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Montblanc goes young, tech-savvy

Sylvain Costof, managing director of Montblanc Korea
Sylvain Costof, managing director of Montblanc Korea


Montblanc Korea CEO on Thursday announced that the Swiss luxury maker is set to win the hearts of younger customers with high-tech devices and a wider range of products in order to achieve its planned double-digit growth here.

This will start with the launch of a digital watch strap in August, followed by the introduction of 400 items and aggressive online marketing tailored to tech-savvy and contemporary clientele, said Sylvain Costof, managing director of Montblanc Korea.

“The e-Strap was introduced in January at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogie Geneve. It is expected to be out in the market sometime in between late August and early September, including Korea,” Costof said.

The e-Strap is a small OLED system that displays notifications on the bottom of a conventional watchband. It seems like a huge stretch for a company that started as a fountain pen maker and later expanded to leather goods, watches and men’s accessories.

But Costof said it was quite natural. Though it hasn’t been commercialized yet, he noted that there have been a lot of inquiries already.

“The development of e-Strap has created a lot of interest in our brand, and got us closer to the young and contemporary clientele. It has different modalities that fit into different watches. It is apt for sports and other performances, and also goes together with the Internet of Things era when everything is connected to each other,” Costof said.

“I am proud to say that Montblanc was the first mover in the business. Our history with new technology dates back to when we first developed e-StarWalker an e-screenwriter with Samsung (in 2014).

“Although we are a traditional writing instrument maker, we are very much aware of the changing scene in the market where everyone is using the screen. It was very logical of us to embrace the new technology. And now we have wondered how to adapt that to our asset of watch making,” he explained.

And for the “tech-leading market,” Montblanc has recently launch a Korean website alongside Twitter and Facebook accounts to better reach out to the trendiest consumers.

Next to the digitalization strategy is the aggressive marketing and expansion plan. More than 400 items are scheduled to be introduced by the end of the year at 54 outlets in Korea, in hopes that the company will mark solid double-digit growth here.

The new lineup includes not only Montblanc’s iconic fountain pens and watches, but also leather goods and even women’s accessories. Women’s categories are a never-been-touched-before market for Montblanc, which claims to be one of the top 20 watchmakers for men, top 10 leather players for men and top five male accessory players in the world.

“We have seen women picking Montblanc products as gifts for men. But they would one day think, ‘Where is one for me?’ And we wanted to have an answer for that,” Costof said.

Society is getting dramatically digital, making for a gloomy picture for Montblanc, which still has its main focus on its 109-year-old pen making history. But Costof is confident about keeping the classic and traditional part of its business portfolio alive.

“I was very surprised to know that every Korean man has his experience with Montblanc. He either has a Montblanc, gave or received a Montblanc. Even the youngsters who cannot afford a Montblanc have those memorable moments when their fathers had a Montblanc and used it at special occasions,” Costof said.

“They believe in our motto, that they have ‘Montblanc for lifetime.’ I think it is very optimistic,” he said.

Meanwhile, the pen maker presented the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award 2015, which is given to a person who has contributed to the nurturing of culture in a country. It was awarded to Kim Dong-ho, founder and former director of the Busan International Film Festival, on Thursday.

By Bae Ji-sook
(baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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