WorldTempus: What have your main priorities been since joining Montblanc?
Jérôme Lambert: One of my first priorities when I arrived at Montblanc was to understand the brand. This may sound trivial, but it takes take time to learn the customs, the operations at Le Locle and Villeret, to understand the history of Minerva and the strengths of the brand.
There was an important phase dedicated to assimilating the raison d’être of Montblanc, followed by a second phase that involved giving even greater coherence to watch assembly at Le Locle and Villeret and to give more meaning to the complementarity of the two locations.
In a third phase I wanted to lay down the main lines of development based on the fundamental principles of Montblanc, which are technology and innovation, but also adding more audacity.
You have one of the lowest return rates in the watch industry and yet you also have some of the most competitive watch prices. How do you reconcile these low prices with the superior quality?
Actually I would say that it is precisely because we have this high quality that we can offer such competitive prices. With a rate of return that is three times below average we have a certain amount of lee-way because we know we will have less quality-related costs throughout the entire value chain. We have the 500 hours test, which uses cutting-edge technology and which we plan to develop even further. Our current quality levels are the results of such tests.
I think a brand like Montblanc needs to offer even better value and take up a genuine role in the watchmaking landscape. If you look at the Orbis Terrarum and the way it works you can see that this has been a successful wager against our expertise. It costs less than 5,000 dollars but to find something similar at other brands you would be looking at in excess of 15,000.
To what extent are such competitive prices part of your strategy?
We never consider price, only value. A sum like 10,000 or 15,000 euros is not particularly cheap by any standards. We may have a perpetual calendar for 15,000 euros, but there are many watches you can buy for a lot less. So we consider value, which is part of the culture of Montblanc, particularly in terms of functional value and utility.
Was it easy to apply your experience from Jaeger-LeCoultre to your new position at Montblanc?
Yes and no. You develop an affinity for the management of collections, product cycles and launches and the like, which are common to all brands. But the first thing you need to do is learn and understand, particularly with additional product segments such as leather goods and writing instruments. At Montblanc I had to learn to the power of ten, because the leather goods segment runs on completely different cycles, with four cycles per year. For writing instruments it is about the same as for watches.
In a recent auction there were some vintage Minerva timepieces, some with enamel dials, that had a reserve price of just a thousand Swiss francs. Do you see potential to build on this fantastic heritage?
We are just starting and only last year presented the Pulsograph, putting the accent on the movement. I’ve seen from my experience at Jaeger-LeCoultre that as soon as you relaunch an historic model, the values of the vintage models can double. Minerva production was always very limited and the movements had excellent finishes. It is a great reservoir for future growth and I think there will be some pleasant surprises for collectors and those who buy such pieces.