Words by hannah Tapping
This is the story of a banker, a stationer and an engineer who joined forces in a bid for simplicity, founding one of the world’s most iconic pen and watch brands.
The tale begins in Hamburg in 1906. In a country that was embracing new ventures and ingenuity, banker Alfred Nehemias, stationer Claus-Johannes Voss, and a Berlin engineer called August Eberstein joined forces to create a new type of fountain pen. Their aim was to create a writing tool that embodied ‘simplicity’ and have its own ink reservoir. Just one year later, the Rouge et Noir was born. It was the first ‘safety’ fountain pen and included the name Montblanc. This trio of inventors laid the foundation for the internationally successful Montblanc company that we know today, always manufacturing to the highest standards. The name Montblanc was officially registered in 1910 when the first pen was produced with the unmistakable Montblanc rounded star logo and white cap, representing the snowy peak of Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in Europe.
1924 saw the birth of the iconic Meisterstück fountain pen, aptly named after the German term for masterpiece, and continuing attention to quality saw the company expand into 60 countries in that year alone. Five years later, the nib of the Montblanc was engraved for the first time with the numbers 4810, representing the height of Mont Blanc, and has continued to be a signature feature of the pen. In 1934, the company introduced lifetime guarantees for its Meisterstück pens, and this encouraged the reputation that customers would reap the highest benefits from investing in an expensive writing instrument.
Sadly, Montblanc’s facilities were destroyed during World War II but, undeterred, production was moved to Denmark. After the war, in 1952, the 149 Meisterstück fountain pen was introduced. With nibs made of gold, ensuring a lifetime of writing, this legendary pen became the symbol of writing culture – a perfect fusion of style and function.
Fast forward to 1997 and watch lovers are treated to the first Meisterstück timepiece. The watch reflected the same artisanal prowess and traditional craftsmanship that Montblanc had become synonymous with and by 2006 Montblanc had joined the ranks of ‘haute horlogerie’, becoming a fully-fledged manufacture. A year later, and in a bid to preserve 150 years of conventional Swiss watchmaking, Montblanc joined hands with Minerva – a Swiss watchmaking company established in 1858.
Montblanc’s watchmaking facilities are located about 40 minutes from one another in the Jura Mountains, about two hours outside Geneva. The first of Montblanc’s two buildings is the Le Locle facility which was built as a family home in 1906. The company built a state-of-the-art facility beneath the main building for assembly of the Heritage watch line. As the former home of Minerva, the second of the buildings in Villeret upholds the manufacturer’s legacy of expertise.
Guided by pioneering spirit since 1906, Montblanc revolutionized the culture of writing with breakthrough innovations. Today, the Maison continues to push boundaries and evolve the expression of fine craftsmanship across each of its product categories: the pinnacle of luxury writing instruments, timepieces, leather goods, accessories, fragrances and eyewear. With every innovation, Montblanc offers new functionalities and ground-breaking designs imbued with the Maison’s heritage of sophistication and crafted to some of the highest standards through the skills of its artisans in each of its manufactures, whether Hamburg, Germany for its writing instruments, the Swiss Jura in Le Locle and Villeret for its timepieces, or Florence, Italy for its leather goods.
Reflecting its ongoing mission to create fine lifetime companions born from some of the most pioneering ideas, the iconic Montblanc Emblem has become one of the ultimate seals of performance, innovation, quality and expression of style. With its origins deeply rooted in the culture of handwriting, Montblanc continues to assert its cultural commitment around the world with the creation of wide-ranging initiatives to promote arts and culture in many forms, while honouring the modern day patrons who support the advancement of the arts.
Montblanc is available in Cornwall from michaelspiers.com