Montblanc is an age-old maison that symbolizes quiet luxury. Montblanc is a name synonymous with the art of beautiful writing, and taking pleasure in the finer things in life. Known for its writing instruments which are manufactured in Hamburg, leather goods in Florence and timepieces made in Switzerland, the international brand has made inroads in India, setting up over 11 boutiques and expanding its presence across the country. LuxeBook recently caught up with Neeraj Walia, Managing Director & CEO, Montblanc India in a freewheeling chat about its ambitions, how the Montblanc philosophy fits in with the fast-changing world of today, and what its plans for India were.
Tell us about Montblanc’s presence in India so far, and its expansion strategy.
Montblanc is one of the first luxury brands to enter India. We currently have 11 boutiques in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune. We are also present at more than 50 multi-brand locations across the country.
We are currently looking at Kolkata, Chandigarh and other key cities to expand our presence. We are also considering travel retail at key airport terminals.
In the age of technology where the culture of writing faces a challenge, how is Montblanc staying relevant as well as true to its vision with its writing instruments?
Writing is a creative and calming activity that allows you to spend time with yourself. Even in our digital world, it has not lost its significance. It gives us a chance to reconnect with ourselves, slow down and reflect. As a brand that embodies writing culture, we organize calligraphy workshops to inspire our audience and nurture their love for handwriting.
Tell us about the latest collections from Montblanc timepieces that are now available in India or in the near future.
Our Iced Sea collection, our first certified sports diving watch, launched last year with three glacial dials in blue, green and black, inspired by the glacial lakes of the Mont-Blanc Massif, Mer de Glace, was a great success! This year we introduced a new grey colour that’s been received with just as much enthusiasm.
The colour of the glaciers inspired the dial colours for our Iced Sea collection. The grey colour introduced this year derives its inspiration from the colour that the glacial ice appears with certain light exposures, due to the mineral deposits that have accumulated over millennia. An ancient technique called gratté-boisé is used to bring this pattern to life on the dial, which lends it a striking aura of depth and radiance.
Additionally, this year at Watches and Wonders, we unveiled a new capsule collection that pays tribute to the world’s 14 highest peaks and the inspiring alpinists who dared to climb them. All four models of the Montblanc 1858 0 Oxygen 8000 Capsule Collection join the Maison’s series of “0 Oxygen” timepieces that feature several benefits for explorers who need their equipment to work in harsh environmental conditions.
Zero oxygen inside the case not only eliminates fogging, which can occur with drastic temperature changes at such high altitudes, but also prevents oxidization of the watch components.
Is India a growing market as far as Montblanc is concerned?
India as a market and country has immense potential. It ranks very high in its importance for Montblanc. Being one of the first luxury brands to enter India, we have a strong base of clients who have been an integral part of this journey. We also have a large and growing base of young clients who are accepting our creations across categories of writing instruments, new leather collections and timepieces.
What are your thoughts about the Indian luxury watch market?
Indian clients are very well-informed and have a deep understanding of fine watchmaking, complications and movements. They truly appreciate our craftsmanship, heritage and design aesthetics.
Today, watch enthusiasts have varying preferences- some prefer the classical styles like the Minerva or Nicholas Rieussec timepieces, while others have shown a keen interest in our newer offerings especially the Iced Sea and 0 Oxygen.
As far as Delhi vs Mumbai, do the cities demonstrate different tastes?
With communication bridging the gap between great geographical distances, we don’t see any disparity in the tastes of our clients in both cities. With social media, the younger generation across the country has increased visibility and awareness of new trends and styles.
On the one hand, we have collectors who appreciate heritage and artistry. On the other hand, we have young clients who are connecting with the brand through their contemporary design, savoir-faire and storytelling.
Tell us about innovations from the maison that have pushed the envelope.
For our novelties in the timepieces category, we added 5 timepieces in our 0-oxygen range with The Montblanc 8000 Capsule Collection, where we feature the world’s 14 highest peaks. These mountains – all measuring over 8000 meters above sea level – are challenging and dangerous to ascend as there is hardly enough oxygen for a human body to physiologically survive for more than a few hours.
The collection has beautifully designed laser-engraved case backs and Sfumato dark grey Glacier pattern dial that replicates the colour of the rock and ice at 8000 meters and fades darker towards the exterior of the dial. This time-consuming process takes three times longer than a standard dial to complete and requires over 20 separate steps – an innovation that is appreciated by watch collectors across the country.
For our new technology segment, extending the product line after the launch of our over-ear headphones, we launched our first in-ear headphones this year. They feature a sleek design inspired by the maison’s ultimate writing icon and a sound crafted to meet the individual needs of its owners.
Inspired by the signature aesthetics of the timeless Montblanc Meisterstück, the MTB 03 In-Ear Headphones feature a deep black light-weight resin reminiscent of the surface of the celebrated writing instrument as well as the white Montblanc emblem that crowns it. With an optimal ergonomic fit and made from high-quality materials, they are designed to meet their wearers’ needs on their daily adventures, offering Active Noise Cancellation with a live mode as well as water resistance. The MTB 03 also house touch functionality to easily control key sound activations, such as playing/pausing audio or answering calls.
For our writing instrument category, and as a part of its mission to continuously elevate the writing experience, our Maison introduced a new nib into its repertoire – the curved nib.
Ground at a 45˚ angle, the Montblanc curved nib is particularly suited for intricate Chinese, Japanese and Korean calligraphy as well as for sketching and drawing designs. A form of self-expression and creativity, the art of calligraphy requires the versatility of a nib that allows for a variety of line widths, shapes and styles to enhance the beauty of the handwriting. Depending on the angle of the curved nib on paper, the calligrapher can achieve wide horizontal lines and thin vertical lines while also turning the nib upside down for a fine line suited for detailed drawing.