Signé sat down with Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc since 2017, during his visit to Pitti Immagine Uomo, a bi-annual men’s clothing and lifestyle event held in Florence, Italy. Baretzki joined Montblanc in 2013 as executive VP of sales. He is a graduate from Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris.
Please share with our readers a bit about yourself and your background in the luxury industry.
Once a journalist called me ‘a baby of Richemont’. That tells you something about my background. My whole life has been in the luxury world from Cartier to Jaeger-LeCoultre to Montblanc, from Jewellery to very precise watchmaking and now at Montblanc, I have the opportunity to one day work with watchmaking, another day with leather, the next day with writing instruments. This is my world, and I love it.
What was the mandate given to you by Richemont when you became the CEO of Montblanc?
I was with Montblanc for five years before becoming the CEO, and I was working closely with the former CEOs. So it was not as if I was discovering a new maison when I became the CEO.
The mandate given to me was quite simple: continue to be creative and to invent, because the success of Montblanc is about always being on the move; always about bringing in new ideas, new concepts, and sometimes a bit of disruption.
Continue to build the high-end craftsmanship. And that is what we have done with the writing instruments, with the watches, and so on. Continuity at Montblanc means disruption and change. They said: ‘ you have a great team, so use it’.
How do you divide your time between the various divisions of Montblanc?
For me, it is easy because even though Montblanc is a global luxury maison, there is a common theory and a collective heart for all its activities. When we set out to do something, we do it thoroughly and with full dedication.
To implement them, we have different heads for each of the divisions; we also have a dedicated design team, a dedicated development team, we have dedicated production facilities for each segment; obviously Switzerland for watches, leather in Florence, and writing instruments at our headquarters as it is the origin of Montblanc. So, whenever we do something we do it as professionals of that segment.
Overall, as a maison, it is more about focusing on our customers. For example, today the customer is more and more on the move, so much travelling from one place to another. So we have to develop a proper collection of travel goods.
What significance does Pitti hold for Montblanc?
This time, it is about entering seriously into the luxury travel luggage market. Up to now, we have had a few pieces here and there. So we said: ‘as we are Montblanc, and whenever we do something, we do it wholeheartedly, and from ‘a to z’. So, today we are launching our first real luxury luggage collection.
The Montblanc trolley bag has many differentiating points such as the design, the structure and more importantly, we wanted to incorporate leather into the collection since it is produced in Montblanc’s leather factory. This is why you find leather throughout the luggage, even on the handles and the corners.
Secondly, we said we want the best technology. So, the shell of the cases is made of lightweight polycarbonate. Its interior is covered with nylon. We used Japanese ball bearings wheels because it is the best you can find today which allows 360° rotation. It creates very smooth and effortless motion. Another unique feature is the telescopic handle from Germany that you can set at multiple levels. It has a very luxurious interior with a lot of compartments. It also has options for personalisation where customers can emboss their names, logos or anything else they wish.
The collection includes five pieces of luggage in different sizes: the pilot case, the cabin case, the cabin case with a front pocket, plus two pieces of large luggage in different sizes.
We are continually thinking about the needs of the modern client, what are the functionalities that they may require; but at a price that is not unreasonable.
Do you feel that Pitti is going to become more important for Montblanc?
Our participation in Pitti is entirely consistent with Montblanc’s market positioning. For the time being, we have decided to be more active in Pitti because we may be having a lot of launches, a lot of new products coming into that market segment. This why I do believe yes (to greater participation). Even though we may be a bit more traditional, we have the creativity that allows us a bit more flexibility in our positioning at Pitti.