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Montblanc’s Outlet New Head of Watchmaking on Lasers and Lime Gold

Originally published by Jon Bues on Hodinkee.

How many independent watch brand founders go on to become upper-level executives at conglomerates like Richemont, Swatch, or LVMH? Few to none, which is why Laurent Lecamp’s recent ascension to the top of Montblanc's watchmaking division has us intrigued.

Lecamp founded his independent brand Cyrus in 2010. “I had no choice other than being a real entrepreneur, " he says. "This meant cleaning my own office and developing the logistics, the marketing, the sales, production, design, export, everything." In 2014 he decamped for Carl F. Bucherer, which he says "gave me the structure to be much more oriented toward long-term strategy. I think that Montblanc is like a mix of this.”

Since joining the company known for a range of luxury products (from fine writing instruments and leather goods to watches), Lecamp has split his time between Montblanc's two Swiss watch manufactures, in Le Locle and Villeret. Inspired by the craftsmanship of the artisans in Villeret, he wants to position Montblanc as a brand that has something to offer to every consumer. “The fan is the one who will start at Montblanc, in a few years he will buy another timepiece,” Lecamp says. “And step by step he will go to the highest level.”

HODINKEE: This year you have have full-color, laser decoration directly on a titanium caseback. How did you discover this process, and what else do you think you can do with it besides casebacks?

Lecamp: It's the team who found it, I was not there yet. The team had the idea to do something unique on the caseback. They wanted to create something that could be very stable. If you observe casebacks, if you have colors on them, usually after a few years' time they fade. They wanted to develop a new process, making it possible to have something highly stable.

It works this way: You have to have a titanium caseback. If it's not titanium, it won't work properly. There is a laser that creates the contour and the depth. Once you have these, you need colors. The process for the colors all depends on the distance between the case and the laser, and on the angle and intensity of the laser. You only can have the colors coming from the rainbow. Not more, not less.

Everything can be created. Everything. For example, I can take your photograph and create your face on the caseback and it will be stable for many years.

The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition "Desert"
Source: Hodinkee

Can you see it being used for dials and other things as well?

Dials are usually done in brass, not titanium. So if you want to do it, you have to do it in titanium, and why not? Then you can think about different possibilities – the case, the dial, the hands, everything. But it's easier on the caseback, because it's flat, and sometimes the dials are not, for example.

There's also a new gold alloy for the 1858 small seconds. We're seeing a lot of precious metal alloys at different brands. Why do you think this is? Do you have anything else coming on this front at Montblanc?

When we create something, it's not because of a trend. It's because it's connected to our history. That's a key point. I'll give you an example: The lime gold you mentioned was created because we are very connected to the color green, for many reasons. One of them is that our inspiration comes today from the former chronographs we had in the '30s, '40s, and so on. Most of them were military chronographs, and the color of the military is green. Minerva was very famous for military chronographs. The second one is, Villeret is located inside nature. When you observe the mountains in front of our manufacture, you observe two mountains crossing. These mountains have a V shape, the same shape you find on the movements with the V-shaped bridge.

We created lime gold not to be like others, we decided to create something to be like we are. Now, if we develop any new material in the future it will always be in accordance with our roots and nothing else.

The Pythagore is back. What does this watch mean to Montblanc, and how is the new M14.08 movement different from the historical caliber 48?

The Montblanc Heritage Pythagore Small Second Limited Edition 148 in white and rose gold.
Source: Hodinkee

It's interesting because I had a discussion this morning with one of my colleagues about this caliber. She told me it's amazing how Andre Frey, the owner of Minerva and a watch engineer by trade, had the idea in the '40s to create something so specific that’s based on the golden ratio.

Frey decided to develop the first movement with bridges, with geometric lines and shapes, based on the 1.618 golden number.  It was the caliber 48. Eighty years later, the Montblanc watchmaking team has decided to recreate it in a more perfect way. In Frey’s development, the distance between the bridges was not the same. Our Montblanc engineers have decided to use the golden number again, even for the distance between the bridges, just to explain how deep we are going into the concept.

The MB M14.08 "Pythagore" movement.
Source: Hodinkee

In the '40s the power reserve of the Pythagore was about 50 hours. And now we want to increase the power reserve to 80 hours. Why? Because most people put the watch on the table on Friday evening and take it back on Monday morning, and most of the time it's not working anymore. But this watch, with a manual-winding movement inside, is still working on Monday morning when you put it back on your wrist.

How are you looking to develop this line over the next few years? What are your objectives?

The main objective for me is to develop Minerva more and make it more famous through the focus on a specific and key code. I found this information only twice while reading perhaps 20 books about Montblanc and Minerva. I am working on it. It will be coming next year.

I am a big fan of Minerva, I have to tell you, really. And I will fight for Villeret, 100 percent. We have such an amazing treasure here, and I will never, never, never leave it as it is – which is already very good.  I want to put it to the top because this is the place it deserves.

And Montblanc is amazing as well. The Geosphere 1858 Gobi, for example, these two half-spheres with the eight dots marking the highest mountains in the world, one of which is Mont Blanc. When you observe the Rieussec – by the way it's the 200th anniversary on the 1st of September – when you observe this you recognize the DNA is so, so strong.

I really want to develop this and create something new inside the watch so that more products are instantly recognizable. I have my own ideas, of course, but I work with my team. I spend time with the watchmakers. I have two offices: One is in Le Locle and the other is Villeret. I spend time in both of them to talk with everybody, especially with people who have years of experience. I have to learn, and from that learning something will be developed.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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