15 minutes With: Laurent LeCamp, MD, Montblanc Watch Division, on building the brand’s 2023 timepieces

From the Zero Oxygen timepieces to Minerva’s expertise, we get in a quick chat on Montblanc’s novelties for the year with Laurent Lecamp
Since Laurent Lecamp joined Montblanc nearly two and a half years ago, his goal has been to bring a new direction to the brand’s timepieces, reducing novelties, and focusing on key products. With that in mind, he introduced the Iced Sea collection last year – already the brand’s biggest seller ever – and along with the Zero Oxygen line, inspired by the mountaineering feats of Reinhold Messner and Nimsdai Purja, both of whom have scaled Mount Everest and without supplemental oxygen. Both lines, along with the Minerva timepieces, have been developed further for 2023.

WatchTime India sat down with Lecamp to understand more about the novelties of the year, and how they were developed. 

WatchTime India: What do you think about the curation of this year’s pieces? 
Laurent Lecamp: The Iced Sea has become a best-seller – the best since the brand existed. We have never faced such huge success [with a collection]. And it’s one year old. This is the best growth ever by Montblanc. It’s booming. 

The idea was to be inspired by the Montblanc logo, developed in 1913, depicting the Montblanc mountain and the six glaciers around it. I went to that place, and sat on the Montblanc glacier, just to understand why this emblem was created. And while sitting, I saw the ice. It looked beautiful, and I took a picture of it. I came back, and with my team went to a supplier and said that I want this as the dial. The supplier said it was impossible. The thickness of the glacier is so big, and here you have barely depth. After many months and a huge investment, we managed to create this unique dial. 

This year, the texture is stronger, and different now. But every time we develop something, it is based on the concept of the glacier on the Montblanc. If you go to the Chamonix, you will see the exact same colour as the glacier. 

There is another story behind this: The name has now changed (laughs). It’s Iced Tea. More than 50 per cent of the customers are asking for the ‘Iced Tea’. It’s a game-changer. They say you have green and blue and black - it’s a nickname. And customers say, there is a famous brand with the Pepsi, and now we have the Iced Tea. I love it!

WTI: Zero Oxygen is also an incredible concept and it launched last year. How has that performed?
LL: We launched it last year, with two pieces. The first watch, dedicated to Nimsdai [Purja] sold out, the second came in September-October, and sold out as well. It was a major success, so this year we are coming out with four additional watches with zero oxygen inside, because the concept is strong and connected to Montblanc.

Reinhold Messner was climbing without oxygen, so the idea was how can we connect Reinhold Messner to zero oxygen. Nicolas Baretzki [CEO Montblanc] met Reinhold Messner, and when I met him, I asked if he could climb Everest without oxygen again, and he said he was too old for it. But he could tell me who could do it – Nimsdai. So, to connect the watch with his experience – he was the first to climb Everest without oxygen - we removed the oxygen from inside the watch. We developed a chamber at our atelier in Le Locle, and are assembling watches in a zero-oxygen environment. When you remove the oxygen from inside the watch, you have components that will last longer, there is no humidity and low oxidation. So, the watch lasts longer. There is a connection with Reinhold Messner, but there is a technical aspect as well, an innovative one.

WTI: Are Mr Messner and Nimsdai involved in the watches? 
LL: Oh yes. With snow and ice and air, the timepieces are connected to the mountains. It is a full titanium for the Nimsdai edition and steel for the others. And the back is inspired by Nimsdai himself, who, on his back, has a tattoo of the 14 highest peaks in the world. So, on the left of the caseback, you have the names of the mountains, on the right the altitudes, and on the bottom the flags of the people climbing the mountains. There are five colours – always in the same order – blue, white, red, green, yellow. And it is achieved with the oxidation of titanium. You make the depth, and the contour, and then oxidise it with laser. Montblanc is the only brand doing it and we need hundreds of hours to do it. As a result, even after 20 years, the colours on the caseback will remain the same. 

WTI: So the glacier dials are set to become a mainstay at Montblanc? 
LL: Absolutely. It is 100 per cent clear that in the years to come you will see more glaciers. We have the concept now. My goal was to find something in the past of the brand to develop for the future. 

WTI: What was the thinking behind developing the Minerva timepieces this year? 
LL: When I joined the company, I read a lot of books about Minerva and the company. The more I learnt, the more I became a big fan, and I found in one book, the products developed in the 20s and 30s, with a fluted bezel. And these bezels were used in pilot’s watches. It was clear to me that I wanted to develop something strong for Minerva, because Minerva was not so recognisable. So I decided to put the fluted bezels of the past on the watches of Minerva because there was legitimacy. While doing this, last year was one of the best sales for me. After Watches and Wonders 2022, about 85-86 per cent was sold out in 12 months. 

WTI: So how did you develop the 2023 Minerva pieces? 
LL: My idea was also to keep it as development for the future, not just with design, but with function as well. So that is what we managed to do this year. On the caseback of the Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva, you will find the movement that is 100 years old, made by the team. In blue are the key dates of Minerva. The watch is in steel, while the bezel is in white gold, and the dial is blue. There is a also version in limegold. Minerva was known for their chronograph monopushers in the past, and we are back in that world. It was the best company that did this. Minerva has developed 1/10th of a second, 1/100th of a second. I have customers calling me to book the watch who hadn’t seen it. 

WTI: Challenges to this?
LL: In the Secret Minerva Monopusher Chronograph, it was the distressed steel for the case. For the Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva, everything is inside the bezel. It’s not just you push and turn, but the entire mechanism is inside the bezel. Everything was 100 per cent developed in Minerva. Today, Minerva can compete with all the key names in this industry. 

Images: Courtesy Montblanc

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