Nicolas Baretzki, chief executive of Montblanc, talks to us about the shifting luxury market

I was appointed Montblanc’s CEO in April, after working as its EVP Sales since 2013. I started out in the industry at Cartier in Singapore in 1994, later moving to its international team. Before starting with Montblanc I worked for a time at Jaeger-LeCoultre.

In the past 20 years, consumers’ understanding of what luxury is has changed. Now luxury brands need to adapt and respond. Customers themselves have also changed. A few decades ago, the luxury goods audience was more homogenous: these days, brands can’t even rely on homogeneity within a single market. Clients are more informed and are also searching for deeper meaning rather than just ownership.

In the past, status used to be purely physical, about products, whether jewellery, a luxury car, a handbag. Now it’s intangible and often focused on experience – not about what we have, but who we are – we want to be more connected, more creative, more ethical, more in-the-know than everyone else. Therefore we have to offer more than a product, it has to be part of this connected lifestyle.

The rise of digital, in all areas, is irreversible. Consumers’ digital demands are getting more and more differentiated. Montblanc is forward-thinking with its products – for example, our Augmented Paper pairs the enjoyment of a natural Montblanc writing experience on real paper with the efficiency of digitising. And we recently introduced our first smartwatch, the Montblanc Summit, taking a step into the connected watchmaking world, addressing the modern needs of today’s connected generation while upholding the key elements of luxury wearables.

Digital-hungry millennials are an important target group. We continuously think about how to reach younger audiences with digital campaigns and how to transmit the aspiration and vision of our maison and our creations. We reflect on how to make the maison more relevant in today’s world; digital is a great tool for that. The client’s digital demands are becoming more significant and this will increase in the next five years. At the same time, there will be more people who appreciate traditional items and craftsmanship. So it will be about the challenge of creating a balance, bringing together tradition with functionality.

Innovation, new ideas and creativity are crucial elements of a successful company. It’s important that we are constantly looking to rethink, evolve and explore new ways of working. Having the courage to try out new things, never losing the curiosity for new challenges, always pushing ourselves forward.

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