Montblanc pens a smart watch strategy

Watches might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Montblanc, but CEO Jerome Lambert is working to change that. Since his arrival in 2013, the brand has been strategically pumping up its watch division right alongside the luxury pens and leather goods on which it made its name. And now Lambert's taking on smartwatches, too.

The Montblanc e-Strap is a secondary device worn on a watch's strap to add functions like calendar alerts and email notifications without interfering with the mechanical watch above. It will be hitting stores later this year.

It's worth noting that, for now, Montblanc will not be making the e-Strap available as a standalone device. You'll have to purchase it bundled with one of three Montblanc watches, with all-in prices ranging from $US3140 to $US4900 ($4270 to $6660). 

Montblanc's managing director of watches, Alexander Schmiedt, told Bloomberg in May that he believed the firm's combination of contemporary technology and a traditional mechanical watch presented more long-term value than a totally disposable smart watch. Plus, it offers a way for watch lovers to enjoy wearables, too.

"Compared to the one-watch solution, the difference is I don't wear it as the main device. It's an additional device, an accessory to the watch," Lambert said. Software updates will be coming quarterly from Montblanc and the company plans to support the first e-Strap for at least two years.

Having sat at the helm of both A. Lange & Söhne and Jaeger- LeCoultre before joining Montblanc, Lambert brings a lot of watchmaking expertise to the C-suite. Combine this with the brand's Villeret, Switzerland workshop and its ownership of the historic Minerva movement maker, and you get a sense of how Montblanc has spun up a truly high-end operation.

In small numbers it's making insane creations like the Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphéres that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, drawing in the high-end collectors. At the same time though, Montblanc's scale also allows the creation of budget-friendly complications like the Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, which at $US5,800 ($7,880) is a fraction of the price of most worldtime watches.

For Lambert, everything ultimately comes back to acknowledging technology while not throwing the traditions of mechanical watchmaking aside.

"Our tradition is coming from high watchmaking, it doesn't come from the technology world. This is why we went for a solution that is an add-on to the traditional technology," he said. 

"If you compare it to an activity tracker itself, you have more functions: you have the activity tracker, notifications, 'find me'... but I can have this with my watch."

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