Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc, understanding the new world of luxury

Hamburg, Germany – Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc has achieved strategy and product, order and innovation, adaptation and vision, as well as the congruence of valuing the past and legacy of his home. At the same time, he sees the horizon of innovation and creativity, craftsmanship and is evident at the top of technology.

The man who runs Montblanc through one of the most complicated years for the luxury and travel industry opened the doors of his house to chat with Watches World via videoconference.

Montblanc, collections of exceptional value

With a perfectly ordered collection, strategically inspired and developed through the weighty values and stories of its Minerva Manufacture, all collections take on an exceptional value in their different executions in materials, colors and scales. From a 24-hour watch to a highly complex steel and titanium bracelet, his watches today speak accurately of his great execution. Dressed in unprecedented blue for its range of patina or natural fiber straps, the style that continues to consolidate the House as one of the most widely used watchmakers in the world, with the section on doing what haute horlogerie allows its customers to do. more exclusive movements where we have even had the pleasure of seeing how they make a spiral or carve each of their pieces by hand.

Today in its watchmaking part Minerva and Le Locle are fully integrated. Its two manufactures speak the same watchmaking language, the strategy has paid off. In his other specialties we discovered his union in fountain pens with one of the great stories of our country with the Moctezuma pen, carried out through many years of research, developing the idea in conjunction with historians of the country and government agencies, in order to deliver a unique item. In the avant-garde scene, followed by its Summit connected watch, it now features one of the best hearing aids on the market. Both in finishes and materials as well as in sound, without a doubt, a great addition to that client for whom luxury is not only wearing and showing, but living and enjoying moments and experiences.

Facing new challenges

Thank you for receiving the video call at home, how do you spend this quarantine time?

NB: You know, tough times. But tough times also offer a good opportunity. Until recently, almost all countries were closed (at the time of the interview, Europe was beginning a gradual opening of the 2020 quarantine).

The challenge is taking care of your staff and maintaining communication with key customers. We work a lot through live broadcasts and videoconferences. Now, we are seeing Europe reopen, slowly but surely. Our hope is that the Americas, as a whole, will follow the same path. What happens in Mexico? Until when will the containment measures be maintained?

Facing new challenges

Thank you for receiving the video call at home, how do you spend this quarantine time?

NB: You know, tough times. But tough times also offer a good opportunity. Until recently, almost all countries were closed (at the time of the interview, Europe was beginning a gradual opening of the 2020 quarantine).

The challenge is taking care of your staff and maintaining communication with key customers. We work a lot through live broadcasts and videoconferences. Now, we are seeing Europe reopen, slowly but surely. Our hope is that the Americas, as a whole, will follow the same path. What happens in Mexico? Until when will the containment measures be maintained?

How did Montblanc do in 2019?

NB: For Montblanc, 2019 was a very interesting year. We have been in a transition from distribution to being a virtual brand, connecting with customers. We have worked on many projects that are actually just starting now. A new approach to marketing automation, lots of product innovations, it was very intense. Until January of this year, it had been a very good period.

WW: After 2020, this quarantine, have you reconsidered any of the goals for this year and 2021?

NB: Without a doubt. One of the things we have learned is that we have to be very agile. When you think about quarantine, in a matter of 24 hours you have to completely modify the way you work, implement the work via home office. In a matter of days, you realize that you can be very efficient. There are some projects that we decided to postpone, because at the moment it does not make sense to carry out everything we had planned. If the market opens in July, then we will only have 9 months of this year.

I don’t want to force 12-month projects into a 9-month period. There will be no big events. We have the digital platform. We had a great event with the VIPs, which we organized through the live broadcasts. Between some good stories and some bottles of wine, we present some beautiful pieces, some high-end watches. We are also creating this community, we keep it alive, which I consider crucial. What gives meaning to everything is this feeling of family that we have at Montblanc.

In any case, the big launch still stands. The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere with a blue dial is a completely new collection. We have Moctezuma’s presentation, which perhaps makes even more sense to you in Mexico.

Geosphere Titanium

Nicolas Baretzki thinks ahead

Returning to quarantine, I think we work more while at home. We start earlier in the morning, we finish later. We don’t have breaks. It offers you the opportunity and the time to think about the future. Now we have to think about what should be adjusted, how can we restart, what the world will be like in 2021, 2022. It is a very exciting time.

WW: What would the changes in the luxury industry look like after what is happening in the world?

