Started in 1906 as a fountain pen manufacturer, Montblanc has produced quality writing instruments using its great sense of balance and exquisite technology. As the era of fountain pens diminished with the rise of ballpoint pens, Montblanc transformed itself into a luxury brand with its premium fountain pens and later expanded to fine leather goods and watches. The brand’s unique ability to impart the elegant imagery of its flagship product to other product lines is still proving successful into the 2010s, despite changes in luxury goods distribution structures and different tastes of the ascending millennial consumer group.

Welcome to the 80th issue of B.

Every generation sees popular words and expressions wax and wane with the passage of time. One of these expressions is “taste,” which has crept into conversations and articles, now inspiring scores of readers to obsess over tastes. In an age in which self- expression is highly valued, the word “taste” neatly expresses the unique and differentiating personality of an individual—the element that categorically sets them apart from the crowd. If left ambiguously defined, it may feel as though that person has no particular penchant for anything. According to the general definition, however, taste could be seen as something that captivates one’s attention. Things that win over the heart right away, things that seem decent and proper, or things for which appreciation is acquired with exposure—all of these are things “taste” could connote.

Montblanc, a German brand that started as a luxury writing instrument manufacturer in the city of Hamburg, is case in point. While it seems to have secured a place in the luxury segment in the ranges of pens, watches, and leather goods, Montblanc has managed to remain an unassuming, unpretentious brand that refrains from ostentatious or provocative images. One interesting fact is that those who encounter Montblanc directly or indirectly are likely to strongly recommend the brand to their family or friends. Recommending a product is slightly different from falling within an individual’s taste parameters. People make recommendations when something is proven to be authentic, or when you see it like an investment whose value won’t depreciate over time. In that sense, Montblanc products can create a “guaranteed” taste in that they are products that weather the test of time.

Luck plays a pivotal role in determining if a product will ultimately rise to “it” item status each season, but the earning the title of “safe asset” requires much more beyond sheer luck. With its invincible top-quality and carefully crafted business strategies, Montblanc is firmly established in the risky contemporary luxury goods industry. Notably, the brand’s pricing and lineup expansion strategies are extremely flexible and reasonable. It’s rare for a luxury brand to capitalize on its “entry-level” models in multiple areas of writing instruments, leather products, and watches, as much as this German brand does. Montblanc fully utilizes its most affordable low-end items to outdo competitors. And the success of this strategy is clearly seen in must-have business item sales like trolleys, wallets, and leather backpacks. In this sense, Montblanc actively lowers the entry barrier burden for first-time buyers, which, in turn, creates loyal customers. It could be said that these results are possible thanks to the brand’s confidence in its products.

The same goes for its lineup expansion. Rather than betting products on superficial sensibility and taste, Montblanc has gradually diversified its product offering to stay appealing to loyal and new customers alike. Starting as a brand of writing instruments, Montblanc transcends the limits its competitors
face because it has not settled on a single value like keeping tradition or being analog. From fountain pens that function as objets d’art or literary symbols to accessible and user-friendly ballpoint pens, all Montblanc products emanate the same spirit—a departure from other brands that excogitate images of upmarket value through increasingly high-end and limited-edition products. Montblanc is truly a testament to the idea that a brand can thrive even more when it is defined not by its producers, but by its users.

Eunsung Park
Content & Editorial Director

INTRO


EDITOR’S LETTER


MADE IN HAMBURG

Nib and fine fountain pen manufacturing facilities in Montblanc HQ, Hamburg


OPINION: ZAIM KAMAL

Zaim Kamal, Creative Director of Montblanc


IN THE SHOWCASE

Montblanc sightings in German writing instrument stores


INK BAR

Secrets behind the use and maintenance of fountain pens by Montblanc experts


CREATORS: SERANG CHUNG, JAEHOON CHOI

A cartoonist and a novelist talk about creation tools, fountain pens, and Montblanc


COLLECTORS: SEYONG PARK, THOMAS PÖTZSCH

Values of Montblanc writing tools unpacked by two collectors from Korea and Germany


CONNECTED

Signature products from Montblanc’s diverse selections


OPINION: DAVIDE CERRATO

Davide Cerrato, Managing Director of Montblanc International’s Watch Division


IN WATCHMAKER'S HOUSE

Montblanc watch factories in Villeret and Le Locle


CRITIC

Fountain pen and watch experts contemplate Montblanc today


MAKERS: STEFAN FINK, MARC NEWSON

Designer-maker and industrial designer chat about writing instrument design


INSTRUMENTAL

BRAND STORY

How one writing instrument brand became a luxury label


INTERVIEW

Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc International


PERSONAGE


Influential historical documents written and signed with Montblanc pens


WRITTEN LEGACY

Montblanc pays tribute to the lives of great writers with the Writers Limited Edition line


DEVOTED

Support for cultural arts through Montblanc pens


INTERVIEW

Till Fellrath and Sam Bardaouil, cochairs of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation


DIGEST

Montblanc’s brand positioning and the writing instruments market


REFERENCES

Figures

Mini’s history and growth in numbers


References


Outro


PUBLICATION RIGHT

Publisher Suyong Joh
Executive Director Myungsoo Kim
Content & Editorial Director Eunsung Park
Lead Editor Chanyong Park
Editors Jaewoo Seo, Narae Kim, Jean Kim, Hyun Son, Sol Lyu
Assistant Editor Heewon Shin
Photographer Miyeon Yoon
Art Direction & Design Yuwon Choi Kang
Marketing Hyunjoo Kim, Yeubin Kim
Sales & Distribution Suyeon Kim, Kiran Kim
Managing & Editing (English Edition) Jean Kim
Translation (English Edition) Rancy Kim, Bongah Shin, Hyejoo Lee, Seongae Yang, Soonok Hwang
Copy Editing (English Edition) Sarah Kessler-Jang
Correspondents Mihye Nam (Tokyo), Lena Shin (LA), Alex Seo (London), Sanghyeok Lee (Berlin), Hyeseon Jeong (Paris), Mark Carter (Bangkok)
Publishing JOH

REFERENCES

Fountain Pens: Their History and Art
The Love of the Ink: A Book about Fountain Pens
The Magic of Handwriting: The Pedro Corrêa do Lago Collection
How to Draw and Write in Fountain Pen
Writing Culture and the Life of Anthropology
The Science of Handwriting
Octopussy
Obama, Buffett, the Dalai Lama: Their Favorite Pen
ASMR Drawing with a Fountain Pen
Salman Rushdie
Snob’s Stationery
Gentleman’s Journal