partnership. So, eventually, when we came to an agreement, I couldn’t quite believe it. I couldn’t quite believe it because I think most people would be happy to be associated with Montblanc. For example, after the event where I was introduced as a friend of the brand, I sent out a social media post, and I had so many messages. People were congratulating me. I asked my sister and some of my girlfriends, ‘Why did you congratulate me on this?’ And they answered, ‘Because it’s Montblanc! Because it’s a great brand to be associated with.’ It’s good to know that I’m in this collaboration.

What attracted you to the Bohème collection?
It is a combination of something that’s very feminine [and masculine]. I now call myself a Montblanc Woman and a Bohème Lady. We all know Montblanc is well known for its writing instruments. I decided to keep a diary while filming overseas. I wrote my reflections in this diary and it actually became part of the programme. The producer of the programme used to have trouble getting me to write my reflections because I’d say, ‘Uh, do you want me to write in Chinese? That’s so hard for me right now.’ But when I switched to using a Montblanc pen, I was writing a lot and they commented, ‘You’re very inspired on these trips.’ I said, ‘I am indeed.’

The history part of Montblanc appeals to me, but back to the Bohème Lady... I think it’s the element of femininity but, at the same time, I like that it has a big dial. There’s a little bit of a masculine element to it and I think this combination of feminine and masculine [elements] is very modern and I consider mymyself to be a modern person. Performancewise, with Swiss watchmaking heritage... you can’t argue with that. In terms of performance, they are up there with the best. So, frankly, what’s there not to like about Montblanc and, specifically, Bohème Lady?

You have been busy juggling career and family. How do you keep it all together?
How do I juggle everything? I’m very blessed because I’m at the stage in my life where I’m able to choose my projects. I’m able to make what I call ‘curated appearances’ because when I appear in the media, for example, it’s very tempting to say, ‘Oh, would you like me to appear somewhere else too?’ But I need to be very careful about what I associate myself with. It has to be a cause that I feel very strongly about. For example, bilingualism and what I do with my website is something that I support.

So, if a school is going to call me up and say, ‘Diana, could you please come and talk to our kids because they need some inspiration about career, about bilingualism?’ I don’t go back to them and say, ‘How much are you going to pay me?’ Because it is something that I’m passionate about, and it’s for kids... It’s for education.

I’m very blessed because I’m able to choose my projects and my husband is very supportive. I’m also able to do what I do because I have help at home and that allows me to do what I like. And I’ve been very blessed to be able to take on many, many interesting projects. I am looking forward to getting involved in some of the corporate social responsibility initiatives that Montblanc has. It’s a partnership that’s based on mutual respect and admiration.

You have been a broadcast journalist; you hosted many shows and did some acting too. What advice do you have for someone who wants to be part of this world?
Definitely to work on the basics and always keep going back to the basics. I’ll give you an example: I was born and bred in traditional media, but we don’t live in that age anymore. So, it’s amazing that I lived through that period, where it was just traditional media, and now digital and social [media] are becoming popular. It’s making everyone and every business rethink how they are going to do their business. For example, when I started the ‘Crazy about Chinese’ website, I hired an 18-year-old to shoot my video.

The reason I hired an 18-year-old was that he’s a digital native. I may have been a producer and presenter for 20 years, but digital is a brand-new frontier for me. It’s a playground and I don’t get it. So, I had to have someone who understands what it’s like. I said, ‘Look, you have something to learn from me, and I’ve got loads to learn from you.’ I was asking questions of this 18-year-old and he answered with, ‘Yeah, duh. Isn’t it obvious?’ And I said, ‘Honey, it’s not so obvious to me because I’m more than 20 years older than you.’

He is teaching me how to tell stories through digital [media] but I have to trust him because if I think I’m smarter than him, then I’m not going to be able to get a lot of things done. He has surprised me and has taught me that I need to get with the programme and learn what it’s like playing the digital game. And it’s been fantastic. Be humble enough to learn, but always go back to the basics and keep learning.

