Montblanc Writing New Chapter as Luxe Brand

Montblanc wants its iconic writing instruments to become more exclusive, as a means of accelerating its long-term evolution into a broader luxury goods brand.

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Montblanc diamond earrings.

Photo By WWD Staff

Montblanc wants its iconic writing instruments to become more exclusive, as a means of accelerating its long-term evolution into a broader luxury goods brand.

The Hamburg, Germany-based firm, owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont, is toning down its mall-store presence and midlevel-priced pen offerings, closing some of its 44 stores in the U.S. and building new ones that will showcase its latest timepieces, pens and accessories in a lavish, boutiquelike setting. Montblanc's goal is to keep or build a total of 21 stores in key U.S. luxury markets.

A 3,000-square-foot Montblanc outpost bowed last month in Las Vegas, and locations slated for a spring opening include New York's Westchester County, Chicago and King of Prussia, Pa. All new stores will also showcase the firm's $200-to-$2,000 silver jewelry line and the one-year-old fine jewelry collection, where prices range from $700 for a yellow gold ring to $5 million for the Lumiere Pendant, a necklace featuring 378 carats of diamonds with a 12-carat stone at the center.

The precious jewelry houses the Montblanc Diamond cut — a patented shape identical to the firm's signature white snowflake carved in its pens. The pieces have been worn by Lucy Liu and Andie MacDowell at such events as the Grammy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival.

As for the brand's classic pens, the firm is slowly raising their $300 price tag to $500 to $1,000, and using more expensive materials, including gold and platinum. The goal is for every pen to eventually become a collector's item.

Jan-Patrick Schmitz, president and chief executive officer of Montblanc North America, said the expanded product range, which includes fragrances and men's and women's handbags and small leather goods, will help the firm transition in the next five to eight years from a writing instrument leader to a luxury lifestyle firm. In that same time, he expects nonwriting accessories to grow to 60 to 70 percent of the brand's business from 50 percent currently.

Schmitz feels launching fine jewelry is an obvious step, as Montblanc also produces collectors' pens made of rubies, diamonds and other precious stones that can retail for up to $755,000.

"If you look at our brand as a whole, we have a 101-year history," Schmitz said. "And we have a long history in dealing with jewels in terms of precious stones and in terms of watches and writing tools. So this is nothing new to us in crafting precious product. But now, it is ladies jewelry, as opposed to precious jewelry that writes."
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