After a successful tenure at Tudor, Davide Cerrato has been helming the watch division at Montblanc. For the past 5 years, he has been slowly but surely infusing his love for vintage and sports in the timepieces. We recently caught up with Davide to get insights on Montblanc’s watch collection for 2020 and more.
Luxurylaunches: The spirit of Mountain exploration seems to be the theme of this collection, can you tell more about it?
Davide: Yes. I have been following and smelling quite in advance this big trend that is coming which is not only mountain exploring but is really going outside in the outdoor, exploring, adventuring. The big coming back of everything that is camping outside or glamping that is camping in a glamourous setting, the dream of a cabin in the woods that has become really huge, now there are bigger Manhattan architecture studios work on prebuilt sustainable cabins that you can put anywhere. Without the need of electricity, water, etc. Photographers and producers are exploring themselves and making pictures and videos of what they do. Even sports enthusiasts like runners, marathon runners that were mainly running in the city in an urban environment because they didn’t have time to go elsewhere, now take up on trails and go into the mountains. You go up and down for 10,000 meters and you are exposed to a thunderstorm, snow, etc.
So all this is coming back to the dream of being outdoors and reappropriation of relationship with nature is now growing since at least 6 years. So I saw this coming. We at core Montblanc, we have this beautiful past from Minerva military pieces, they have always been used for exploration, because of their functional characteristic, be it resistant to shock, reliability and so on. So we put all of them together and we thought we would do a product line dedicated to this work, to this story which is 1858.
We call it the 1858 because it is the year of the foundation of Minerva. We use those military pieces as a reference to create the design codes, the cathedral ends and light brown superluminova loop numerals with a particular shape to brushed case which is resistant to scratches and now we even have a titanium brushed case with superluminova to a perfect visibility in low light conditions & vintage straps, band straps, nature straps which you can wear it in the water or even snow, so we really put together all these elements to match this narrative of outdoor and adventure with the characteristic of a watch to show that 1858 if you like that is really the perfect watch for you. Then even in terms of complications with this World timer or travel watch that it is really made for with the rotatable turning bezel that you can use as a compass to orient with the 7 Summit challenge that is inside. The strong thing is that the clients said ‘Wow’. That is really Montblanc, that is just perfect, that really matches for me with the idea that I had of Mont Blanc which was positively astonishing because Montblanc never did sport and this is a sport. Montblanc never did vintage and this is very vintage and it worked so we are really building up the new image, the new expression of the Montblanc watchmaking through this particular identity.
LL: Are you an adventurous person?
Davide: It doesn’t look like (laughs). Yes, I am. I was born in Italy and live outside of the city as a kid. From my mother’s side, there were 9 brothers and sisters, all of them lived in the countryside so we spent almost every weekend in a different place, in the mountains, next to a lake. In the countryside, I used to fish as a kid even my father and grandfather used to fish, they also used to hunt, I am not a hunter but when I was a kid, I was going hunting with my father and bringing the dogs that look for truffle, they dress up dogs to look for truffles, white truffles and I did when I was a kid. I have traveled quite a lot. I love skiing and I have skied since I was 5 years old. I love fishing into the mountains, walking for hours into the stream or even hiking to get to places, lakes or streams that would be far away. I love salmon so I have traveled a little bit of the world to go fishing for Atlantic salmon, so I did Norway, Iceland, Russia, Scotland, United States, and so on. I really love the outdoors and everything that is a little bit adventurous.
LL: So from your experience as growing up and your adventure streak, has any of it that you have seen or experienced been incorporated into these watches?
Davide: Everything. When you are creating – the ideas, shapes, colors, it all comes out from both your past experiences and your view of what adventure is. I, for sure have a particular idea of what an adventure is, and, by chance, there is also always speaking about glamping i.e camping with glamour with beautiful tents and beautiful accessories and vintage stuff. I can combine very easily the aesthetical elements and active elements and put them together. It is very natural for me. It’s a mix of these, your own experience, your life, and smelling what people are looking for, right now right here. So you combine that, and you are doing things that are deeply rooted in the theme for example adventure. why we do that kind of leather, with the double stitching using a rope that is vintage or using aged materials or using the bronze that oxidizes. We are now using titanium which is darker and really matches with the particular spirit. This is a very organic way of bringing together elements that all speak the same language and when you put them together then they really make sense.
LL: The Geosphere has been quite stunning and continuously evolving. Can you tell something about the current one?
