Laurent Lecamp shares his thoughts on the importance of heritage and storytelling in luxury watchmaking.
A dynamo like Laurent Lecamp, the recently appointed MD of the Montblanc watch division, is expected to bring fresh ideas on strategy and innovation to the watchmaking bench. Tasked with rooting Minerva deeply into Montblanc’s watch division, and driving this important watchmaking pillar into the future, he finds inspiration all around him.
“Even being part of the watchmaking world I was not expecting what I discovered in the first weeks. The Manufacture at Villeret was another world for me and here I am standing in the museum,” he says. Every item has its own story. And outside, beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass doors that lead out onto a balcony, he points to a shape formed by the facing Swiss mountains, believed to be the inspiration for the iconic V-shaped bridge first used in Minerva watches of the 1920s and 1930s.
Laurent Lecamp at Villeret
Lecamp might be the new kid on the block at this illustrious Manufacture, but he is no stranger to the industry. His January 2021 appointment came on the back of his position as international sales director and board member at Carl F. Bucherer. He also co-founded his own watch brand, Cyrus Watches, in 2010, which he left in 2014 after selling his equity.
“When I came here I was very surprised to see Philippe Rieder making spirals (a very fine spring that forms the heart of a mechanical watch). I asked him three times. ‘Are you sure we’re making our own?’ That is something so incredible – I can count the brands doing that in Switzerland on one hand,” says Lecamp.
He set about learning more about the watchmakers, their long service, skills and craftsmanship. “Yvan Bourquin has worked as a watchmaker at the Manufacture for more than 58 years and Sandra Pauli has worked at Villeret for 21 years. She does the diamantage coquille (diamond shell finishing) for our ratchets. Only she has this savoire faire. How many companies still have this today? We don’t know exactly. Two? Three? One? That’s Montblanc. That’s Villeret,” he says.
Lecamp cannot produce a clear strategy after such a short time, but what he does know is he would like to develop the emotional aspect, which means going back to the roots of the brand, finding information that has been lost, and reusing that in a modern way. “The strategy clearly has to be based on emotion, on savoire faire, on know-how. We have something that nobody has,” says Lecamp.
It’s also about the art of authentic storytelling. “Developing connections between people and the stories related to the products is essential for the luxury goods market. Today, luxury is based on emotion.”
Lecamp is a natural storyteller and a published author to boot. He is also an ultra-trail and marathon runner, who gets his kicks in the forest. It’s a sport that injects his mind and body with positive energy, and has synergy with Montblanc’s Spirit of Exploration. “When I was a child, my friends thought I was crazy. I took the trees in my arms, always, and kissed them. Today, I’m 43, and I’m still doing the same thing.”
Lecamp acknowledges that more people are turning to digital to be informed about and to buy luxury, a trend that has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. A client wanting to buy a Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph Origins Limited Edition 100, for example, can do so with virtual input from the watchmaker. “Here in Villeret, that’s unique. It is what makes it possible to develop luxury sales. But we need contact. Luxury is not through the screen,” says Lecamp.
His watch of choice on the day of our interview was the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Pulsograph Salmon Dial Monopusher SS Limited. Why? Because when his three-year-old daughter holds it in her small hands, she gasps, and says, “C’est beau, Papa”. Lecamp says, “How can I wear any other watch? This is the watch forever for me, because she told me it is beautiful. Once again, that is the emotional part. The movement is beautiful, it has the famous V-shaped bridge, the decoration on the ratchet, the Minerva arrow at the end of the chronograph blocker, the German silver component, and the spiral of course. Everything is unique.”
An “officer” case back has been added, just like in traditional pocket watches, to protect the movement, and decorated with distinctive engravings on both sides. Inside there is a French inscription that translates as “Re-edition of a Minerva military chronograph from the 1930s equipped with a hand-made calibre following the Swiss watchmaking tradition”.
(This is the full-length version of the article published on Wanted Online.)