We’re in Switzerland quite often – according to my wife, who keeps track, I’ve spent a quarter of last year in the land of watchmaking. Whether for the videos that we make, or events organised by watch brands, or manufacture visits, or the GPHG award night, it always means you’re meeting a lot of people from the watch industry and the opportunity of running into friends. Recently I met with my good friend Davide Cerrato, Managing Director Of Montblanc Watch Division, and we talked about how things are at Montblanc, what’s going to happen at Goodwood and more.
Here’s a recap of the talk we had, just outside the EPHJ, seated on a bench in the sun. The weather was great, birds were singing and it was nice to run into Davide and have the opportunity to get an update of how things have been going since we last saw one another in January at the SIHH (in this video interview).
Frank Geelen (FG): In January, Montblanc presented its newest watch collection at the SIHH. How are things now, almost half a year later, and what’s happening?
Davide Cerrato (DC): We’ve started distributing the new watches, including the new 1858 models, to retailers and our own boutiques, which is always a great moment. During the SIHH we had great feedback on the Geospheres. We received messages from collectors from around the world that they registered for this model at one of the boutiques, or made a down payment at a point of sale. It was really good to see that both the steel and the bronze Geospheres were very popular.
We also had great feedback on the cal. 13.21 Monopusher, because of that striking green gradient dial, the case size of 40mm and of course the sublime movement. After three executions of the 16.29 Monopusher, which always came in the 44mm case, this 40mm with the calibre 13.21 is a perfect watch for men with a smaller wrist, women, but also for people who love vintage watches.
It is, by the way, the second time in recent years that we use this 13.21 calibre, and it great to be able to use such calibres that are a showcase of Minerva’s history.
FG: The collection seems to be split, and focusing on two different type of clients.
DC: Yes, we still have to develop awareness around our watchmaking skills, and the 1858 collection, allows us to speak to everyone who likes watches. I think our offer in this collection is very strong: the level of details, of finishing, of colours, of materials used, so we’re giving a lot of pleasure, although prices remain very affordable! You have this through the entire line, from the automatic 3-hander in steel or bronze, which start at CHF 2,500, up to the Monopusher.
We’re offering a wide selection of straps, like, for instance, the cognac aged-leather strap, there are new NATO straps, which are crafted in the East of France, in St. Etienne, there are bund straps and the two exploration pocket watches that are really the toys for boys come on a big strap so you can wear it on the forearm. These Rallytimers are marvellous and come with beautiful stone dials, the beautiful calibre 16.29 chronograph monopusher movement inside, and even a compass.
I really think this line gets the ‘zeitgeist’ of what people like today; a strong push toward outdoor activity, staying outside, getting a bit of an adventurous feeling with a beautiful stylish vintage object that can follow you in your (small) adventures here and there. Very strong!
FG: What are the best sellers in the current collection?
DC: The Timewalker is very strong, in particular, chronograph models. Also, the Rallytimer received a very warm welcome from customers, as it offers so much. You can wear it on the wrist, use it as a desk clock or even on the dashboard of a car. It sold out quickly.
FG: Do you plan a new piece for the partnership with Goodwood Festival of Speed?
DC: Absolutely! There will be a new version of the Timewalker Panda with so-called ‘tropical colours’; of course a limited edition and it comes with our new in-house chronograph movement. We will start distributing the Timewalker “Newman-esque” panda as of July, which is going to work very well. The in-house movement is very important, as it changes the perception of the watch for people. Although it’s a bit more expensive than the automatic 3-hander, still priced at CHF 4,990 and that’s very good with an in-house chronograph movement.
FG: With in-house movement, you probably mean proprietary, made in Val Fleurier (Richemont’s group manufacturing facility). Is this movement also used by some other brands in the (Richemont) group?
DC: Yes indeed, it’s also used by other brands in the group, very nice ones. The good thing is that we have been developing a strong, reliable, and robust movement. We have given a lot of attention to the manipulation via the crown. It feels very good when setting or winding the watch, and the experience is of a quality movement. The movement feels sophisticated, great ergonomy, great feeling when setting, the precision and other characteristics are very much focus points.
FG: What was the best thing, work-wise, that happened to you in the past half year?
DC: The Geospheres raised a lot of interest and there are even waiting lists at some points of sale or boutiques, and that’s a very good sign. The first time that people put money on the table before seeing the watch. I follow the comments, especially on Instagram, and when I posted pictures of the Geospheres, people commented that they already made down payments.
FG: How about the different markets?
DC: Historically, Montblanc is strong in Asia where we have a big network. We’re also strong in the US and South America (again, historically strong). Europe is growing, despite the fact that the Euro is very strong and that proves to be a huge challenge. What surprised me is that in Asia the 42mm models seem to have become more popular. Usually, clients in that region are more focused on smaller models, so again good news. The new Rieussec, for instance, gained a lot of attention in the US where we’re getting a lot of positive response on this watch. In the coming years there will be more variations, different colours, but always keeping the two discs.