Jerome Lambert is now the CEO of Montblanc. Do you recognize the name? If not you should. He was the former CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. In his ten year run as CEO, he took the wonderful brand (that I am a customer of) from a brand that was only “known by those who know,” to a front and center superstar. He took the best of the company (the incredible craftsmanship and technical acumen) and applied an aggressively youthful image, while introducing daring designs and even a partnership with Aston Martin. In a nutshell, Lambert helped Jaeger-LeCoultre realize its full potential – the products merely reflected that. In 2012 Ariel did an interesting video interview with Mr. Lambert during his time at Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The AMVOX DBS Transponder could actually open the door of your Aston Martin by pressing on the crystal. He pioneered connectivity between cars and “smart watches” long before anyone else did. It was truly visionary, and as an inventor holding wireless technology patents, I am very impressed by his work. During his reign he even super-sized the classic Reverso when he released the Squadra. He took a classic design, and brought it to the modern aesthetic for large cases.
Some say that Lambert is a man that is always ahead of the curve – especially in the watch industry. Again, it is the inventor in me speaking… I always admired his vision and his incredible drive. Clearly what Mr. Lambert did, was and is, a huge success. Now, the brand has the name recognition, and credit it deserves. I actually questioned if he ever slept. I saw him as a force to be reckoned with and even more so after our interview. First a bit about Montblanc itself. It was started in Hamburg, Germany in 1906. They still manufacture the pens there and in 2010 Ariel did a big look at how Montblanc makes pens here. The leather goods division of Montblanc actually began back in 1935 in the Offenback area of Germany, but is now located in Florence. Montblanc jewelry is unsurprisingly made in Paris, France. Of course the watches are made in various parts of Switzerland. The company has over 3,000 employees, 450 brand boutiques and is sold in over 5,000 stores around the world.
So, why CEO of Montblanc? Why now? Still today when many people think of Montblanc they imagine pens, and if you know their watches, clearly the Timewalker comes to mind. What else do they make?
Well there is a lot they make. Montblanc has two separate watch lines, and a third independent manufacture, Villeret. Additionally, they make briefcases, wallets, belts, ladies pocketbooks, cuff links, key rings, tie bars, money clips, men’s bracelets, men’s necklaces, men’s sunglasses, women’s sunglasses, men’s fragrances, women’s fragrances, women’s necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings with and without diamonds in 18k pink, yellow or white gold. Surprised? I was.
Now for a bit of historical context: Montblanc was founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1906. Surprised? I was. And, their corporate headquarters are still in Hamburg. The leather goods division (started in the Offenbach area in Germany in 1935) is now located in Florence, Italy, the watches in made in Switzerland and the jewelry division is in Paris, France. Shocking? Yes, but my point is the same as Mr. Lambert’s. He has an incredible range of products, from the world’s top sources. Montblanc has 3000 employees at 28 different subsidiaries, has over 450 boutiques and has 5000 points of sale in 70 countries. And, the parent company is Richemont. There is no downside, and mark my words, he will triumph. How can he not?
Mr. Lambert sees Montblanc as a “lifetime companion,” a “company that can take you from day to night, allowing you to discover the pleasures of the brand on a daily basis.” There is a “functionality of the brand, meaning you write with our pens, carry our wallet and briefcase, wear your Timewalker during the day and at night, you may put on your Nicolas Rieussec or Villeret watch.” What does all that mean? Well basically because Montblanc produces so many items, Lambert sees the possibility of living a “Montblanc lifestyle” with a range of their products at your side, giving you many options.
As a young man Mr. Lambert always admired Montblanc pens for their beauty and functionality, so his passion for the brand existed long ago. He saw a golden opportunity to “reveal the talents of the Maison” when he was chosen to take the reigns upon the retirement of former CEO (and nice guy) Mr. Lutz Bethge. Lambert feels that each item Montblanc produces allows the customer the “pleasure of discovery for the first time.” Surely if he were not a CEO, Jerome would be the world’s foremost romance novelist. The quotes sound poetic, and if taken out of context they may seem a bit odd. They are just the way Mr. Lambert expresses his total dedication and infatuation with the brand, and its potential that he wants so desperately to showcase. His mission, is to bring out the best of his very talented and capable team.
So, back to the watches, after all I am writing this for aBlogtoWatch.
The Timewalker series (aBlogtoWatch review) is in many ways the popular entry watch for Montblanc. A watch that goes from day to night, and sport to office, it has proven quite versatile in its almost decade of life. Some of the movements in Timewalker watches are from ETA, and some are made with in-house Montblanc movements (made in Le Locle). For many it is a true luxury sports watch.
Then there is the Nicolas Rieussec series of watches (aBlogtoWatch review here). This line consists of the first in-house mechanical movements made in the company’s manufacture in Le Locle. They are inspired by the man who formerly got the credit for inventing the chronograph movement. As an inventor, I must stick up for fellow inventor, Louis Moinet who later turned out to release a chronograph that pre-dated Rieussec’s. The discovery came after the brand came out with the Nicolas Rieussec, so the error was due to a new discovery. I have always had an issue with the term “Chronograph.” The true definition of the modern “Chronograph” is that it is a Chronoscope. “Chrono” comes from the Greek word for time, “chronos.” ”Graph” means to write, which some of the early ones did. However, they no longer do. If you add a touch of humor, the Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph makes perfect sense. If you hold a Montblanc pen in your hand, then you truly have a “chrono” and a “graph.” Montblanc has cleverly used the inspiration from Nicolas Rieussec’s chronograph by using two faces at the bottom of the watch, like his did, and having the two discs that record the time move, while the “pen tipped markers”stay upright.
At the very top of the collection is Montblanc Villeret. This is the ultra-high end Maison, that produces astonishingly beautiful and complex watches. Made entirely in-house at what was formerly the location of historic watch brand Minerva, Montblanc Villeret only makes about fifty watches per year…yes fifty. I have held two, and was very impressed, as was Ariel, who visited the manufacture a few years ago. I even love the sense of humor that the brand has. Please look for the “devil’s tail” in Ariel’s photo in his hands-on look at the Montblanc Villeret 1858 ExoTourbillon Chronograph watch.
So, what does Montblanc have in store for the future? If past experience is the best predictor of future behavior, then it will be my pleasure to watch Montblanc become become a dominant player in every category. Mr. Lambert sees the talent the house has, the diversity of offerings, and knows that the brand is readily available to consumers whether they are on Madison Avenue or at the Airport. Montblanc luxury can be obtained with a simple pen, or a $200,224 Villeret. I am proud to say “I knew Montblanc back when it was just a simple pen maker.” Lambert has a huge responsibility but also the power of what is probably the largest brand under the Richemont Group umbrella. montblanc.com