I went to Miami for Montblanc’s 4810 Club, where we get a chance to see the brand’s pre-SIHH and SIHH models, which are truly spectacular. Unfortunately, I cannot talk about them or show them to you (they are embargoed), but I did have the chance to sit down at the Indian Creek Country Club in Surfside with Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc, to talk about how the brand is turning new watch customers into watch lovers.

Nicolas Baretzki, CEO Montblanc
Nicolas Baretzki, CEO Montblanc
How do you reach the new generation of watch lovers?

I think there are three elements. The first part is that if you think about how we are building these collections, with heritage and true storylines, which are strong and relatable. The second part is the design codes. I believe a lot of people in that younger generation are looking for something strong but also safe at the same time. In the 1970s, people were more futuristic. I believe today we are a little more looking back at what was successful yesterday.

Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Automatic
Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Automatic

In this segment, it’s more reassuring. These codes that are strong and recreate a successful time can be appealing to the young generation. It’s also a question of price. Just to come up with a beautiful piece with three hands at a great price is a challenge. We pay attention to the small details, create a great look at a  great price, and there is not so much in this price range. These are the kinds of pieces where the customer needs to say Wow, which is why you have to have a strong design, something unexpected, a design that doesn’t leave you without an opinion.

What are young people looking for today?

I don’t think it’s a question of moving customers from an Apple Watch to a mechanical watch. At the end of the day, you never wear a watch for the main functionality of it. Most of the time, I look at the time on my phone, not my watch. I don’t wear the watch to tell the time, I wear it because I love mechanical products, it tells something about me, I love the design, I love the movement and more. Even though we are becoming more and more digital, I still believe that if you appreciate nice design products with the whole history, the craftsmanship, there are so many good reasons why we continue to use these products. You will never stop using your iphone. I see a complimentary world.

Montblanc Summit 2 (Image © Revolution)
Montblanc Summit 2 (Image © Revolution)

I feel a little like we are preachers. We have to explain why the luxury world is meaningful and relevant. That’s what we have to do. We have to use what they are using, i.e. social networks, to reach them. There is so much to discover, it’s not that they don’t want it, it’s that they don’t know about it. The goal is to be able to connect and exchange. At Montblanc, customers have so many opportunities to discover our products. Because we are functionality driven, we have so many reasons to interact with the brand – with a pen, a  backpack, a fragrance and more.

Montblanc Green Ink

I do think that people who are introduced to our brand realize that there are other segments that they can explore. Because we are very much segment driven, we have a lot of people who come to us for one segment, then discover the other segments. If they go on the internet, they can see the whole maison.

What percentage of your clients are watch geeks vs. regular people?

Because we have a strong retail network, we have a lot of Montblanc lovers who discover the watch segment. With the proposal we have now, we are going to attract a lot more watch lovers. I think the share of watch lovers will really increase. People come into Montblanc through a few hero products. If you are a watch lover, if you see the 1850 Geosphere, I do believe it is quite easy to convert these guys into Montblanc watch lovers. That journey will start with a few key pieces that they have to own. They might come in for specific things.

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
If you were to give a young person their first watch, what would you say?

I believe personally that a gift is about the receiver. I can only answer this if I know the person who will get the gift. You have to analyze the personality of the person who will receive the gift. We have to think about the benefit to the person. How well do you know this person and what do you know will please him or her? Do you select it  because it’s a great design, a great movement, a great value?