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Actually, I wouldn’t have done things too differently. I’d probably tell her to keep doing what she’s doing as long as her heart is in the right place, and not to be afraid to take that leap of faith. I’ve taken many leaps of faith since I was 18 and I think I’m in a good place now.

Will we see more of Diana Ser and Montblanc?
I certainly hope so. I think relationships take time to grow. It has been a great start; even as I’m speaking, I’m getting to know the brand and, the more I know about it, the more interesting it will become. Katharina and I agree that both of us are telling stories, and we have wonderful stories to tell. As an individual, I have stories as well, so we will be co-telling stories. I’m pretty sure people will hear more from us.

Ladies’ choice
Here are some of the highlights of the Bohème collection, including the Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewelry worn by Diana Ser

Montblanc Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewelry
The Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewelry is the flagship of the collection, combining the best of fine watchmaking in a high complication with a distinctive feminine design. The high-complication automatic Caliber MB 29.15 with its perpetual calendar function needs to be adjusted only once in 100 years and can be admired through a sapphire crystal caseback. The 36mm stainless steel case with a red-gold diamond-set bezel and its slightly curved and integrated horns give this timeless timepiece a classical yet distinctive personality. The silver-coloured guilloché dial, with its 60 facets, offers perfect readability and refined elegance. The leaf-shaped hands in red gold, the black floral Arabic numerals and the minute scale with precious and discrete “filet sauté” will meet the expectations of even the most refined tastes. The Bohème Perpetual Calendar is assembled and regulated at the Montblanc Manufacture in Le Locle and certified with the Montblanc 500 hours quality certificate.

Montblanc Bohème Moongarden

A feminine and romantic yet highly functional complication, the Bohème Moongarden indicates the date, the classic moon phase as well as the name of each month’s full moon instead of the traditional name of the month. These “names of the moons” are deeply rooted in ancient human culture and are a symbolic expression for the seasons. The name is displayed in a sophisticated crescent shape; the moon phases appear in an aperture at six o’clock. From Ice Moon to Oak Moon, the names of each of the 12 moons are engraved on the back of the case. The refined guilloché dial with black floral Arabic numerals is crafted in the purest fine watchmaking style. The 36mm red-gold case, along with its slightly curved and integrated horns and fully set bezel with 78 Top Wesselton diamonds, gives this timeless timepiece a distinctive personality.

Montblanc Bohème Day & Night 34mm

The Montblanc Bohème Day & Night is a faithful companion featuring a romantic small complication and distinctive feminine appeal. The day is indicated through a sophisticated light blue with golden sun; the night indication is represented in a warm dark blue decorated with a smiling golden moon adorned by stars. The refined guilloché dial with black floral Arabic numerals is crafted in the purest fine watchmaking style. The elegant and sophisticated 34mm steel case, with its slightly curved and integrated horns and fully set bezel with 72 Top Wesselton E diamonds, gives this timeless timepiece a striking personality.

Bohème Bleue and Bohème Date Automatic 30mm

These timepieces combine the best of fine watchmaking with a feminine design. Powered by a high-quality automatic movement that can be admired through a sapphire crystal caseback, these watches express the codes of fine watchmaking in every detail: the 30mm steel case (red gold in the Bohème Date) with its slightly curved and integrated horns gives the timepieces a classic yet distinctive personality. The guilloché dial in royal blue (silver colour in the Bohème Date) with its 90 facets and sophisticated date indication at six o’clock offers perfect readability and refined elegance. The leaf-shaped silver hands (red gold in the Bohème Date) with the Montblanc emblem on the seconds hand, the silver floral Arabic numerals (black in the Bohème Date, with diamond indexes) and the minute scale with precious and discrete “filet sauté” will satisfy even the most refined tastes.

This article appeared in Issue 778 (May 8) of The Edge Singapore.

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