Montblanc isn’t a name you immediately associate with horology, nor haute horology, but it’s a name making serious waves in the industry. I dropped by Dalton House earlier this month for a preview of the Montblanc 2015 novelties, and a chat with Julien Miribel, Montblanc’s specialist fine watch trainer, and General Manager Randall Foote.
The word I couldn’t stop saying on the day was ‘value’. The same word that is surely haunting countless Swiss and German manufacturers when they see Montblanc’s extensive offering, and the price tags that go with it. Whilst the word value often comes with the association of cheap products and frugal customers, these preconceptions couldn’t be more out of context in Montblanc’s case. What the brand is manufacturing, for the price and level of quality, is arguably unbeatable.
Whilst the brand itself hasn’t been making watches for long, their acquisition of Minerva, one of Switzerland’s most prestigious and world recognised manufacturers, has provided the company with ample backing and expertise. The Minerva facility at Villeret is famous for creating some of the world’s most complicated and sought after movements, producing no more than 300 a year. Naturally the Villeret factory only accounts for Montblanc’s serious haute horology pieces, such as the patented ExoTourbillon and crazy Metamorphasis, but the techniques and the legacy filter through to Le Locle, where the majority of Montblanc’s production takes place.
What I was particularly impressed with was Montblanc’s 500 Hour Test. Both manufacturers in Villeret and Le Locle submit each watch to a program of rigorous testing procedures. For almost three weeks (500 hours) the movements are subjected to a variety of conditions and climates mimicking life on the wrist of their would be wearers. Once they’ve passed the test, they are released for delivery with an individual quality certificate stating their suitability for market.
As a long time Jaeger-LeCoultre fan it’s easy to see the influence their former CEO has had since migrating to Montblanc. Randall informs me that Jérôme Lambert has helped refine every aspect of Montblanc’s DNA since his arrival, from business cards to watch design. The result is a brand, and range, that oozes class, one that will inevitably gain market share over the brands it’s trying to emulate.
It’s hard to conceive how one brand producing such a diverse range (in terms of price and complications) can do them all so well. Not only have they got the design spot on with their contemporary and heritage collections, they’ve got the sizing right as well, remaining true to tradition and offering watches in sub 40mm sizes. Under the eloquent dials and facetted sword hands are impressive Montblanc manufactured calibres, like the Orbis Terrarum showcasing 24 timezones in night and day at the push of a button. The watch lovers amongst you will know of the costs associated with such useful World Time and Dual Time functions, but not at Montblanc. I was consistently amazed as I turned price tags, trying to come to terms with the affordability of the insanely expensive looking Nicolas Rieussec pieces and how the competition plan to survive when they’re competing with a sub $10,000 Annual Calendar.
I walked out of Dalton House a complete Montblanc convert. In an industry where prices continue to rise, it’s so refreshing to see a brand marketing honestly priced products for the majority, alongside phenomenally complicated movements for the collector.