Oct 202015

Montblanc SEA managing director Anouar Guerraoui welcomes guests to the men’s watch event at Smith Butcher and Grill Room.

When you’re Montblanc, a 150-year-old company that’s etched its name in time by making to-die-for fountain pens, moving into the world of luxury watches must have seemed a grand leap. But Montblanc is now in the big leagues, spoken in the same breath as other luxury watches thanks to in-house Swiss movements that lift their Villeret and Heritage Chronometrie watches — shown off to great aplomb at Makati’s Smith Butcher and Grill Room during a steak luncheon with media — beyond newbie competitors to serious contenders for that targeted demographic: the obsessive male collector. 

What Montblanc has noticed, in fact, is that people who collect fountain pens also tend to collect watches. (Montblanc customers tend to be 70 percent male, 30 percent female.) The whole “collecting” thing, in fact, is by and large a male activity (well, except for shoes and bags, maybe). And Montblanc just happens to be one of the few brands that focuses its luxury line squarely on… men.

We sat down next to charming ladies, watch lovers, and the company of Montblanc South East Asia’s managing director Anouar Guerraoui, a Moroccan-born global citizen who loves the Miami Heat, especially their erstwhile star, LeBron James. Not surprisingly, Guerraoui said he admires athletes a bit more than, say, singers or even actors. And that makes sense, from a watchmaking point of view, because watches perform at a very high level — they’re a symphony of moving parts, in fact.

“For me, it’s much harder to do what LeBron James or what Messi does than to go and sing or act,” says Guerraoui. Still, he reserves praise for Montblanc’s current Global Brand Ambassador, Hugh Jackman. “I admire Hugh Jackman, the people who switch roles: you see him in action, drama, historical roles, he sings. He’s very good.” Guerraoui, now based in Singapore with his French wife and two children, is in a unique position to observe the world’s luxury watch trends: he’s lived in many places. He can take the economic pulse of an emerging market like a sports doctor. And he sees good things for the Philippines, and Asia in general.

“You can see the growth of each country by judging how the current generation is doing compared to the previous generation,” he notes, and while European optimism seems at a standstill, American and Asian youth are still hot on buying the biggest brands — whether it’s fast cars, fine suits, or luxury watches. Luxury is still king.

“What you see in emerging markets like here, the positive growth of the country leads to a positive spirit of the people. There’s that spirit of rewarding yourself: Okay, you did well, at the end of the year, you reward yourself with a nice watch.” A large, youthful population is one thing. But that desire to go out and buy big-ticket watches speaks of a demand for social status, something very key to Asian markets. “Another indicator is the number of trendy restaurants. A place like this (Smith Butcher and Grill), it tells you what young people want to do with their money. A few years ago, they might have just invited people to eat at home.” He adds that young people today “travel a lot more, they see more things. They have their phones that keep immersed in the world 24/7, they speak more languages than previous generations.”

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And they’re not afraid to buy those items that will last forever.

Since venturing into the luxury watch market in 2009, Montblanc has captured the roving male eye with brilliant in-house horological movements and craftsmanship (explained to perfection at the event by master watchmaker Julien Mirabel). Montblanc watches turn male heads, without necessarily turning your bank account inside out: they can run from an affordable P115,000 to the very special Villeret Regulateur 47-cm, which sells for P6.9 million. 

With three boutiques in Metro Manila under Rustan’s, as well as one in Cebu and two more to open in City of Dreams and Greenbelt before the end of November, Montblanc is going for the consumer who understands the value of time — how it extends us, even as it outlasts us all.

As we sat and enjoyed a sampling of Butcher and Grill’s finest meats — a clockwise array of Irish sirloin, French Charolais tenderloin, Australian wagyu and 45-day dry-aged US ribeye encircling a cut of Matsusaka, perhaps meant to suggest the face of a watch — the thought of luxury didn’t seem outlandish at all.

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Montblanc is exclusively available in Rustan’s Makati, Rustan’s Shangri-La and Newport Mall, Resorts World.

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