Luxury watches at their finest: How Montblanc fits the bill
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Luxury watches at their finest: How Montblanc fits the bill

Luxury watches at their finest: How Montblanc fits the bill

Franck Juhel, president of Montblanc Middle East, India and Africa, tells Andrew Wingrove about the company’s offerings, including its portfolio of luxury watches

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Montblanc

You oversee a vast market that includes the Middle East, Africa, Turkey, Greece and India. How different are Montblanc customers in these markets?
Any customer is different irrespective of the market they are within. The beauty and challenge we face daily is that when a customer walks into any of our boutiques, we need to ensure that the service we offer that client is what they expect, and that it is also personalised. Very often the first luxury maison to enter a market is Montblanc.

We have a price range for our leather goods, watches and writing instruments that start [from a few hundred euros] and go right up to EUR2m for some writing instruments. Once the market that we enter is mature enough, we open a mono-brand boutique where we are able to display the entire collection and offer our full range of services including customisation, engraving or embossing.

What are some of the watch trends that you’ve observed in the markets you look after?
I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years now. Previously, every year we noticed a theme – say sports watches, and all the brands would showcase sports watch novelties. The next year would be classical watches, and everyone would present classic watches.

Today, we don’t have that anymore. If we look at the share of watch sales in our Dubai Mall boutique, for example, it is 50 per cent classic and 50 per cent sports watches. As a brand, you’re now challenged to work on both pillars all year long.

How do you strategise for the different pillars?
We have over 70 countries in the region, and Montblanc is present in 36 of them. Obviously, we can understand that the client in India is not the same as that in South Africa, Greece or Dubai. We need to localise our offerings, the architectural design of our boutiques, and even do limited editions for certain countries within the region.

We need to stay within the framework of the maison globally. A customer needs to find the same level of service irrespective if they are in Madison Avenue in New York, Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Dubai Mall or in the Kingdom Centre mall in Riyadh.

Watches and Wonders evolved from SIHH and brought with it new brands this year to the show. How has that changed for you at Montblanc?
The watch industry is one family the same way the automotive world is. It is not very different for us with the new brands coming to the show, but for our business or media partners, it does get more difficult for them to see those many more brands over the course of the week.

You’ve signed up the amazing Nims following his brilliant Project Possible and Netflix documentary. How involved was he in the development of the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen?
The timeframe to develop this watch was quite long, and he was not involved with it in the beginning. But later on, Nims got involved with the project and he is testing it in extreme real world weather conditions. His testing of the timepiece will ensure that what we are saying about this watch is not just marketing [talk].

The new 1858 GMT has a very novel way of showing the second timezone. Did you introduce the half-hour marker in response to one of your biggest markets, India?
We introduced it because it is a very practical function and not for the Indian market specifically.

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