Montblanc: Old School and High Tech

This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 Issue of the WatchTime print magazine.

While its name refers to one of the most iconic mountains in Switzerland, Montblanc is a German company founded in 1906 in Hamburg. It quickly made a name for itself with its high-quality fountain pens, a reputation that achieved a new dimension in 1952 with the introduction of the famous 149, still one of the hallmark products of the brand. In 1935, Montblanc opened its first workshop to produce fine leather goods, and in 1997, the brand’s first watches emerged. It offered timepieces with both quartz and mechanical movements. The latter got an impulse when it was integrated with Minerva. This historically significant movement manufacture from Villeret, a town in the Swiss Jura, allowed Montblanc to expand its collection with refined inhouse movements and dashing complications.

New Tech 

Today, these are also the three pillars of the brand, although Montblanc is working hard on adding a fourth one to it, that of New Technology. According to Dr. Felix Obschonka, the Director of this division at Montblanc, the brand took this step because it wants to enrich its clients’ daily lives with its products, and today that includes technologically advanced products. A range of products has been developed to serve them as best as possible, with more being added shortly, from smartwatches and headphones to augmented paper. Obschonka says that the brand is only looking to expand into areas of technology that are already aligned with Montblanc’s original DNA.

With the augmented paper, Montblanc is digitalizing the product that forms its foundation. A leather map contains a notebook and a special version of the brand’s StarWalker Ballpoint Pen that can digitalize the notes and drawings you make. A special app allows you to sync and organize these handwritten notes, cleverly combining the traditional quality experience of writing with high-tech functionality. With its headphones, Montblanc take a similar course, here utilizing its expertise in the field of leather goods. This resulted in the lightweight MB 01, wireless over-the-ear headphones made from aluminum, offering active noise canceling and over 20 hours of battery life.

Summit 3: Rising to New Heights 

In 2017, Montblanc set its first steps in the world of smartwatches with the introduction of the Summit 1. Quite a daring move, and one that is shared by only a handful of other traditional Swiss watch brands, but it perfectly fits the strategy to offer clients the best of the past and future in the present. Earlier this year, Montblanc launched the third generation of its smartwatch, appropriately named Summit 3.

In a recent conversation, Obschonka pointed out the differences that he and his team made to this latest generation and the challenges they had to overcome to make the Summit 3 a reality. Unlike mechanical watches, here the technical strides dictate the pace. It is the first smartwatch fitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Plus chip and Wear OS 3, offering ample performance. The improved heart rate monitor can now also measure blood oxygen, and the software features more extensive fitness features. Obschonka explains that it is crucial to be on par with the competition but that there is no necessity to outperform them in this field. It is the overall experience in which the Summit 3 excels, making it far more than just the sum of its parts.

Size and Refinement 

He and his team worked on achieving a sweet spot in terms of dimensions. Here the battery plays a large role, as many clients enjoy an extensive power reserve but at the same time want a watch that is not too big. Montblanc has achieved just that with a diameter of just over 42 mm and a thickness of 14 mm. The Summit 3 sits comfortably on the wrist, and thanks to a slim bezel, it is nearly all dial. This makes the various functions easy to read, and the dials, inspired by the brand’s well-known mechanical models, really come to life. The piston-shaped pushers are even easier to operate than the previous edition’s integrated ones. The case finishing is on par with the brand’s higher-end mechanical pieces, and even the caseback is made of this material. All the expectations that came from opening the box containing the Summit 3 came true. Montblanc even includes an extra strap, allowing you to change the watch’s look accordingly.

Comparing is Futile 

Much more than mechanical watches, smartwatches seem to be subject to comparison to their competition based on their performance and specs. This automatically makes the least expensive version offering the best performance for its investment the perceived winner. Much like the TAG Heuer Connected, the Montblanc Summit 3 does not participate in this contest. While it can stand its ground, its aim is not to please the tech-savvy but the (mechanical) watch enthusiast who occasionally needs added functions that only a smartwatch can offer. To stay true to the Montblanc DNA, Obschonka and his team worked closely with their colleagues at the Montblanc manufacture in Switzerland to merge these two worlds into one. As technology advances and the range of these types of products expands further, old school and high tech will, from now on, go hand-in hand at Montblanc.

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