NB: I can’t say that after a couple of weeks I already know everything. But certain elements are emerging. First, I believe that the luxury industry is going to benefit from this situation. The maisons that are characterized by their craftsmanship, their heritage, that have this content and values, are going to benefit a lot. I think the world will have more sensitivity towards these types of maisons. They are going to focus more on these characteristics, instead of pure fashion. I think style is going to be very important, prevailing over pure fashion.

Certain habits will continue. There are people who say that we will continue with the home office forever, permanently. Also, we shop in completely different ways these days. I think this will continue to a certain degree. I believe that the digital experience and e-commerce will continue to flourish.

I see that people travel less, but continue to travel in particular from home to office and back. A new understanding of this world will generate new needs. I believe that the home office certainly has a place in the new luxury industry.

There are many things we can anticipate. Relationships, community are extremely important. And certain aspects are going to accelerate, such as online commerce, such as sustainability. But these aspects had already been present before. They are only going to be more marked in the near future.

The Minerva and Le Locle integration

WW: Let’s talk about the clocks. Are you satisfied with the integration between Minerva and Le Locle? We have seen this year’s collection, its logic is established.

NB: My answer has been the same for the last three years. More than satisfied, I think it was something crucial. Montblanc’s strategy has always been the same. If you go into a segment, you do it from a vertical, integrated perspective. We are not opportunists. The watchmaking side and the legitimacy of Montblanc definitely have their roots in Minerva. When we say “Minerva is Montblanc and Montblanc is Minerva”, they are not just words, it is a reality.

Second, each collection comes from Minerva, from her history. Minerva has had her presence for over 160 years, she lived through different eras, some more classic, more military, more vintage, more sophisticated. But without a doubt, she provides a lot of inspiration and we used her to create the story of each line.

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For me personally, Minerva is a great opportunity to play with the legacy, with the design, with specific dials, the style of the watches. Finally, Minerva is the culmination, it is an exceptional expression of a category of luxury watch collections.

To return to your question, Le Locle and Minerva are a team today. If you remember, before it used to be two different entities, two different collections. Today, it is the only approach. We have the 1858 collection, and then you have this beautiful Chrono Monopusher, with the Minerva movement, this blue dial, etc. I truly believe that it is one of the most beautiful pieces that we have in our collections. Additionally, we have these exceptional pieces that are the result of internal development, such as the Geosphere, which is one of the most recognized. A central identity, part of this aggressive positioning, with few complications, which are more like pieces of Le Locle. One entry price segment from each collection, so I would imagine that many customers would enter Montblanc through this segment.The Minerva and Le Locle integration

WW: Let’s talk about the clocks. Are you satisfied with the integration between Minerva and Le Locle? We have seen this year’s collection, its logic is established.

NB: My answer has been the same for the last three years. More than satisfied, I think it was something crucial. Montblanc’s strategy has always been the same. If you go into a segment, you do it from a vertical, integrated perspective. We are not opportunists. The watchmaking side and the legitimacy of Montblanc definitely have their roots in Minerva. When we say “Minerva is Montblanc and Montblanc is Minerva”, they are not just words, it is a reality.

Second, each collection comes from Minerva, from her history. Minerva has had her presence for over 160 years, she lived through different eras, some more classic, more military, more vintage, more sophisticated. But it certainly provides a lot of inspiration and we used it to create the story for each line.

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For me personally, Minerva is a great opportunity to play with the legacy, with the design, with specific dials, the style of the watches. Finally, Minerva is the culmination, it is an exceptional expression of a category of luxury watch collections.

To return to your question, Le Locle and Minerva are a team today. If you remember, before it used to be two different entities, two different collections. Today, it is the only approach. We have the 1858 collection, and then you have this beautiful Chrono Monopusher, with the Minerva movement, this blue dial, etc. I truly believe that it is one of the most beautiful pieces that we have in our collections. Additionally, we have these exceptional pieces that are the result of internal development, such as the Geosphere, which is one of the most recognized. A central identity, part of this aggressive positioning, with few complications, which are more like pieces of Le Locle. An entry price segment from each collection, so I would imagine that many customers would enter Montblanc through this segment.

1858 Monopusher Chronograph

So a unique identity is created that is the expression of Montblanc. Hope you never got a different answer to your question.

WW: This year is when Minerva is most integrated into the collection. Speaking of this year’s collection: we have seen blue, the forest, the ice blue mountains. Is there a next color or logic in the 1858 product line?

NB: Innovation is a big part of Montblanc. In everything we do, not just watches. Blue is obvious, it is going to stay as a permanent collection. The green collection was the limited edition, it was not a permanent collection. The idea was to work with different statements. First, we work on different materials. For example, it was very difficult to develop this watch band, something extremely difficult and important. This bracelet is amazing. When you see this piece in metal color, with satin titanium tint, it creates a completely different watch when you wear it. In my opinion, it was as important as integrating this blue color.

