Interviewed on April 28, 2020
“The crisis will affect the whole luxury sector without a doubt, however we are confident that the watch market will stabilize at some point if the whole industry goes hand in hand during this transition phase. It is crucial to explore alternative ways to deliver the same kind of magic that exhibitions like Watches & Wonders offer when there are restrictions on international travel and large gatherings. Events or trade fairs might have to be organized in a different way: smaller, more exclusive, more local. Brands should focus on creating tailored local experiences, strengthening their digital and omni-channel offerings, and engaging more deeply with their customers. However I am a firm believer that our industry will recover, true hard luxury with craftsmanship will also be resilient as it is about substance and value”- Montblanc International CEO, Nicolas Baretzki talks to us about the challenges of today, and the future of Montblanc.
How do you foresee Q3 and Q4 for Montblanc, especially during these turbulent times?
Without a doubt, the impact of the virus is significant in many of the markets in which we operate. And given the extraordinary circumstances we are all facing, it is crucial that we take responsible decisions and anticipate as much as possible. At this point in time we should be careful with predictions of economic nature. Right now, we put the safety of our staff and customers before our business priorities, and will keep monitoring the situation.
I am convinced that crises can also create new avenues for growth. Giving the whole industry chance to re-think, re-value and engage in a different but not less meaningful way. Also an opportunity to plan well ahead and striving for longer-term strategic concepts to ensure the stabilization for all their Maisons.
With #StayAtHome being the new normal, could you tell us a little about your strategy this year?
As stores remain closed in many parts of the world, e-commerce is a crucial channel for keeping sales up and communicating with customers. As changes occur, we will strategically continue to accelerate our digital investments and focus in depth on personalization efforts in digital marketing. We will focus on creating tailored local experiences, strengthening our digital and omnichannel offerings, and engaging with customers more deeply. Important to contribute communicating the right message – that is why we completely reworked our social marketing plan to adapt to COVID 19 situation.
Could you tell us a little about the maison’s 2020 novelties.
In 2020, Minerva continues to shape the identities, the technical excellence and the style expression of Montblanc timepiece product lines. Our latest additions to our collections are all inspired by Minerva:
- Refined and durable 1930s-inspired 1858 timepieces
- Elevated sophistication of Heritage
- Formal elegance and classic design of Star Legacy
Our highlight pieces will be the 1858 styles – they come in a brand-new blue vintage aesthetic – a nod to glaciers and snowy-mountain environments. Can’t wait for you to see them.
At what point do you feel a waiting list discourages a customer?
I think this depends if the customer is a collector or a regular client. For collectors the limitation and the rarity of an edition is an important criterion that also has a significant influence on the value of the timepiece. In general a waiting list demonstrates the high demand and particular attraction towards this product – and can also be a decisive for many collectors.
Do you think the market demand for neo-vintage watches will subside or is it a segment that will continue to grow?
I think the market is strong and will continue to grow. A certain vintage trend is running already since 2010. It’s a very deep trend remastering classical analogical human craftsmanship into the Zeitgeist and this involves any category of products. The interest in old watches and auctions is huge.
Why is adventure such a strong focus for Montblanc?
Our Maison is rooted in the spirit of exploration, innovation, always pushing boundaries to venture boldly into new areas. Our founding fathers did this in 1906 with a clear vision and a pioneering idea; and this spirit of innovation and quest for the new is the Maison’s guiding principle still today. Therefore, adventure plays an important part in our history, as it is our driving force.
Our 1858 timepieces capture the spirit of the past in a modern way, expressing the deep trend of back to nature & adventures lifestyle. The line features sporty vintage timepieces inspired by the trend for reconnecting to nature and the Montblanc heritage. The design codes take inspiration on the Minerva 1920 and 30s military chronographs. These watches were conceived for military use and exploration, making them the perfect companions to withstand extreme conditions.
How do tastes change according to the economic climate? Does this have an impact on what you design?
Tastes & trends change all the time. It is very important to monitor all movements within the economy and social activities. There is not one source of inspiration, it is an accumulation of different factors. Our design team evaluates all kind of current tendencies and movements. Also, Montblanc is a Maison with a very rich Heritage and archives, which allows us to explore and take a lot inspiration from.
How has the absence of Watches & Wonders 2020 impacted business?
The pandemic has had a significant impact on all aspects of life and business around the world, causing disruption for customers, retailers, employees and suppliers, not just for us but for every organization. Within the watch segment it is crucial now that the whole industry unites in taking responsible decisions. This means, going hand in hand to recover rapidly from the crisis and return to growth by planning well ahead and striving for longer-term strategic concepts to ensure the survival of businesses.
Now that we are all adapting to our new realities, we have found new efficient ways to connect with our journalists, from product presentation Zoom conferences to finally Watches & Wonders unveiling a digital hub where we will be able to announce all our novelties together with the participating Maisons.
Should MB watch fans be concerned about delays / suspension of production of certain models, during these turbulent times?
As the impact of the virus is significant in many of the markets in which we operate and right now stores and manufactures had to be temporarily closed due to governmental restrictions, delays can potentially occur. The protection of our employees, their families, our customers and their communities is our first priority right now. said that, our key novelties had been anticipated at same time of W&W, thus were already produced and e.g. 1858 will be on the market as planned.