Montblanc Interview with Laurent Lecamp
Appointed in January 2021, the CEO of Montblanc’s watch division talks about the virtue of the domino effect
How did you perceive Montblanc watches before taking this new position?
Like many people in the watch industry, no doubt, I saw Montblanc watches as one of the brands belonging to the Richemont Group, which for over 15 years now, has a fully-fledged manufacture in Villeret that was formerly known as Minerva. I didn’t know much more, although I was aware of its different price positioning that ranged from the entry-level to the very high-end of watchmaking, including also the mid-range.
Has this perception changed over the last two months?
My perception has radically changed, especially after visiting the Villeret Manufacture, which was really impressive. I was blown away by the exceptional level of know-how and the commitment of the employees there. Everyone knows the story of Mr. Yvan Burquin, for example, who worked at the manufacture for 58 years, and whose father also worked there before him and even lived in an apartment in the building! During my visit I also discovered a machine that I had never seen before. It is used to carry out a shell-shaped diamond polishing, a rare finishing technique that is mastered by only a few manufacturers. The machine is operated by Sandra Paoli, who has been using it for 18 years and who is perpetuating the tradition of our horological ancestors by working mornings in the manufacture and spending her afternoons working on a farm. I started to realize how Montblanc watches are based on a long history, passionate people, and an exceptional level of craftsmanship. The brand benefits from a domino effect, starting with the incredible expertise at the top of the pyramid of timepieces that trickles down to the more accessible collections. It is a question of education. This quest for excellence is carried out across all segments and its influence goes from the top to the bottom.
Laurent Lecamp © Montblanc
What is your favourite model to date?
My heart is torn between two models. I’m wearing a Heritage Pulsograph model that I love for its movement, which features the famous Minerva arrow on the chronograph’s blocker. It also has a signature V-shaped bridge that was registered in 1912 and inspired by the shape of the mountains in front of Villeret. In a completely different style, I really like the Geosphere from the 1858 collection, with its system of rotating globes that indicate the hours in the northern and southern hemispheres. It has eight points representing the seven highest mountains in the world, plus the Mont Blanc mountain. I find this historical link very relevant and fully agree with the choice of the collection’s ambassador, the legendary mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who has conquered the fourteen highest peaks and climbed Everest without oxygen.
1858 Geosphere © Montblanc
How do you combine very affordable entry-level products with grand complications, without confusing the end consumer?
For the majority of people, luxury is based on image. When a brand makes watches at 250,000 Euros, where each component is handmade and each watch is assembled from A-Z by the same watchmaker, like in the olden days of watchmaking, then it is equally impressive when it can offer watches at 2,000 Euros. In my previous career, I travelled to almost 70 countries to sell watches. Everywhere I went I noticed that customers make choices based on the price they are willing to spend and the subjective value that they feel this or that brand’s timepieces are worth. This perceived value influences the amount of a purchase whether at the high or low end. Montblanc’s value for money ratio is recognized by customers worldwide, and this is thanks to our watchmaking legitimacy.
What mission have you been entrusted with?
Montblanc recruited me for my dual experience, both entrepreneurial, as co-founder of the high-end watch brand Cyrus and the creation of its manufacture, but also as a member of the management of Carl F. Bucherer, a German-speaking company within the large Bucherer group. Since Montblanc’s world headquarters are in Hamburg, the brand belongs to the Richemont group, and the watchmaking division is based in Le Locle, it is important to be able to adapt to these two different cultures. Respect for the structure is very important, while also not curtailing the entrepreneurial spirit of Montblanc watches. What is important to me is to communicate with the teams, involve the employees, listen to them, and help them develop their ideas so that they can give the best of themselves. I felt their willingness to share and I really like this approach. I am also very grateful for the welcome I received and their enthusiasm. My goal is to set up a more proactive commercial strategy by introducing new concepts while using existing tools which have already proven to be very effective. Today, brands are looking to differentiate themselves and Montblanc can also achieve this by strengthening its foundations differently and by maximizing them
As an endurance athlete, what would you wear?
I have set off on a long marathon for sure, and I am looking forward to it! But to get back to running, I am preparing for a marathon in the North Pole where temperatures can drop to -50oC, and I would love to take a mechanical timepiece like the Geosphere with me. It is a great piece and maybe it will have a unique new function by then!
What can we expect from Montblanc at the upcoming Watches & Wonders?
Montblanc fans will be presented with a range of novelties in all categories, including the very high-end, and of course, there will be a very interesting new Geosphere with a new concept. To illustrate the diversity of our know-how, we will also present an anniversary piece for the 200th anniversary of the inking chronograph, patented by Nicolas Rieussec. In addition to this, the Heritage collection will be enriched with a tribute piece with a Minerva Pythagoras movement that we have reinterpreted.
Montblanc Heritage Small Second Limited Edition 38 © Montblanc
Few people know this, but on the fourth floor of the Minerva factory is a museum containing more than a thousand watches, bracelets, and pocket watches, which represent an inexhaustible source of creations and inspirations. For example, to pay tribute to Minerva’s origins, we are presenting a limited series called Origins, consisting of 100 single-pusher chronographs based on a 1930s model that strongly influenced the Montblanc 1858 collection. Its officer-type case retains the original size of 46mm, but we have interpreted it in a special bronze alloy and included a titanium caseback with an engraving of the goddess Minerva, that has been achieved using a very special technique. We can also expect a breakthrough from Montblanc in terms of the mastery of special alloys.
Synonymous with excellence in craftsmanship and design, Montblanc has been pushing the boundaries of innovation ever since the Maison first revolutionized the culture of writing in 1906.Find out more >
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