Recently, Montblanc invited me to visit their headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. As I told you, I have been working on a very secret project with them that will be revealed tonight during a special launch event. Let me just tell that there has never been anything else like it.
The company was first begun in 1906 with a partnership of three men: Claus-Johannes Voss, August Eberstein, and Alfred Nehemias and got its name Montblanc in 1913. Inspired by a trip to the United States where two of them had been fascinated by a new invention: the fountain pen, they had the vision to bring this achievement to Europe. For over a century, Montblanc has been associated with the “Art of Writing” and is famous for its writing instruments of outstanding quality, but its precision craftsmanship can also be seen in its own watchmaking workshop in Le Locle (Jura/Switzerland), in the well-crafted leather goods and the house’s jewelry line. In 2006, Montblanc even unveiled its own diamond cut in the shape of the famous “White Star”, the so-called “Montblanc Diamond Cut”.
Since its launch in 1924, the Meisterstück – and especially the original fountain pen, the Meisterstück 149 – has become the ultimate “power pen” with cult status, one of 20th century’s design classics with a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The nib’s engraving “4810” is recording the height of the Mont Blanc in metres.
When you arrive at the headquarters, the “Montblanc House”, you are greeted by the outstanding Cutting Edge Art Collection, that the German brand has built up during the last 10 years under the creative supervision of Ingrid Roosen-Trinks, Director at the Montblanc Cultural Foundation (Please click here for a previous post if you are interested to hear more about this project).
The first stop of my visit was the nib manufacture, where Montblanc manufactures the nibs for all its writing instruments. The inhabitants of Hamburg are sometimes considered being chilly, forget this prejudice when you enter the world of Montblanc. I was cordially received and had an amazing tour around the different work stations. All nibs are made of gold. You absolutely need fine sensory motor skills to create such a detailed work and of course, a magnifying glass. Altogether, it needs 35 operational steps to finish the nib.
You can feel the great working atmosphere. Speaking to the employees, I learned that most of them have been with Montblanc for generations. The lady, whose hands can be seen in the collage, told me proudly, that she has worked for the company for over 30 years. The passion the team shares is utterly impressive.
Each employee can split his or her time accordingly to the different steps of production so that they are not doing the same work the whole day. After the whole process is completed, each of the finished fountain pen is tested in a separate quiet room with invisible ink. You can hear the sound the nib makes when touching the paper and suddenly understand Montblanc’s love for perfection in manufacturing.
As I love to write, I was eager to try it out myself and explored Montblanc’s Bespoke Nib Service which is available in selected stores worldwide. In keeping with Montblanc’s motto “Your handwriting – as unique as you are”, a signature is the lasting mark of someoneʼs personality, like your fingerprint revealing something special about you.
Therefore it was natural to Montblanc to develop the technology necessary to capture the individuality of human writing to offer the ultimate bespoke service, a personalized nib.
How does it work? I had to write a predefined sentence on a piece of paper that was placed on a special computerized pad. Montblanc than deciphered my distinctive style, the angle and the pressure that I used. By analyzing my form of my writing, it can be emphasized in a bespoke nib. Available for € 1500.-.
A handwritten note has become so rare nowadays in times of e-mails and text messages that it is even more special to the receiver. By keeping this in mind, you will really make a difference.
Many politicians and famous businessmen have used the ultimate “power pen” to sign contracts between companies and agreements between nations. On my way to Montblanc’s Star Lounge, where we had lunch with Christian Rauch, Managing Director for Montblanc’s Writing Instruments, I enjoyed looking at all the photos of celebrities that have been spotted with Montblanc writing instruments.
Later, I visited Montblanc’s Artisan Atelier, that was the most breathtaking part of my tour. Here, the house’s famous Limited Editions, exceptionally rare pieces, range from the annual Writers Edition and Patron of Art pens, restricted in number are created and produced, eagerly awaited by collectors all over the world. In some cases, they are sold out before they hit the shelves. Sabine Bach, Master Goldsmith at the Montblanc Artisan Atelier, introduced me to this exclusive universe and underlined that “some collectors always ask for the same limited edition number.”
The lovely brunette explained to me the process with such joy that I also became inflamed with passion for these amazing products. The environment is light, modern and quiet. The perfect surrounding for the craftsmen to produce such exceptional work. It can take up to two years for an artisan fountain pen to be finished, starting with design sketches, followed by the plastic print model, the so-called mock up, to the final touches. The limited edition number usually relates to the person it is dedicated. Prices range from € 10.000 to € 200.000 and higher.
