An Exclusive Interview With Jérôme Lambert, CEO Montblanc International
After 17 years at Jaeger-LeCoultre, where he occupied the position of CEO from 2002, Jérôme Lambert was named CEO of Montblanc International in 2013. With headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, the company’s divisions include Montblanc Luxury Watches, Writing Instruments, Leather & Jewelry, Fragrances, and Eyewear.
We met for our morning interview in a suite on the 5th floor of the stately Meurice Hotel in Paris, overlooking the beautiful Tuileries Garden where the Montblanc Bohème Moongarden launch cocktail and dinner had taken place the night before. A room with a view, that visibly pleased CEO Lambert who took his own personal pictures of the park below at the end of our meeting.
He arrived a bit short of breath. Although still quite early in the day, he had just left an appointment on the ground floor and had decided to run up the stairs to meet me, not having had the time to fit in his morning run that he tries not to miss.
The first question is inevitable. After 17 years with Jaeger-LeCoultre, with the last 11 as CEO, he left in 2013 to become the CEO of Montblanc International. What was his mission?
His reply is clear and straightforward. “I arrived 2 years ago to bring the maison back to the forefront, not by changing it, or its DNA, but by bringing a new strategy where the key word is audacity. This audacity comes with new designs for watches and writing instruments, with a new retail concept for our boutiques such as the one just opened in Taipei, and new communications with our ambassadors Hugh Jackman and Charlotte Casiraghi who will be featured in our new campaign starting in September.”
Why Ms. Casiraghi? Lambert explains that he regularly visits the 500 Montblanc boutiques of which 270 are “own boutiques” in 120 countries, and always finds that having someone to incarnate our message creates a direct contact with our customers. “I want our message to be communicated in a way that is easy and clear for everyone. My message is incarnated through Charlotte, who symbolizes a modern, young lady who is creative, and respects family and tradition. And of course, she is nice, has a very nice presence, and the resonance of her name reinforces that.”
Charlotte Casiraghi is the granddaughter of the late Princess Grace of Monaco and Prince Rainier III; she had attended the event the previous evening. I asked Lambert about the new Montblanc Bohème Moongarden Collection, the significance of the name “Bohème” as a collection, and the relevance of a complication that tells us the names of the full moons of every month instead of simply telling us the month.
His answer was immediate. “Montblanc was first known for its writing instruments, so I think we have the right to tell a story about our products. Our Bohème line was already established for pens. Jewelry and watches followed, inspired by poetic elegance, by an active lady, who moves, who travels around the world, a lady with emotions, as in Puccini’s opera La Bohème. We had to reinvent a poetic complication for this special lady, and that is how we came up with Moongarden, that captures the seasons and the moon in its very name. The complication is totally in-house, made in our Villeret Manufacture, the maison’s Movement and Innovation Excellence Centre. As for the practicality of the complication (he smiles) I don’t think many men use their tachymeters and chronographs to calculate their own speed, or the speed of their cars.”
On a broader spectrum, he tells me that his markets are divided into three, with Asia taking the first third, followed by Europe, and then “the rest of the world.” Figures suddenly flow, although, being a Richemont Group company since 1993, many are excluded. What he could say was that as part of his goal to bring Montblanc back to the forefront, he intends to keep all the 160 watch references from the eight collections currently in the company, and build upon them – not in quantity but by adding substance into the existing collection. “We are cutting, for example, the variation of dials and materials, and will bring more movements, more functions, and more style. Today, we already have 30 different movements for 160 references, so it shows the variety and diversity of the proposal.” This diversity is reflected in prices that, encompassing all collections, range from 2,000 Euros to 250,000 Euros.
From the total number of watches sold, Lambert continues, “85% have automatic movements, with a slightly lower percentage for ladies models, hovering nevertheless at 80%. Thirty-five percent of Montblanc clients are ladies, and for watches, this is expected to increase with the introduction of new complications.”
Bestsellers today are the 39 mm Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Steel for men, the flagship piece of the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Collection, and the Bohème Automatic 30 mm steel with leather strap for ladies that combines the best of fine watchmaking with a distinctive feminine design.
And if, despite all the diversity, Lambert had to define the characteristics of a Montblanc timepiece? “Montblanc is driven by our passion to develop fine watchmaking. We have 2 manufactures in Switzerland – one in Le Locle and one in Villeret, and the whole strategy is about extracting the essence of Villeret to introduce it into all our watches. The essence is technical content, inventiveness, creativity, attention to details, tradition, and quality of craftsmanship.”
The Full Montblanc Bohème Moongarden Collection
Last march, we sat down with Jérôme Lambert, CEO of Montblanc International, to discuss Montblanc’s SIHH 2015 novelties. Make sure you don’t miss it!
Photo Credit: Haute Time. For more information, please visit the official Montblanc website. Follow Haute Time on Instagram to catch all of the new releases as they happen.