In this Happy Hour With Robb session, Davide Cerrato (managing director of Montblanc’s watch business unit) relates the German brand’s thirst for adventure, with the invigorating Montblanc 1858 collection and more. This live series continues with another episode (30 June 2020, 7.30pm) with Nicola Andreatta, CEO of Roger Dubuis. Register here
Montblanc’s watchmaking unit, as we all know, is relatively new. But don’t discredit the German brand just yet. What it might lack in experience, when compared to its more established luxury watchmaking counterparts, Montblanc makes up for with its daring and bold creations, whose substance and quality are just on par, if not better.
At the heart of it all, managing director of Montblanc’s watch business unit, Davide Cerrato, suggests an underlying fascination and thirst for adventure. Montblanc’s 1858 series, first released five years ago, embodies that spirit of adventure, being dedicated to the world of mountain exploration, with newer models like the Montblanc Geosphere being periodically added to the collection.
In this week’s webinar, Robb Report Singapore’s editor-in-chief, Karishma Tulsidas, politely tasks Cerrato with elucidating Montblanc’s fixation with adventure, to which he most graciously obliges. It’s all a time of good fun – Cerrato’s humour and light-heartedness are delightfully infectious – and we can see why he insists it’s a crucial component of watchmaking. It takes a more personal turn at the end, with Cerrato’s recounting of his “special place”, the Minerva archives, from which he derives much of his inspiration for Montblanc’s timepieces.
What was your perception of Montblanc watches when you first joined five years ago, and what was your first order of business then?
To me, everything about Montblanc – the brand name, the logo (a rounded star symbol which represents the snow-covered peak of Mont Blanc, the highest European mountain) – was shouting mountains and outdoors. So, it was evident that Montblanc deserved a very nice sport watch, something [related to] racing or regattas, which could also tell an incredible story of watchmaking invention and creativity.
Montblanc often says that it’s inspired by the spirit of exploration. How has that informed the timepieces that you produce today?
The way in which we design our watches and conceive their movements and functions, is really driven by a very precise narrative – one revolving around exploration or adventure. It’s a narrative that will become increasingly relevant, especially after this period of lockdown, as [people look forward] to getting back in touch with nature and enjoying the outdoors.
For the Montblanc 1858 series, Minerva’s military pocket watches were our point of reference, as they have always been associated with exploration, being extremely robust and durable. This year, we went with colours associated with the cold – blue or white, which would match the surrounding environment. The idea was really to produce the perfect exploration watch.
Speaking of which, how do you strike a balance between ruggedness and aesthetic? After all, Montblanc’s timepieces are gorgeous as they are functional.
Watchmaking is about the emotions and essentially, it’s all about fun. We try to bring that into our watches, so that each timepiece is engaging. We also try to achieve that with colours, by bringing in new textures and new shades – one of the Montblanc Heritage models has a beautiful salmon-coloured dial, which is just the perfect shade of pink. (It’s the Montblanc Heritage Monopusher Chronograph)
Can you tell us more about the pricing strategy for Montblanc’s watches?
The effect of having very competitive prices lies really at the heart of what we are doing. We know that [Montblanc’s watchmaking arm] is still quite young and we still have many challenges ahead. Throughout the entire development process, we ensure that the price of the end-product is always very affordable. The 1858 Split Second Chronograph, limited to 100 pieces only, is below £40 000 (S$69,870) – it’s really a crazy price. You don’t have anything similar on the market for less than double the price.
How much impact would the current economic climate have on the luxury watch market? How would you position yourself to face this challenge?
The impact is going to be huge – we have been in lockdown for almost three months! Montblanc, however, has been increasing its presence globally, bringing in very strong, new products, which are affordable as well. At the same time, Montblanc’s continued emphasis on exploration and engagement with the environment, is very relevant during this time, when people are trying to get back with nature as a kind of protective bubble. So, yes, I think Montblanc will ultimately tide through these challenging times.
You’ve mentioned the Montblanc 1858 series. Tell us a little bit more about some of the highlights from this series.
The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere is definitely one of them, in full titanium for the first time and a new metal bracelet, which gives a very nice look to the watch and a beautiful weight. For sports watches, the weight is very important. When you take it in your hand for the first time, the watch needs to have a weight that’s attributed to its substance. If it’s too light, then immediately people think that it’s not good – kind of like when trying out a new car, the noise that it makes upon slamming the door reflects the reliability of the car’s mechanics. It’s the same with this. We have found a weight that is suitably heavy, yet light enough to be very comfortable.
What do you think of the current steel sports watches trend? Is that something Montblanc looks to be going into?
Definitely. All the 1858 series is based on steel from the very beginning. The Montblanc TimeWalker series was also presented in steel last year. This preference for steel is stronger than ever.
We know that you’ve been digging into the Minerva archives for inspiration. How do you decide on the ones that best fit with Montblanc’s identity?
It comes with experience, a certain inner sensitivity, or what you would call gut feeling. I spend a lot of time in our archives and I don’t always know what I’m going to find. We have almost 2,000 watches in our archives and it’s a really special place for a watch lover like myself. Whenever I’m there, time seems to be suspended over and over again. Watch lovers would know what I’m talking about. Should you ever pass by Switzerland, you’re more than welcome to visit.