Montblanc’s TimeWalker Driving watches were an absolute stunner at this year’s SIHH. Late last year in sunny Santa Monica, way before the official unveiling I had a chance to first hand experience the upcoming collection and also chat with Mr. Jens Henning Koch the executive VP of marketing at Montblanc. We spoke about the TimeWalker collection, watch complications, the growth strategy for the Indian market and more.
Luxurylaunches: What were the challenges in designing the TimeWalker collection and especially the Chronograph 1000 Limited Edition 18?
Jens: the one thousandth of the second is based on an existing complication, so there was rather how to optimize that complication to have more stability without risking the overall functionality of the Time Keeper. When it came to the design, it was the challenge that was true for the whole collection that how can you express professional sports watch in terms of the design and at the same time highlight and not undermine its functionality. Because if you do a sports watch, you can easily add elements and cause of making it a sports watch and in the end you have so much of a sports watch to it that it is not a professional watch at all. We needed to have one guiding principle for the design and that principle we found with the Rally Timer because the Rally Timer was so to speak at the core of developing this collection, because that was the design DNA we took them the design elements. Namely the the grid pattern that we have here on the side and that’s what we find on the original rally timer and that we translated into the full collection. It was the characters of the rally timer which is quite clean in terms of design with great readability and everything has to follow that function rather expressing a very certain style and that’s what we did and with that we also developed the design of the one thousandth of the second of the chronograph. Because there if you compare to the former one it is more sober, it is more crisp, it is more sleek and it the sportiness is also bought out by the right stitching on the strap.
LL: The pricing for the collection is quite aggressive, so what kind of numbers are you expecting?
JK: We don’t perceive the price we actually don’t design for the price, what we design is for value, Our philosophy is we want to bring more watchmaking content into that 2000-5000 Euro segment than anybody has. That is what we have in mind when sharing the passion of that highend watchmaking. The design details is that we achieve at the same attitude for designing what we have in the high end watches and the designing the wholesales, it is the same drive for achieving the best possible result.
LL: Putting the Moore’s law of semiconductors into perspective, do you think the complications that fine watchmaking can offer will ever hit a ceiling?
have you heard of the Moez law, The Father of Intel he had said that every year the semiconductor or the chip doubles; do you think something similar also comes to the high end watches like in the one thousandth of the chronograph?
JK: I think that the consistency in fine watchmaking and traditional watch making is in that sense analog and digital, for me you cannot compare that increase in capacity as you have it in the digital world to watch making. In watchmaking it is very much adhering to the codes and thinking about how much to refine them and there has been so much balancing those codes over the past century that there for us it is really important to stick to within those rules, you can stretch boundaries, you can find new approaches, you can come up with new material but there is no such thing as an exponential development because that would at the same time I think destroy the value of fine watchmaking. If you look at technology, everything in 2- 3 years is outdated. So for a watch which is a very personal investment you do, not only for functional reasons but also for expressing yourself or appreciating the time, you don’t want to have a product to be obsolete just after a couple of years.
LL: but don’t you think there is a limit to what you can squeeze again on something as small as this?
JK: There is at a certain point of time you can try to squeeze in even more more more more but then it is just for the sake of creating such an hyper complication. I think that the beauty of the watch making comes from how you on one hand are consistent, like we are with the Time Walker, like we are with the design elements like the skeleton. But there is where this kind of consistency at the same time how to adopt a certain contemporary developments that is really defining the charm and when you become too contemporary or too fashionable then you are undermining your value.
LL: The Mark Newson collaboration was quite interesting, would you be collaborating with companies for watches? As that collection was particularly for pens.
JK: I think for watches we very much have our own design, capacity and authority, because it is very much that you have to design and our watch designers are not located in the HQ in Hamburg but in the manufacturer in Switzerland. You have to be very close to the codes and for the time being it would be for me it will be very hard to imagine how we want to express the Montblanc DNA with an external designer. I think that has to be very true to the DNA of the maison.
LL: Coming to India, what is your strategy going ahead? We have heard of new boutiques on the cards.
JK: We are expanding very much on the boutiques. There is big appreciation on the maison in India. On one hand you have to fully follow the rule of further expanding and on the other hand it is within the field of luxury, you always have to be careful that you do it with the right pace. Not only in terms of being too over presented there I see no problem so far in India but you have to live up to the expectations when it comes to the service and when it comes to also the expertise when selling the product. And that’s why for Montblanc its substance first, we have to be really sure that we are going to deliver what we promise and that’s why we dedicate a lot to further increase for the growth in India. But it has to be always a healthy growth because especially to the consumers we are already serving to we want to ensure that the further growth is not harming the good relationship we have with them.
LL: What would be your average Indian customer like? How would you describe him/her?
JK: We have actually a variety of customers. There are those who are so to speak, established, they are expressing their connoisseurship and their status with the product with Montblanc, they express their sophistication and their expectations when it comes to luxury level. Then we have those who are with Montblanc very much showing their ambition so the first ones are very much expressing status and the other ones are very much expressing the performance attitude. They are on their way to further proceed and for them Montblanc is at the same time is the sign of that they are further progressing but at the same time it is also a tool for their progress be it the document case or a leather good or a watch where it is what so to speak is your equipment, stylish, sophisticated luxury equipment but equipment for their progression. So, it is really useful and functional at the same time it expresses sophistication and ambition..
LL: Speaking of customers our Prime Minister uses a Montblanc.
JK: in today’s world we are very much connected and the day he signed his documents accepting as the Prime Minister with the Montblanc, two hours later we got the picture at our HQ, so it’s very prominent and we were fully aware of that. I am happy to hear that he is consistently using it so we are very grateful for that.