Whether it is taking cues from its archives or exploring new watchmaking avenues, Montblanc aims to reach new heights with its latest collection of watches. The Maison has showcased a range of new and exciting pieces, including a new Geosphere travel watch, a chronograph with ‘Zero Oxygen.’ and some dive watches featuring unique dial designs. During Watches & Wonders in Geneva, we caught up with Franck Juhel, President of Montblanc MEIA, to talk about the brand, some of their special releases, and the way forward.
MW: How do you think the strategy for the markets you take care of has changed since you joined Montblanc in 2017?
Franck Juhel: Montblanc is a global brand, and we have a global strategy. Our duties and responsibilities in the market are to make sure that this global strategy becomes relevant when it reaches the respective markets. This might mean that sometimes, we have to change it to connect with the local market. We want to make sure that Montblanc and the services and products we offer are available wherever our clients are located. For example, in India, we currently have 12 boutiques and are opening two subsidiaries — one in Bengaluru and one in Delhi.
In your opinion, how has India changed as a market for Montblanc? Has the market evolved in the last three years, especially for watches?
The Indian market has changed significantly in the past two to four years. These changes have been positive, and the best way we can measure that is through the rise of newer and better malls. These new malls are on the same level as any mall in Dubai, Europe, or USA. Five years ago, this offer was not there. Montblanc was reaching a ceiling during that time as we did not have quality locations to open any boutiques. This is not the case now, and the speed with which the market is catching up is impressive.
Tell us about the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen and your collaboration with Nirmal Purja. How does the whole ‘Zero Oxygen’ concept work?
As you might know, the oxygen we breathe has humidity. As the temperature drops below zero degrees, the moisture in the air freezes. In the same way, the humidity within the movement also freezes, and your watch will stop working. Keeping this in mind, we developed the concept of “Zero Oxygen”. The watch is assembled in an environment without oxygen to have zero humidity in the movement. This removes all the risk from the movement. With our partnership with Nirmal Purja, we will prove the workings of this ‘Zero Oxygen’ concept. He will be wearing the watch while climbing the Montblanc summit, proving that the watch is working despite the temperature drop. In terms of mechanics, watchmaking, and sports, this is an achievement that we are proud of.
Can you tell us about gratté boisé — the technique used on the 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date dial? How did you choose this technique for the dial of this timepiece?
As the inspiration for this watch was the glacier, we wanted a technique that would represent the design of a glacier. Just like how all glaciers are unique, with the help of the gratté boisé technique, all the designs on our dials are also exceptional. With this technique, we found the best way to picture the glacier within our watches.
What is the way forward for Montblanc in India? How do you see the brand expanding here?
When it comes to India, we think we have a fantastic path for Montblanc. We have an excellent boutique network, and plan to set up more boutiques in cities like Kolkata, where we are not present. Our main goal is to offer all our clients the Montblanc universe. We aim to make sure that each of our boutiques offer personalised creations in the form of an engraving of our writing instruments or embossing of our leather goods. Ecommerce is also an essential part of our strategy. We still have a lot to do, and India as a market has potential, so we are excited for the future of Montblanc in India.
If you could choose a favourite of the new launches, which one would it be, and why?
I love the Montblanc 1858 Iced Sea Automatic Date in blue on the bracelet.