Montblanc – German Manufacturing For The Wrist
Montblanc is proof that it isn’t all about Switzerland. Sure, the brand’s watches – of which there are many – may be made in the horological hotspot of Le Locle, but its roots can be traced back to 1906 in a country beyond the Jura.
It was then that a certain Hamburg banker, Alfred Nehemais, met an engineer from Berlin, a certain August Eberstein. The pair began to produce pens (psst, they’re known as writing instruments if you’re really into them), and the venture was soon taken over by Wilhelm Dziambor, Christian Lausen and, later on, Claus Johannes Voss.
This early merger triggered the Rouge et Noir – Montblanc’s very first pen in 1909. Then, just a year after, the Meisterstück was born. As a landmark collection that now extends to all corners of the maison, Montblanc’s initial Meisterstück (which roughly translates to ‘masterpiece’ in English) debuted in 1924, and became a name synonymous with high-crafted, well-performing luxury.
The handiwork alone wasn’t responsible for the prestige, though. Montblanc’s iconic star emblem was first devised in 1913 as a stylisation of the Mont Blanc’s snowcap from above. And the symbolism goes even further, too. As Europe’s highest mountain, Montblanc was keen to project an image at the pinnacle of European craftsmanship. They knew what they were doing by selecting the continent’s biggest mountain as platform upon which to build.
It was in the 1920s when Montblanc really began to branch out. After retailing in over 60 countries, an all-encompassing marketing campaign began to coincide with the launch of its first leather goods range. This selection of satchels, bags and wallets were produced in Offenbach, a city known for leathermaking on the left bank of the river Main, and helped create the image of Montblanc as a comprehensive producer of all things fine. So confident were the brand of this skill, that they issued a ‘lifetime guarantee’ for Meisterstück in 1935. And it wasn’t just hot air. Montblanc readily replaced any pieces that were subject to wear and tear, though thanks to the meticulous nature of the marque, this was a rare occurrence indeed.
However, as with so many other brands, Montblanc suffered its first major setback in World War II, with multiple factories and sites destroyed in the heavy bombings. Still, it didn’t dissuade the team from rebuilding, and in 1946, Montblanc looked to Denmark to produce specialised fountain pens and thus kick started a real global presence.
So much so, that the then president JFK assisted the German Chancellor in 1963, producing a Meisterstück pen upon the signing of official documentation. Indeed, if it you make it in America, you can make it anywhere. Montblanc was no exception.
And success continued onwards, with Montblanc finally deciding to peddle its iconic range of watches in 1997. As part of the luxury Richemont family, Montblanc Montre S.A was established to create masterful haute horlogerie in the heartland of Swiss watchmaking. What’s more, the marque participated in the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie (better known as SIHH, this watch event is mostly reserved for brands under the Richemont umbrella) which placed Montblanc nose-to-nose and shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the finest watch brands ever conceived.
Just a decade later, Montblanc doubled down on its watchmaking credentials with the creation of the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie. This manufacture was first founded in 1858, and Montblanc sought to perpetuate the rich tradition of the town of Villeret with an establishment in honour of Minerva. From there, Montblanc was quick to release the MB R100 – the very first calibre to be made completely in-house. This impressive movement paid direct tribute to the man who invented the chronograph – Nicolas Rieussec – while proving Montblanc to be a serious option for the serious watch collector. Even now, few brands can boast of producing a movement entirely on their own.
In 2010, Montblanc continued the innovation with the release of the Metamorphosis. As the freshman development of Montblanc’s Villeret manufacture, this revolutionary piece could transform its dial into a completely new piece in a way that was unique to the watch world. The mechanism involved over 50 individual components to move in tandem, and though lacking in years of other blue chip labels, Montblanc was finally welcome as a haute brand proper.
And just one year later in 2011, Montblanc released the Tourbillon Bi-Cylindrique – the first ever wrist watch to boast a tourbillon with two cylindrical balance springs. This was facilitated by a reduced escapement that was placed inside the tourbillon itself, along with a cylindrical hairspring. All of which is very technical for exceptionally good.
Few brands are afforded such prestige after a mere two decades producing watches. Yet Montblanc, through sheer commitment to craftsmanship and perfection with its other wares, had already set a level high: we knew what to expect, we knew the name, and the trust was already established. And needless to say, that trust has yet to be broken.
As a nod towards the military roots of the Villeret manufacture, Montblanc’s 1858 collection has one both boots firmly within the armed forces. Each piece is emblematic of a traditional military watch of old, with clear, legible dials, classic leather straps and a range of features suited to both the trenches and the skies.
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Montblanc’s 4810 collection was launched to mark the centenary of the brand’s formation. And, as such, firmly keeps one eye on the past and the other on future with a blend of classic, contemporary and truly unique features seamlessly melded into one sharp family.
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