Prestige issue 280, November 2016
Montblanc, 110 years of pioneering spirit
During his visit to Lebanon to celebrate 110 years of Montblanc and 30 years of collaboration with Tamer Frères, Prestige met with Eric Vergnes, President of Montblanc for the Middle East, Africa and India, to know more about the pioneering spirit of the Swiss brand, the future of writing instruments and the new watches collection.
Eric Vergnes, president of Montblanc for the Middle East, Africa and India. © Montblanc
Mr. Vergnes, you are in Lebanon to celebrate 110 years of Montblanc, 30 years of collaboration with Tamer Frères … Indeed, I come frequently to Lebanon, but this time I am here to celebrate the 110 years of Montblanc and 30 years of collaboration with Tamer Frères.
You also celebrate the pioneering spirit of the golden age of the Atlantic Ocean crossings … In fact, it all began in 1906 with the three founders of Montblanc company, engineer August Eberstein, banker Alfred Nehemias And the stationery merchant Claus Voss, who began by exploring the world by taking a transatlantic to go to the United States. It was the moment when there was a sort of industrial genius that was boiling in the world, everything was in exploration, in pioneering. It is the guiding clue of the Montblanc house. We are very proud of our traditions, our craftsmanship that we have developed on various products. At the same time, we try to bring something fundamentally new, capable of bringing a real plus to those who follow us and love our brand.
And what’s this added value? If we go back 110 years in terms of writing instruments, we notice that it was a pen with anti-leakage technology. At the time, the feathers had the unfortunate tendency to flee and the flaw of staining the clothes of those who wore them. We have perfected the technique and today this spirit of innovation, quality and tradition is developed on a large product line.
Speaking of pens, what is the future of writing instruments in an increasingly digital world? The segment of the luxury writing instrument does not fundamentally diminish. It is true that the tablets become more important, we write more and more digitally. But when it comes to writing something important, our consumers always look for a beautiful pen. Today, between receiving an email, a text message, a whatsapp or receiving a handwritten letter, the importance and value of a handwritten letter is far superior. What gives value to this act of writing is to have a beautiful instrument of writing. The Montblanc pen meets today two major criteria: give value to the writer, and offer a beautiful object of writing.
Do you think that the children of this millennium will have this affection for the manuscript? I can not speak in general … Children in school always learn to write with a pen. They do exercises and games on tablet but the writing remains fundamental. On the other hand, I think that the pleasure of writing well, even if it is less frequent, remains entire. The relationship to writing, when it is done through a pen, is completely different from the relationship to writing as it can be on a computer. Today, as far as Montblanc is concerned, not only is there no erosion of our sales volumes, but we are also continuing to grow in writing instruments because we continue to invest in design. This year, we launched the Rouge & Noir, a commemorative pen with a modern twist from the one that was launched more than a hundred years ago. We have just launched the Ultrablack which is a resolutely modern evolution of our Meisterstück icon … We continue to innovate and launch a number of incredible innovations, year after year, to fuel our legitimacy on the pens market.
What is the definition of a pioneering spirit for Montblanc? The pioneering spirit seen by Montblanc is a spirit of discovery which considers that every day must be lived thoroughly, whether through work, through experiences … It must denote a certain openness, a certain modernism. In terms of products, Montblanc is probably today one of the houses that develop and offer annually most of the novelties, between 400 to 500 novelties, all categories combined, whether in writing instruments, watches or leather goods.
From left to right:
1- Montblanc 4810 TwinFly Chronograph 110 Years Edition.
2- Montblanc 4810 Orbis Terrarum Pocket Watch 110 Years Edition.
3- Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim 110 Years Edition Asia.
To celebrate its 110 years, Montblanc launched the 4810 collection … We have indeed reworked the 4810 collection which already existed, very iconic by the shape of the box, by the shape of the horns, by the design of the dial. 4810 is the height in meters of Mont Blanc, which is particularly popular with us. Three in-house movements with manufacturing complications come to complement the collection. The Caliber MB 29.21 ExoTourbillon Stop-Second, the Caliber MB LL100.1 TwinFly Chronograph, and the Caliber MB 29.20 World Timer
What was the importance for Montblanc to develop the watchmaking business? At its beginning, Montblanc was combined to writing instruments. Montblanc now has 150 years of watchmaking experience thanks to these two factories, Villeret and Le Locle, their know-how and experience. It remains for us to show that we also have a real added value in the watchmaking market with interesting pieces in terms of design but absolutely unique in terms of complication, in particular for the collector of watches of today, to whom we bring something different, at unimaginable prices for this kind of pieces, like the ExoTourbillon. Out of its cage, this tourbillon gains in amplitude and in autonomy and thus makes it possible better to fight against the effects of gravity on the precision of the watch. In addition, it is equipped with a second stop which will allow at the same time to adjust the time, to stop the tourbillon, and to use the tourbillon as indicator of the seconds. We want to be extremely pioneering and innovative in terms of design and complication, and at the same time extremely aggressive in the watchmaking market.
Montblanc is very successful in Lebanon, your thirty years of collaboration with Tamer Frères are the living proof for it. What is the importance of Lebanon to the region? Lebanon is important for several reasons. First, it is a medium-sized market that develops year after year. A market that forces admiration because there is a real resilience. It is important for us to continue to invest, to bring all the innovations, to develop our network of boutiques. Then it’s the early adopters side, compared to other countries in the area. It is unique insofar as a novelty will not only be adopted, but also sought after. I refer to Lebanon as a country to mark the trend, if a product works well in Lebanon, it is a sign that it is likely to work well elsewhere. All the efforts we are making today are not just to celebrate our two anniversaries, but to ensure that we offer the best service, that Lebanese consumers have access to the latest novelties and that the launches we are making in Lebanon are aligned with all the launches made in the world.
For you time is a friend or an enemy? Time is rather enemy because if we live a happy period it will pass too quickly and vice versa.
A message to our readers? I would like to thank the Lebanese readers for the support they have given to our house for years and for the enthusiasm they have for our watches as well as for our writing instruments and for all our products. Interview Conducted by MARIA NADIM