MONTBLANC: IN CONVERSATION WITH ZAIM KAMAL

One of the most dynamic realities in the universe of contemporary luxury. Eclectic, creative but faithful in spirit to the savoir faire of over a hundred years. The underlying thread that continues to run in the Montblanc brand is an exceptional story of success. Fruit of a collective effort, a constant dialogue moving from the creative mind of Zaim Kamal through the technical and dextrous talent of each individual craftsman of the House.

At SIHH 2019 Montblanc presented what it defines as timepieces with character and personality, in which the heritage of Minerva is the essential element for the future of the Brand. Four product lines for the men’s universe, simplified, clear and comprehensible for a public that just four years ago saw an offer of no less than 12 collections.

Today, the brand’s identity in the haut horologerie sector ranges from the sporty, contemporary Montblanc Time Walker line, inspired by the era of stopwatches and the chronograph saga, to the 1858 Collection looking to the Minerva military and professional watches of the 1920’s and ‘30’s. The classic is ever present, and more beautiful than ever! Contemporary in the Star Legacy collection inspired on the pocket watches of the early nineteen-hundreds and sophisticated with vintage allure in the Heritage line, perfect for the Italian public.

Left: Zaim Kamal – Creative director of Montblanc / Right: 1858 Collection

 

F.1.M. : Montblanc is constantly evolving. The keyword is dynamism. A great challenge for the creative director of such a hard-working, diversified House!

Z.K. : It’s a real fun challenge! Every day we’re driven to evolve. And after we’ve created a beautiful, valuable object, we don’t stop. We’re constantly stimulated to make it even better. That’s the Montblanc spirit: always moving toward the future, respecting our roots and reflecting on our past. The essential thing is to stay curious: a quality that fits my personality well. I’m always on the move: I observe, I make changes, I love the evolution.

F.1.M. : How much has the watches segment of Montblanc evolved since your arrival as creative director? 

Z.K. : One of the new developments came through the use of colour. But a particularly important moment was the appointment of Davide Cerrato as Director General of Montblanc’s watches division. Davide has a different approach to positioning the product, thanks to his personal aptitude and the very special feel he has. He’s been very successful! Together we’ve created a very dynamic reality. When I think about the 1858 watches line, designed in 2014, I remember always looking through the archives at the start. But we didn’t stop at just recreating them, far from it, we used them for inspiration and created a contemporary timepiece, reworked in form and details, like the hands, for example. The result is a timepiece inspired by the past but perfectly in line with the contemporary era. The next step was to insert a complication, like the Geosphere, on the 1858 models and so in collection accessible to the public. All the beauty of the brand lies in this process of evolution: Montblanc and Minerva, taken as a single reality, in which the exchange of savoir faire, horological technology and creativity lead to evolution and the final result.

F.1.M. : Among the innovations presented at the SIHH 2019 is the new Montblanc Heritage line inspired on the 1940’s. Looking at it and trying it on my wrist I can perceive the elegant atmosphere of the Jazz era and New York in that decade. What codes is it inspired by?

Z.K. : The sophisticated elegance and fascination of the 1940’s and ‘50’s that had the intuition to change certain rules. It’s interesting that you mention jazz, because in that style it’s essential to exaggerate and be noticed, but it’s also essential to be highly sophisticated and refined. And that’s what we do, choosing to use a colour like pink, a warm colour for the face that recalls the warmth and rhythm of the music. It’s harmony.

Left to Right: TimeWalker Manufacture Chronograph – Ref. 119942 /  Montblanc Heritage Pulsograph 100 piece Limited Edition – Ref. 119914 / Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph Ref. 119964

 

F.1.M. : Like the Pulsograph from the Montblanc Heritage line, a timepiece that recalls the rhythm of the heart inspired on the medical watches for measuring the pulse …

Z.K. : I have to admit that it’s my favourite! The Pulsograph is exactly that: the pulse, the senses and touch. If you think about the act of measuring the pulse you imagine the physical contact between the patient’s pulse and the hand of the doctor feeling the beat. An exchange of feeling, dialogue, and again the rhythm of beauty.

F.1.M. : Let’s talk about Millennials. How do you transmit the savoir faire and excellence of Minerva and Montblanc to such a young public?

Z.K. : We have to make certain choices. There aren’t just Millennials. We have to think about the future. There will always be a new generation, and then another after it, each one the reflection of its times. For example, I’m a child of the ‘Seventies, an era in which change was very important to us. We wanted to change, we fought for change and we had a great time doing it. I’m pretty sure that the older generations at the time were saying: “this generation doesn’t accept the rules and is breaking away from the old ways!” But this is just the sign of what’s going on. It’s the mark of society, of cultural change. Today the new generations don’t want to be labelled in a single category, a single reality, but want to be anything they want, when they want: one day they’re hipsters, the next they’re classic and they day after they’re looking for vintage. So we have to understand this desire for everyday change, and above all their great interest in authenticity. Young people today maybe don’t always go into great depth, but they know exactly the difference between an authentic product and a fake one.

Montblanc Heritage Monopusher Chronograph Ref. 119951

 

F.1.M. : And they find Montblanc?

Z.K. : Because since its foundation in 1906 Montblanc has always produced authentic realities. And the young market adores the refinement of the hand-made, they desire it. The value of touch is instilled in our products, and communicated through our creative language, our personal vision of reality. Touch is the only sense you can’t fake and so has to be understood properly.

F.1.M. : How do you represent touch in haut horologerie?

Z.K. : It means getting to the point of feeling a timepiece on your wrist as a part of yourself, not a separate object, but something actively involved in each and every personal movement and feeling. Young people are highly intuitive. The personalisation of a product is fundamental. We find tactility in the influence of the person buying a product.

F.1.M. : From your degree at St. Martins School, to the first steps of your career with Vivienne Westwood and up to your career with Montblanc. How present is creative freedom in your life?

Z.K. : It never stops! When I was young I wasn’t great at school, but I loved to draw. So I started studying art but soon found out I could never make it as an artist. Because I’m too much of an optimist, while an artist has to concentrate his entire being in a single piece, with so much pathos, almost like a sort of torture. Then I discovered design and understood that that was my way. It’s fundamental to be able to speak the language of the people realising the product from my designs. There are three principal points in the creation of a design object: the first is creativity, the second, comprehension of the individual for whom it is made and the third, understanding of the language of who makes the final product to transmit my concept. The designer has a duty to establish the right dialogue with the craftsman and the team making the final object. Sure, it’s a long road, sometimes there are howling differences, but it’s always a challenge we enjoy, in which words, listening and sharing are essential.

About the author: Laura Canepa

Laura Canepa