And of course, you can even have your very own Bespoke Fountain Pen, starting at € 250.000. There is a desk with an installed video camera for the high-end customer to watch the manufacturing of its unique piece live from his or her home.
Each of Montblanc’s Limited Edition artisan fountain pens has its own story that reads like a fairytale. Below are some that I enjoyed the most:
Frida Kahlo Limited Edition 70
Dedicated to the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and inspired by her creative work, the fountain pen’s design features a cobalt blue body reminiscent of her birthplace Casa Azul, or Blue House along with beautiful golden ornaments. The limited edition is comprised of 70 pens, one for each page of her diary, whose famous final entry reads, “I’m happy to be leaving and I hope never to return.”
Limited Edition of 70, € 21.800
Beijing Opera Mask Limited Edition 3
The most bejeweled and extraordinary piece I have seen on my tour through the artisan atelier. Focusing primarily on the Chinese market, this fountain pen pays tribute to the famous Beijing Opera, symbolised by the opera mask that is embellished with black sapphires, diamonds and rubies. Only experienced craftsmen can set the gems so smoothly and delicately.
Limited Edition of 3 – € 120.000
Romancing Hearts Limited Edition 14
Imagine your beloved one surprises you with a poem written with such a beautiful fountain pen, that even goes by the name of Romancing Hearts. I am hopelessly romantic and this ornate 18k white gold fountain pen skeletonised in the shape of hearts, set in pink sapphires and framed with diamonds has definitely caught my eye. A total of 14 were made, referring to February 14, Valentine’s Day.
Limited Edition of 14 – € 72.000
Gaudi Limited Edition 125
Montblanc celebrates Antoni Gaudi‘s legacy with this gorgeous limited edition fountain pen. The skeleton body and is made with 18k gold and inspired by Gaudi’s spectacular architecture. The tower of Sagrada Familia is depicted in fine engraving on the 18k gold nib. As the famous cathedral was for 125 years under construction, the edition is limited to 125 pieces.
Limited Edition of 125 – € 19.500
Charlie Chaplin Limited Edition 88
Paying tribute to perhaps the greatest figure of 20th century cinema, Charlie Chaplin, this fountain pen shows Montblanc’s passion for detail in perfection. Intricate cog-wheels stand for the machines featured in Chaplin’s most celebrated film, Modern Times, and each detail recalls a different aspect of the silent actor’s famous persona. The captop for example is based upon his ever-present bowler hat; and the solid gold clip resembles his indispensable walking cane. The 18K rhodium-plated gold nib is engraved with Chaplin’s iconic accoutrements. The 88 stands for the age, Chaplin died at.
Limited Edition of 88 – € 21.800
Prince Rainier III Limited Edition 81
The artistically skeletonised fountain-pen is made of 18k white gold and superbly studded with diamonds and rubies totalling more than 8 carats. This edition is limited to 81, the age at which Prince Rainer III died in 2005.
Limited Edition of 81 – € 200.000 (Half of the sales revenue will be given to the “Fondation Princesse Grace” to continue the cultural commitment lived by Prince Rainier III.)
One and a half year ago Parisian designer Susie Otero joined Montblanc to vamp up the jewelry line and bring her French flair to the German brand. Otero works from Paris and comes to Hamburg several times a month. I was lucky to meet her personally during my visit. A very elegant, sophisticated lady with great style and charisma.
Her impact on the line has been seen immediate when she developed the Princesse Grace de Monaco Collection as an homage to the late Hollywood actress and Princess of Monaco. Grace Kelly’s favourite flower the rose, a symbol of romance, provided the inspiration for the exquisite designs. She explained me that “each petal is different, has a different movement, is foldable like the petals of a real rose” which makes the pieces not only beautiful but very comfortable to wear.
The bangle from Montblanc’s Infiniment Vôtre Collection in warm skin flattering pink gold is held in the soft shape of the infinity motif. A diamond set in the Montblanc setting gives this precious piece a discreet signature. I love it.
But on top of my wish list are those beauties: The 4810 Collection hoop earrings in rose gold with pave set diamonds. I have completely fallen in love with their sparkle.
My visit to Hamburg was truly special, a wonderful experience. I have rarely seen a company with so many passionate and enthusiastic employees that absolutely seem to enjoy their work. Culture, quality, craftsmanship and continuity – these are the core values which Montblanc carries proudly into the 21st century, already writing another chapter in its history and I am very proud to be a little part of it!
Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht