Franck Juhel, president of Montblanc Middle East, India and Africa spoke to Mitrajit Bhattacharya on Maison’s plans for India, AB de Villiers and Hugh Jackman during his recent visit to New Delhi
So, what’s happening in India as far as Montblanc is concerned?
As you know two years back we started to invest in India a lot more than we were doing in the past. For us, India is a key market, in fact, a key priority market. That’s why presently we have eight boutiques. We will have two new ones by the year-end and four to six next year. I believe, as a luxury brand, we have the greatest reach in terms of boutiques in India. With this new boutique that just opened a few days ago, we are rolling out a new global concept which we plan to use in all our new boutiques in India.
Take me through the highlights of this new concept.
The concept that we had before was a concept that was mainly done for writing instruments. Our present concept is a lot more welcoming, thanks to the use of colour, the use of wood. We are able to give each category its own space and therefore display them the way they should be. Writing instruments or watches. You are going to find the stationery too in all the new boutiques. The old concept was only black and white. Now we have black, white and beige with a lot of wood to give a feeling of warmth inside.
How are different categories performing on the market?
Well, in India the main category is still the writing instruments, as it is anywhere else in the world. However, it’s a higher percentage here than in the rest of the world. The watches and leather are at a lower percentage. The watches grew by 95 percent in October and November. That’s a healthy sign. As watches and leather do better, the ratio of sales between writing instruments and the other categories will balance out. Though, I believe, it’s going to take time. A year or couple of years maybe. But it’s happening everywhere.
In terms of watches, how are the Le Locle and the Villeret Manufactures shaping up?
I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly how many we have produced separately in our two Manufactures. Lot of development that you see is out from Le Locle including the Timewalker. The capacity we have in Villeret in terms of space or even in terms of watchmakers is limited. For instance, we wouldn’t be able to absorb the production we need on Time walker or 1858 for example. But we don’t want to lose the spirit of Villeret. We wouldn’t be able to get so many ideas out of Villeret if we were pushing them to produce more.
Where do you produce your Nicolas Rieussec watches?
You signed up AB de Villiers, the South African cricketing legend, last year as your brand ambassador. What plans do you have around him?
I am going to visit South Africa next week and plan to spend time with him to see how we can help each develop the relationship more. And, at night we will share some time and nice food and wine with him and some of our collectors from South Africa.
What about Hugh Jackman?
Hugh Jackman is a great ambassador and has always been available for the brand. For example, Hugh and Nicolas Baretzki, our CEO, talk to each other once a week on the phone. Often times Hugh calls Nicolas saying that he is launching a new movie and if they could meet. Very recently Hugh flew from Australia to Geneva to dine with Nicolas. That’s the type of relationship we are looking for.
Do we see the possibility of you signing up an Indian Bollywood star or a cricketer as an ambassador in the coming years?
I don’t know now. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one coming on board in near future. We have some that are already our clients and friends of the Maison, but we are careful and considerate about our official ambassadors.
It’s very difficult now to predict the luxury watch market today due to so many, as we say, headwinds. How do you see the market shaping up overall?
If we look at India, last year the luxury market, not only watches, but the luxury market in India was around $20 billion and it’s going to grow double-digit every year. Watches are going to grow at the same pace or faster. And, I see the future of the watch industry in India and I think it’s only the beginning. As Montblanc, we are lucky to be pioneers in terms of our distribution through boutiques. If you are not today in India you are missing something. In a time of crisis or slowdown, you are looking for something that shows us its real value. At the end of the day, our wholesale partners are our partners in business and we stand by them in times of crisis. Most importantly, the DNA of a brand is its track record that is proven through thick and thin.
What’s going to be the trend this year at Montblanc, if you could share something at this stage?
Obviously, the main focus at the SIHH 2018 will be our watches. In terms of watches, you will be pleasantly surprised to know that we are going to continue developing the line that we launched two years ago. Do expect an evolution on the same.