SUMMIT OF OPULENCE
Luxury goods brand Montblanc has reaffirmed its commitment to Africa by appointing a regional MD and launching a multiproduct range in Jo’burg
I’ve always been enamoured of the fountain pen. It’s a writing instrument that elicits a sensual pleasure and encourages an expression and unique style far removed from the mundanity of quickfire workplace emails and grocery lists.
Owned by South African billionaire Johann Rupert’s Richemont, Montblanc is one of the world’s leading brands of luxury writing instruments, watches, jewellery, leather goods, fragrances and eyewear made mostly in Germany and Switzerland. The company’s been credited with singlehandedly bringing the fountain pen back into fashion and remains one of an exclusive club of pen-makers that produces its pens – from nib to crown –in-house, at its Hamburg atelier.
Montblanc’s ultra-exclusive Great Characters range of writing instruments celebrates historical figures such as Avicenna, the Beatles, Hannibal,
King Ludwig II and Miles Davis.
The intricate design process can take up to a year, with a team of specialists – whose specially designed, one-off tools are immediately destroyed after production – applying more than a century of accumulated knowledge into turning these out. With price-tags of more than R500 000, you wouldn’t want to leave these pens on the counter at your local Postnet, but I imagine using them would make quite a statement – especially when coupled with a chequebook.
In addition to its trademark pens,
Montblanc showcased an extensive range of timepieces, jewellery and luggage offerings at its
Black & White Week. These include the military- styled 1858 watches and the painted calfskin leather extravanganza that is the Meisterstück Selection Sfumato luggage range.
To oversee African operations, Montblanc has appointed its first-ever regional MD, 20-year group veteran Alain dos Santos, whose most recent assignment was leading the Swiss company’s activities in Brazil.
“SA is the most important market on the continent for us. Our plan is to develop our activities in our four stand-alone boutiques and selected network of retailers and our ambition in the rest of the continent is to be closer to our partners and support their growth. We’re also on the lookout for new partnerships in countries where we don’t currently have a footprint,” says the Frenchman, who’s enjoying the beauty of SA after five years in the “concrete verticality” of São Paulo.
Dos Santos is excited about the new collection and expects it to do well on the continent. “I’m confident about the success of our new collection and have met commercial partners who are equally enthusiastic. We’ve launched the range in Johannesburg at the same time as other global centres like New York, London and Hong Kong. We’re a unique maison in the luxury segment, offering four strong pillars – writing instruments, watches, leather and luggage. We have no competition across the world for these ranges,” he says.
These are trying times for local consumers, what with VAT increases, fuel price hikes and economic headwinds, but Dos Santos is bullish about Montblanc’s prospects.
“We have over 110 years of history with unique Meisterstück products. We’ve seen many highs and lows over the course of our history. We’re a global brand and have never pulled out of any of our markets. We understand that we’ll face challenges, but we also know that there are economic cycles and that there’ll be better moments to come,” he says.