The Iliad and the Odyssey, two monumental epics that are among the most enduring legends known to the western world. They were instrumental in taking the oral verse to the then-new technique of alphabetic writing. Therefore, it is no surprise that they are widely regarded as the foundation of Western literature.
Montblanc has chosen to celebrate the legendary poet Homer, responsible for Iliad and the Odyssey, through this year’s Writers Edition. The regional launch of the collection was hosted by Franck Juhel, President of Montblanc Middle East, India and Africa (MEIA) in Costa Navarino, southern Greece, the region where much of Homer’s Odyssey took place.
The challenge with the Homer collection, Franck told Signé in an exclusive interview during the launch, was “to bring to life two books that are almost 700 pages. With all the stories you have in it, we had to identify the one that makes the most sense while at the same time being the most relevant and well known.” Then the theme has to be represented “in all the details that we can see, even the smallest one. Montblanc is not about glitter, but about all the non-obvious and small details, which when you put together makes the perfect writing instruments.”
The Trojan horse, Odysseus’ famous stratagem, is reflected in the ‘Homage to Homer’ special edition’s silhouette evoking the head and body of the wooden horse in stylised form. The matte black precious resin of the cap and barrel of the writing instrument is paired with champagne-tone gold coated fittings to echo the Greek black-figure pottery often decorated with scenes from Homeric poetry.
Achilles features prominently in the edition, with his legendary spear that no other hero fighting at Troy was willing to wield in Homer’s Iliad being the inspiration for the shape of the gold-coated clip, while Achilles’ helmet adorns the handcrafted gold nib as a fine engraving.
Homer used the strict form of the hexameter consisting of six units, or ‘feet’ in his epics. This is referenced in the finely engraved Greek meander frieze on the champagne gold-coated fittings, with every sixth pattern repeat emphasised by a cube ornament. Crowned with the Montblanc emblem in precious resin, this edition is available as a Fountain Pen, Roller Ball and Ballpoint Pen. There is also a Mechanical Pencil which is only available as part of a set.
The Homage to Homer collection also includes the Limited Edition 1581, a limitation number that references the year Homer’s Iliad was translated into English. The Trojan Horse with the same distinctive equine silhouette also features but evokes a second prominent colour of classical Greek pottery. The cap and barrel are crafted from precious coral resin. The gold coated inlay on the cap is inspired by the armour of the legendary warrior Achilles. The champagne tone gold coated cap top, cap ring, cone and forepart are all decorated with a special engraving that once again represents the dactylic hexameter.
Complementing the Homage to Homer collection is a new special blue colour ink. The blue is a reference to traditional Greek houses and the seas around. Also, in Greek blue is a lined notebook made of leather and inspired by one of the most famous sculptures of Homer.
“Any writer edition in Montblanc takes between 4 to 5 years to develop, from the first time we start talking about it to the time it arrives in the market. The development of the pen is a joint effort between our in-house team of historians, designers and craftsmen.” – Franck Juhel, President of Montblanc MEIA
He continued, “First, a committee including the heads of the various departments of the maison sits with our historians to arrive at a list of names to work on for the next ten years. After that, the historians, designers and the craftsmen work together to bring to life the story, either through the techniques that we already have in-house or by new techniques that do not exist. Sometimes it may require us to bring in specialist craftsmen in order to bring a story to life.”
For Montblanc, the launch event is a significant and integral part of the storytelling of any collection. Members of the press are invited to reiterate the story that the maison wishes to convey. More importantly, though, the maison also invites renowned collectors from various regions to attend.
The Launch event “provides us with the opportunity to spend time with our collectors. We have two days with them, in this case, to not only talk about Homer, but also the over 100 pieces of limited edition writing instruments and watches on display here.” – Franck Juhel, President of Montblanc MEIA
The relationship between Montblanc and its collectors is fundamental to the maison. “They are the real ambassadors for our brand. We have collectors who have been following the brand for years and some who have all of the 27 writers editions. At the same time, it’s also a kind of partnership because when we work on a special edition, we also take their input on what they expect to see. An example of this is found in the Homer collection. It is the first time that we have used the nib 149 in a writers edition. This is the biggest nib we have in production at Montblanc, and it was included at the request of our collectors.”
“Many of our collectors had seen the Homer collection as a prototype, almost a year ago, and had reserved. It is a relationship where we expect them to give us input or feedback, and they expect from us the preview of the products and to also organise gatherings like these and others where the collectors can come together and talk about the pens.”
One of the reasons that collectors have such loyalty to the brand is that “since 1906, we have always been true to our values,” says Frank. “Any product we bring to the market has the same quality requirements, irrespective of whether it is a regular masterstroke or a limited edition, the nib will be tested the same way; one by one, hand by hand.” Another reason is consistency. For example, “the writer edition has been around for 27 years now. We have not changed, and we are not going to change the collection from one year to another, as others sometimes do.”
Talking about the future, Frank is confidently optimistic, even with the ever-increasing digitisation of the world. “Like any company, we have thought about how digitisation would or could impact us. However, we have never seen higher growth in the demand for writing instruments as in the past few years. It is difficult to find a link between these two events. My personal feeling is that because our world is becoming more digital, we need more hard goods to bring us back to reality. There is nothing more real than writing. I have a first-hand example at home. My 8 and ten-year-olds spend a lot of time on their tablets as most kids do today. However, they refuse to read books on their tablet. They want paper; they want the real thing.”