Interview: Montblanc MD, Watch Division, Laurent Lecamp on the Watches & Wonders 2024 novelties

The new releases highlight a commitment to the development of both the Iced Sea and 0 Oxygen concepts
For 2024, Montblanc has reaffirmed its commitment to the Iced Sea dials and the 0 Oxygen concept, both which are now cornerstones is the brand’s offerings. To add another layer to these, Montblanc has innovated both with the technical and material, bringing alive a diving timepiece and a watch in a hitherto unseen material. Additionally, the brand has also unveiled a Minerva novelty that highlights how it is strengthening its specialised timepieces that leverage the Minerva manufacture’s wealth of watchmaking. 

Montblanc Unveiled Minerva Monopusher Chronograph

We spoke to Laurent Lecamp, MD, Watch Division, on the idea and development of the Watches and Wonders 2024 novelties. 

WatchTime India: Was there a specific idea or theme that you wanted to execute for 2024?
Laurent Lecamp: The concept is simple – I believe that a brand has to be consistent, and consistency will create success. Every year we cannot make something out of the box, forgetting what has been developed previously. All the references that we have developed since I joined the company are still active references. So while we have new Iced Sea models, all the ones since the collection was launched in 2022 are still active. The idea is that we keep the example given by the Iced Sea, but go deeper into the process, like what are the colours of the glaciers that we can use, what can be improved - the innovations, the bracelet or the bezel for water resistance. So the concept was launched two years ago with the Iced Sea and 0 Oxygen, and now we are diving deeper into these two. 

Montblanc Iced Sea 0 Oxygen Deep 4810

Minerva is the same. We have launched a reverse movement, which will be a trend for the coming years. It is the first chronograph monopusher to be turned around, patent pending, then we have a chronograph with a bezel. So everything in the years to come will be developed with these functions using the bezel and reverse movement. Everything has to felt to be in accordance with the values and the DNA of the brand. We will never do something that is trending. 

WTI: You had said that novelties had been reduced by two-thirds at Montblanc over the past couple of years. Can you shed more light on that? 
LL: We want to have less products, but we want to our products to be more connected to our roots and DNA, and be story-oriented. For eg, everything this year is connected to the world of glaciers, snow, and ice. I don’t want to launch anything that just has a new dial colour or a change of hands, with nothing behind it. Everything we launch now has to be consistent, restricted in terms of design and the stories behind. We can't launch 80-85 products. The end customer, what does he then choose? Also, we can’t keep 80-85 novelties every year. At the end of five years, it is too much. When you do less products, you can keep them for a long time, and you can also focus on innovation, concepts. 

Montblanc Iced Sea Automatic Date – bronze-tone dial

WTI: Can you elaborate more on Carbo2?
LL: It is a very innovative, new material. The CO2 is coming from Switzerland, and we transfer the CO2 gas into a powder, and that powder is mixed with the carbon fibre to obtain Carbo2

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen CARBO2

WTI: I believe the colour changes over time – black to grey. Where was Carbo2 developed and was this observed over a long period of time?
LL: Only Montblanc is doing this material, and specific only to us in the watchmaking. That’s why we did a lot of tests, because there is no precedence for it. We are testing a lot with it to see what could be a new direction, evolution. And everything is working extremely well so far. The development started few years ago, but we have the IP to develop it. 

We are launching only this collection with Carbo2. So it's only these pieces. So whether people buy or don’t, we will probably not do any more Carbo2. Then for the next one, we will have new material coming in. We bring in something new always. We just want to open new roots, like [Reinhold] Messner did. 

The luminescence on the side of the Carbo2 case, showing the Montblanc

The glaciers are surrounded by Co2, and it has an influence on the glaciers. So I spoke to my team, and said that I wanted to develop a watch with Co2 around it. Is it possible as it's a gas? This was more than two years ago. Then we started working with a specific supplier in Switzerland and they found this to be an amazing challenge to take up and they said that they wanted to work on it since the material didn't exist. And together we have managed to develop this new material. 

WTI: The Iced Sea 0 Oxygen Deep 4810 – how was the testing for the water resistance of 6000 meters done?
LL: Initially, we tried to get an external supplier to test for us, but they said that it was not possible. Some of our suppliers told us to build the equipment, and so we have official equipment that allows us to test our watches to -6000 meters. Omega or Rolex are developing their own instruments as well. That's why we are limited because we cannot test as many pieces as we want, as it takes a lot of time and if there is an issue we have to find a solution. So 80 pieces per month is what we can test that's why we are limited in quantity.

Montblanc Iced Sea 0 Oxygen Deep 4810

WTI: The laser engraving on the caseback is quite vivid. Can you elaborate on the process? 
LL: We are working with titanium, and only a caseback with this material can have such colour. Thing is, we can never know which colour we can obtain. Every time we create a [reference] picture, we have to try a way to find the same colours. We don’t have a palette of colours available, so we have to test hundreds of hours to get the colour we want. And once we have the colours, then we know how to manage it. Once we do, we need three hours per watch to create a caseback. That’s why every time we haves a new caseback, we start from scratch. You have to take so many things into consideration. The angle, the intensity, the distance in between, and the time. These four elements together make it possible to create the depth. We have a team of five people working with the lasers. 

The caseback of the Montblanc Iced Sea 0 Oxygen Deep 4810

WTI: The Minerva piece is completely see-through and with sapphire. What were the challenges in creating it? 
LL: This is the first time in the world that you have a reversed movement, that is patented as a reversed movement – there is no monopusher chronograph that has been reversed as a calibre. And 21 components of this mechanism were developed internally. When you reverse the movement, everything works anti-clockwise, and then you have to develop additional components, but you don’t have to hide the components when you put them on top of the movement. So there is a high level of complexity. You also have to enhance some colours, for eg, the V-shaped bridge - we put it in blue with the plate below so that you see the trains of some components. While doing so, you have to respect the other components. You cannot make one components less visible because the other is more visible. And in Minerva watches, all components have an influence on the movement – none is for decoration. So it was difficult to know which one would be in which colour. 

Details are also visible from the side of the case

Another interesting thing is that when you see from the side, you should see something nice. So that means that sometimes you have to rework the movement so that everything you see is beautiful and not hidden. 

WTI: The Iced and 0 Oxygen watches have become flagships in the line - where do you want to take it from here? 
LL: These are the two key concepts that we are going to insist on for the future. We are working on something additional, but Iced and 0 Oxygen are iconic products. Because these are things that the competition does not have. For the end customer, knowing that your product is going to be there for many years shows consistency for the brand. Because you want to be proud of your product for many years. 

Montblanc Iced Sea 0 Oxygen Deep 4810

When you buy our products, you have stories – the glacial dial inspired  by the Montblanc massif, the sound of the bezel that mimics the sound of dolphins, the engraved caseback, the unique bracelet at this price positioning. That’s what we want to follow for the years to come, and repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Images: Courtesy Montblanc

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