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Strategy

Laurent Lecamp. A new lease of life for Montblanc watches

Appointed head of Montblanc's watch division in January 2021, Laurent Lecamp is aiming at six to eight months in order to infuse a new direction to the watch brand Montblanc

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino23 juin 2021

Larent Lecamp, CEO of Montblanc watch division (DR)

Laurent Lecamp seems to have lived through a thousand lives, with a capacity to embody each of them with the same intensity. He says he has endurance. It’s a fact. He is curious to say the least. He travels through as many kilometers in mountain paths as he spends hours thinking about strategies to come. Nominated at the head of the Montblanc watch division in January 2021, his career seems to be leading him towards a natural ability for mastery and precision. After a career spent back-to-back in champagne and watchmaking, he then turns to entrepreneurship by cocreating the watch brand Cyrus, still alive today, trains in gemology and becomes vice-president of sales at Carl. F. Bucherer, writes four publications including the essay “C’était comment dans 1000 ans”, learns Russian, and runs marathons in extreme conditions, including the very demanding race of Lake Baïkal, by minus 40 degrees.

Laurent Lecamp made the headlines of National Geographic, as well as business medias. He is aiming at six to eight months in order to infuse a new direction to the watch brand Montblanc. His habit is to want to manage everything, understand everything. If stamina is his nature, to have a strategy that lasts in time is his objective. Meeting with a hyperactive watchmaking professional.

You were nominated at the head of the watch division at Montblanc in January 2021. What were your first actions ?

To read everything I could about Montblanc, books and books about the brand! Dive into its history, to understand evolutions and to be able to extract strategies that I am setting up today, it’s a process I enjoy following. In parallel of this immersion into the depths of the brand, I dove into the history of each colleague, by extensively talking with them. I was lucky enough to travel a lot during my career, in more than 60 countries. And each time, I noticed the same frustrations, the same lack of communication and appreciation. When I arrived at Montblanc, I wanted for all the colleagues, regardless of their position in the company, to be informed at the same time on all subjects in the same way. Mix the teams, listen to each opinion, as it is crucial to engagement and to design perspectives that will then be driven by each and everyone.

The brand's headquarters in Le Locle and its watchmaking workshops (DR)

Since January, what have been your priorities and when will we see the ripple effects?

I have identified three key elements to infuse: strong storytelling on each product to drive sufficient attention and curiosity. To bring a lot of perceived value to watches and the third element: differentiation. The April 2022 novelties will truly shed light upon these evolutions.

Were these three qualities not present up until now in your opinion?

Many elements were present, but I wanted to go further. If I take the example of the Montblanc watch Gobi Desert: It wasn’t telling enough story. When I arrived in my position, I ordered three books about Reinhold Messner, today a brand ambassador, in order to understand the character, I met with him, I read everything about Mongolia, about the symbolism of the compass rose, on the difference between each desert in the world. The topic needs to be mastered for the storytelling to become fluid and true. I wanted to know all the colors that Messner had seen with his own eyes in the Gobi Desert, in order to better create a universe, that we would read like a book, one chapter after the other. The color, the material… my objective is to convey information and emotion.

The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere model (DR)

Will these three elements make Montblanc’s success?

The key to success? It doesn’t exist. However, I do believe in emotions. To speak to the hearts of people with honesty, while appearing as our best possible self. That is the foundation of storytelling. The great challenge is to make it unchanging, to have the story related to the product still told in twenty years. In order to find it, one must capitalize on the roots of the brand and listen carefully. To collectors, watchmakers…

Then what are Monblanc’s fundamentals that will make this story unalterable?

The place, Villeret, and its V-shaped mountains. And of course, its colleagues, its talents, the common discourses. A fresh eye on the brand’s fundamentals enables innovation.

Is it your past as an entrepreneur that gives you this ability to listen?

It’s about listening and being curious. To move on from one training to another, to learn new languages, all pushed me towards new universes. Enology, watchmaking, gemology were my passions, just like learning new languages. I learnt Russian during six years, by perfecting it on site. I am convinced that curiosity is the drive to life. The way we apprehend it, and our beliefs drive the energy to transform it.

Is it this energy you seek when you face extreme marathons?

Laurent Lecamp and Vladimir Voloshin on Lake Baikal in 2018 during the ice marathon (© PPR/Carl F. Bucherer)

Yes. The race on Lake Baïkal in 2019 was an incredible experience. Faith both in one’s strength as well as in the energies of nature that surrounds us allowed me to transcend injuries. I ran this race in extreme temperatures, by minus 45 degrees, and I also owe it to Vladimir, my teammate, with whom I ended in the 28th position. He is a true champion, a record man who runs ten triathlons in ten days… he taught me to enjoy nature, to look up from my timer. And to live the race fully. To embrace elements. That said, directly after crossing the finish line, and exhausted by the race, he took me diving in the frozen waters of Lake Baïkal. In spite of the tiredness, to see the inverted ice pyramids that appeared under the surface was fascinating. So, when I arrived at Montblanc, and discovered this link between the brand and glaciers, the Montblanc, the adventurers, this was another revelation.

How would you describe a Montblanc watch?

It is a very emotional product, especially since the buyback of the Villeret manufacture. Today, Montblanc deserves to be known for the high quality of its savoir-faire. It already has a very strong legitimacy. We shouldn’t forget that the manufacture has never ceased to produce movements since 1858. And I want to implement differentiating elements that will highlight it and will remain in ten or twenty years. But in order to get there, we must reinforce the link between the brand and watches.

The watchmaking workshops of the Montblanc Villeret factory (DR)

What is your strength?

I am not here to revolutionize. But to bring what makes me who I am: a very structured side I was able to apprehend at Carl F. Bucherer, and a very agile and inventive side that I have gained from my past as an entrepreneur. I also know retailers quite well, I worked in boutiques, I know the distribution channels and end clients worldwide. My strength is to know the markets and what needs to be created to feed them.

What are the objectives?

The objectives are clear, with a will to reach high growth figures. But it is together with the teams that we will succeed. We did not let any colleague go during this difficult period, and this makes me happy. I think that the first wins have to be tangible by the end of 2022. Watches that tell true stories, that are engaging and strongly emotional: these will be great victories in the years to come.

Will you also improve client services?

Yes, I want to commit for everything to be put in place for the client, even if I have to call them myself to solve issues. Most managers are afraid of aftersales services, while I would say I almost hope for it. It is an exciting challenge. When we treat aftersales well, and the client is fully satisfied of this experience, they become fans and ambassadors of the brand. But I don’t want to go too fast. As the Japanese say: “To go fast, take the longest route.”

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