LUXUO Leaders: Nicolas Baretzki on Montblanc’s Spirit of Library Campaign
Montblanc CEO Nicolas Baretzki shares his views about Montblanc’s global campaign in an ever-changing world
The final leg of Montblanc’s global campaign, the Spirit of Library, finds its way to the vibrant city of Shanghai, where guests are invited to the historical Sunke Villa to immerse themselves in Montblanc’s universe. This exclusive interview with Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc in Shanghai, clues us in to understand more about the “Spirit of Library” and how it connects to the various divisions of the Montblanc brand and legacy.
The campaign captures the uniqueness of individual cities. How does this global campaign align with Montblanc’s identity and values?
Indeed, the global theme is the Spirit of Library, and the word spirit is important because the idea is about bringing the notion and culture of writing. At Montblanc, we say that everyone can leave a mark, and at some point, it starts. A project begins with writing something. But it goes far beyond that. A library is a place to think, dream, read, write, and elaborate and a moment to reflect.
This global approach allows for a shared understanding of what culture is, why writing is so important today, and why it connects, in fact, everyone. It’s also very local. For instance, if you think about calligraphy, the approach towards it is very different if you are in Japan, China, Singapore, the Middle East, or Europe. How do we adapt and be relevant in the various territories, then?
Today, travelling has resumed, and I feel it’s more interesting to see cities than a country as a whole. People visit Shanghai, London, New York, Tokyo, Dubai, et cetera; that’s why we are trying to capture the campaign and spirit in very different ways. We were in a beautiful library when we launched the campaign in London. Our campaign approach in Shanghai is very different from the one in London from before and New York next week. Many other cities will eventually be integrated into that global campaign and concept.
You mentioned culture and so many different cities. With someone with such a rich background and experience, how does this campaign reflect your appreciation for cultural diversity and global perspectives?
When you think of a library, the curious and creative come to mind, and for me, it’s really about this interaction. If you’re curious but can’t travel, you can learn a lot by reading books; it allows you to understand a culture’s and country’s spirit. I feel the best way to experience a country’s culture and spirit is to travel and interact. I’ve been living in different places, including Singapore, and what better way to understand and experience a country’s culture?
We’re doing that more at Montblanc, especially since we started with the Montblanc House in Hamburg. The idea is to start bringing this culture (of writing) and understanding the purpose of writing, not just in the fantastic Montblanc headquarters but also to bring it to the different territories.
When we think about a library, we think of words written with, in this case, Montblanc’s writing instruments. How has having a writing instrument and personal space affected your pursuit of creativity and innovation?
Firstly, I’ve always written. I was part of the generation that didn’t have computers when we were young. Up till today, I still have my notebook, pen and writing. If I don’t, I can’t remember or structure my thinking. For instance, even if I had a script for a speech, I had to write it myself to remember it. That’s my way: I have this creative process, and it’s analytical, too.
Writing is something very complementary in the digital world. When you take a piece of paper and a writing instrument, additional emotion and meaning are transmitted to a certain extent. When you write something, there’s a real purpose and reason for it, adding value to your actions. That’s why I’m very confident about this activity.
Everyone who writes again will have that same feeling. We call it the Spirit of Library to say, “Guys, let’s try it again. Let’s take the time and enjoy writing.” Writing is a process, and for me, it’s a journey. It goes far beyond the writing instrument.
The stillness and calmness come to mind when you think about a library. How does Montblanc stay relevant in a rapidly changing luxury market without deviating from its principles?
If you think of a library today, you will be amazed by the diversity of locations. I’ve seen amazing ones in Korea and China. They’re so modern, contemporary, and full of young people enjoying the place. I don’t see it at all as a still, quiet and dusty kind of place. It can be very modern and exciting. That’s why we go back to the concept of spirit, which is not about the library per se but more of what it represents as an aspiration for us to reflect on. The message is not about going to a library but imagining what it was to be in the library and thinking again why writing is important.
Libraries are custodians of knowledge. What do you think Montblanc is a custodian of?
We have very clear territories. Firstly, Montblanc is a maison of functionality, be it in writing, travelling, exploring or time-telling. Secondly, we have a strong connection to the mountain because of the maison’s name. If you think about it, we strongly represent the notion of “go out, discover, explore, and we’ll bring you whatever you need to make it happen.” That’s the concept of the company.
You mentioned the many divisions within Montblanc. Can you share some insights into how Montblanc balances preserving traditional values while driving innovation?
The origin of Montblanc stems from innovation, not for innovation’s sake but to answer a modern constraint. One hundred years ago, travelling with a pen was very difficult because people had to pack their fountain pens, ink, et cetera, separately. We invented a series of integrated fountain pens and, on top of it, a very safe fountain pen for travellers. If you think about Montblanc, we’ve always tried to support travellers and people in what they do throughout history. That’s why we’ve ventured into new divisions, such as the luggage, because the essence of travelling begins there. We try to remain consistent in what we’ve been doing and within a common understanding of our customers at Montblanc.
What are your travel essentials, then?
I have my Montblanc cabin trolley because I don’t check in my luggage. When I travel longer distances, I take a duffel bag because it acts as a second small piece of luggage. I always carry a writing instrument, and then I have the headphones for the plane because they’re super comfortable, and it doesn’t hurt to wear them for long flights. These are the minimum for me.
What happens If you forget your writing instrument?
That’s a very good question. It never happened to me.
Ever; it’s like my phone. We live in a digital world, so I could never forget my phone. It’s the same as the writing instrument because I need it to take notes. I find it interesting to see the parallel between the digital and analogue worlds.
Do you recall the most heartfelt handwritten note you received as a closure to this interview?
Good question, I do. I have quite a few, but the most meaningful one is from my to-be girlfriend and wife from back then. I invited her to my 20th birthday celebration along with many other guests, but she fell very sick after returning from a major humanitarian trip to India and couldn’t attend as a result. She sent me 10 postcards after, each with a note describing and imagining how she thought I was from birth up till my 20th birthday. I told myself I had to meet this person when she recovered; she became my wife many years later. Those postcards are still kept with me in a little shoebox!
This story was first published on Men’s Folio Singapore
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