The path Montblanc has taken over the last 30 years is fascinating. The brand has succeeded in preserving its legitimacy in writing, broadening its accessories range, and developing a credible and creative cheap Montblanc replica watches division. In spite of this, the brand’s constant craving to achieve more has led it to a few failures. And this propensity remains Montblanc’s Achilles heel.
Few may have remembered the anniversary, but 2015 marks exactly 30 years since Richemont bought Montblanc. So should we interpret this forgotten occasion as a sign of full integration and a of a transition that is now ancient history? Probably so. Yet as it happens, the story has not yet reached its conclusion, and by looking at the high points in the history of this duo, we can determine their future path.
For starters,Montblanc has always been a separate house. Just look at the group’s annual reports and you’ll find the jewelers,Swiss fake Omega watchmakers… and Montblanc. In recent months, the Montblanc exception has even been eliminated: from an accounting perspective, the brand is now included in the “other activities” category, alongside Alfred Dunhill, Lancel, Chloé, and Net-a-Porter.
The same applies to Montblanc’s location, whose head office is situated a significant distance from the group’s Genevan hub—in Hamburg. “This really is specific to Montblanc. Writing, leather goods, jewelry, watchmaking, and other accessories, we are a group within the Group,” acknowledges Alexander Schmiedt, who oversees watchmaking development.
Historically, the driver behind Montblanc’s integration into the Richemont group was VLG, Vendome Luxury Group, which also brought in brands such as Cartier, Piaget and Baume & Mercier.
Writing—the cornerstone of Montblanc style
Montblanc’s first defining characteristic is that in 1997 the brand started its own buy Omega replica watchmaking division, Montblanc Montres. The division’s first creations were unsurprisingly inspired by the brand’s writing range. “Watches with curves, an onion-shaped crown, Arabic numerals and rings on the case: everything was intended to be reminiscent of the Meisterstück,” explains Alexander Schmiedt.
In reality, Montblanc’s watchmaking approach was very similar to what it is today. As early as 20 years ago, the Richemont group expressed its desire to develop its own points of sale, focusing on Asia, and more particularly Hong Kong, while also pointing out the “unfavorable effects of exchange rate”. In 2015, the message is the same.
The brand’s second defining characteristic is the remarkable longevity of its teams. It is not rare for careers in top management positions to span at least 30 years, such Norbert Platt who was at the helm of the brand, and later the group, from 1987 to 2005.
The great shift of 2005
The year 2005 was a turning point for Montblanc, particularly in terms of watchmaking. The consecutive launches of the first Timewalker models and then the first Manufacture calibers, followed by the purchase of Minerva two years later, signaled that the brand was definitively moving away from the world of writing instruments. In other terms, Montblanc’s watchmaking brand had become strong enough to dispense with references to the Meisterstück.
The flaw of over-ambition?
The answer is very probably yes. Montblanc’s exhaustive ambition has often met with criticism. The market loves specialists and clients tend to remember clear and unique company positioning. The Hamburg-based brand has never cared for such strategies. It has always offered products ranging from ballpoint pens to the quartz-powered Star watch, the ultra-complicated Metamorphosis and the Exo-Tourbillon. Montblanc’s aim is not to offer a single range or a single positioning, but a single spirit, whose bracket extends from 100 to one million Swiss francs and across an annual Omega fake watches store production estimated at 100,000 pieces.
And yet cornered by commercial realities, Montblanc has had to make choices, which were applied with the utmost discretion. For example, sports watches have disappeared from the brand’s catalog. “We didn’t have credibility in this segment,” acknowledges the brand. Instead, Montblanc has replaced its “sports” range with an “urban” one, artfully embodied by the Timewalker. It was a good move, as now, 10 years later, the piece is a bestseller.
History repeating itself?
Unfortunately the Hamburg-based brand’s old demons are never far away, because Montblanc rarely gives up. For example, Montblanc is now entertaining the idea of a testosterone-charged version of the urban Timewalker, which is nothing other than a return to the sports watch segment but wearing a Timewalker mask.
And what about smartwatches? Montblanc didn’t want to miss the boat here either. But due to a lack of time and desire to invest huge sums in this niche, the brand developed a… smartwatch strap. It’s an interesting slant, but one that is struggling to catch on. And Montblanc once again risks failure, which it could have been spared if reason—namely not trying to do everything—had prevailed. After all, when the brand focuses on discount Omega replica watchmaking, which has become its core business, Montblanc can easily outclass its peers.