Davide: Geosphere has become the iconic product of the new Montblanc. It has really become what you call the hero product, the special product that people spot the most than anything else that Montblanc has done that is very unique in its shape so people can remember and people can easily associate. We have a lot of people coming into our boutiques and they say “Ah! Yes, I saw that product, the Geosphere one, Can I see it once? I saw it in the khaki green with the bronze”, while before we did not have that. People were coming and saying ‘I like Montblanc and I like watches, do you have watches?’. And then people needed to show. Now they come because they see, they like, they remember and to develop a brand, you always need these special seminal products that anyone can remember, recognize and associate to. It is also a watch that is easily recognizable if you wear it on the wrist and you see from 4-5 meters away, you immediately spot what it is and that helps. Either, first people bought it to be recognized by the others and then people say I want that thing because I saw a cool friend of mine was wearing it. It is so difficult in sport watches to do something different, almost everything is being done, diving watches you have a zillion of them, chronographs, racing chronograph you have countless of them so doing something that is good and yet stands out from the crowd is very complicated. To be very fair with you, we do 50-60 novelties per year, so in 4 years we have done almost 250 to 260 novelties and out of 250 novelties, there is 1 that skyrockets. In Tudor it was Blackberry, You do many but there is one that skyrockets and now everyone knows Tudor because of Blackberry. You always need that particular one.
LL: Will we be seeing an evolution in the complication as well of the Geosphere?
Davide: Who knows. But why not? It is also a way of making a product become a real icon by giving a different point of view, different colors, different materials but also making it evolved in technical terms. So Yeah! Definitely, it could also be enriched in terms of complications.
LL: You have dabbled with different new materials before and titanium being the current one. Was there a market demand for it or was it your vision?
Davide: There is definitely a market demand for it because it is stronger, more durable, lighter, and also because it has this darker look that really matches perfectly with sports watches. Again, we got into sport watches but we were not getting clients that really liked more technical watches and with this new execution, we cater also to them as well.
LL: With the approachable price points, trendier and modern designs Montblanc is targeting a younger audience, is that your core segment?
Davide: Yes, yes definitely. The good news is that even the young generation, teenagers even if they are projected into a completely different future towards what we have in mind, but they are very much sensitive to vintage because it is cool, it is trendy and also because for them it must have a little bit of mysterious thing because it is an object coming from the past, something like ‘Back to the future’. They love it. It’s fantastic, it’s transversal you know. You could imagine that they reject it because it is a part of the past, but if it is well done for them it is really intriguing. It’s like vinyl discs, when everything is digital, like the gigantic cameras that are used to take pictures instead of mobile phones. Those are those objects which are mysterious and they are intriguing.
LL: So do the younger buyers make up for a significant chunk of your total sales?
Davide: It’s very difficult to say but in watches to simplify it – Half of the market is sports watches, so with all the new sport watches that we are proposing in the last 4 years, we have doubled our potential market and young people are a very considerable part. I don’t know the exact number, never looked at it but perhaps 30-40%, something like that.
LL: How has Minerva helped with the conception, production of this new collection?
Davide: This is a very important point, I often get this question. The people from Minerva, the people from Montblanc are the same. We are Minerva. We purchased Minerva in 2006, so Minerva was a brand and an organization. We purchased the physical premises, the brand, all the movements, the developments, and everything. Now we are using this asset together with the Montblanc to propose what you see here but the people are the same. The same master watchmaker that is sitting in Villeret and doing the split-second has also worked on the Geosphere and other movements. It is the same organization, same people do both, it is not two entities.
LL: What I meant was that you usually take inspiration from the earlier Minerva watches, has any of the earlier watches used as the starting point for this new collection?
Davide: All the new designs are very much inspired by the past of Minerva. Absolutely and then this is for the generic codes of the line and then once we have defined the genetic code, we push it further and we create completely new watches like Geosphere for example. It never existed in Minerva, a world timer like this one where there were just military watches like pilot watches with that kind of codes and based on that we extend and then we develop.
LL: What are the bestsellers in the current collection?
Davide: The Geosphere, it is by far the number one sales in our collection.
LL: You were among the first luxury brands to start with smartwatches, are you still looking to develop that segment?
Davide: Yeah! Yeah! It is working very well. It has nothing to do with the mechanical watches and it is now been handled by a part of an organization, a different one that handles everything which is technology-based, the Augmented paper, and the Summit.
LL: The Summit was launched I think 2 years back?
LL: You didn’t launch any new watch after that?
Davide: Nope, Perhaps something new could come(laughs) stay tuned.