This year, our purpose is to create this sense of alignment. We are doing it because we believe that 1858, without a doubt, is going to become an iconic line.

WW: Is anything being worked on 1858 under the sea?

NB: I think you have to stay in your own territory. Every time you try to be opportunistic, you lose your customers. Montblanc is known for its innovation, its engineering, but we are also known for this segment that is more dedicated to mountaineering, exploration, not the element of water at all. If I can think of a diver’s watch tomorrow, that’s good, we can do it. But what is the logic with the brand? I believe we must stay where we are legitimate, where we are loyal to the brand. The classic, the sophisticated, the vintage, yes. Life abroad, Minerva’s military expression, no doubt. Everything that is part of measuring time, Chronograph, which comes from Minerva, of course. Every story begins with Minerva, so we have enough ideas in these 160 years that we can use, without trying to enter a territory that is not our scope.

Montblanc Heritage Monopusher Chrono

WW: Timewalker. The sponsorship with the Goodwood.

NB: We do not leave aside the Goodwood thing. We hope the Duke of Richmond will organize it. Obviously it will not happen in July, it is impossible. I think it was a great platform for Timewalker, in this racing car context, in the Minerva story. Last year Timewalker was a huge success. Without a doubt, it is a segment that belongs to Montblanc.

Montblanc’s strategy

At the same time, my key strategy is to reduce the number of collections, to concentrate them more. We have many products, we are very creative, but it is good to be able to identify what is good for the brand, how to use it. At the same time, it is very important to be able to focus on very specific collections, which your clients understand and can support. In a way, we are implementing it in Star Legacy. But at least we can be much clearer. We have enough collections, products that work. It also makes it easier for our customers.

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Star Legacy.

WW: I would like to talk about two very important products, the Moctezuma pen and Montblanc creating hearing aids …

NB: We have seen many reviews, especially in the United States, in specialized magazines. I was very impressed when people said that they are one of the best hearing aids, that the sound is incredible, the technology is state of the art. As always in Montblanc, the latest technology is used, with this touch of Montblanc, with the approach of leather. You know, when we talk about the home office, I actually hope that a lot of people are going to use these headphones at home. It is actually an amazing product. I think it was beyond a commercial success.

From another perspective, it is very refreshing to have this new product that offers more legitimacy to our new high-tech segment, when we enter a new segment and immediately customers tell us how amazing the piece we have created is. It is not just a gadget, it is a luxury product, it is a product of internal creation and of a specific internal approach.

And in writing instruments …

Montblanc Moctezuma.

Moctezuma is a writing instrument from a very important collection “Patron of the Arts”. It is a very interesting project that we had started at least three years before launch. A very interesting design concept and methodology.

At the very beginning, the design team spends two weeks studying everything about the concept, seeking to understand which elements are important, and how we can translate the main points of the theme into an artistic design.

It is a long process, and highly technical, because you enter new developments, new materials, new techniques, which require very intensive work. Then comes the cultural part, with the opportunities to discover new things. If we do Moctezuma, then we return to Mexican culture, strong cultural and design themes.

Montblanc Patron of Art Moctezuma Limited Edition 8If we see this piece it is very impressive, I think it is more than a tribute to a fascinating culture of Latin America. I think it also has to do with how Moctezuma’s cultural achievements are brought to life. I must admit, it has been a challenge. The piece is very heavy.

The production process is very complex, but the way it was made is fantastic. It also gave us the opportunity to interact with the Mexican government, to make sure that we were respecting the culture, and that we were doing it correctly. This way we better connect with the Mexican community of collectors. I am very proud of this project.

WW: Where are you physically, now in quarantine?

NB: In Hamburg, Germany, near our headquarters, in fact, I go there 2-3 times a week to be in contact with some people who are still in the offices. Anyway, for now, you can’t travel in Germany. Otherwise, you would be quarantined when you return. So I’ve been here for the last two months.

WW: Thank you very much, for opening time in your agenda for all the printed and digital audience of Watches World, we hope to see you soon in Mexico.

NB: I hope the next time we meet will be in mid-September-October.

Special thanks: To Nicolas Baretzki from his home, together with his press team for organizing a memorable videoconference talk. A scene that marks an era and a strong step in the year 2020 in the world.

A scene that, although divided into pictures, was united in ideas and concepts, a talk that allowed the afternoon light to hit his face in Germany, like the morning light entering through the window in Mexico City, as symbols that there will always be how to meet, live, share and look forward. Thanks to him and Montblanc.

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