Interview: Nicolas Baretzki, CEO of Montblanc

On luxury, e-commerce, and the products in-between.

Running Montblanc, a company with several balls in the air across different segments, requires a versatile set of managerial talents. Despite its origins as a pen maker, Montblanc is now the most diversified of the brands belonging to Richemont, the Swiss luxury group that also owns names like Cartier and IWC. A third of Montblanc’s turnover comes from selling watches – mostly of the affordable-luxury type but also top of the line timepieces badged Minerva –  but it also sells leather goods and jewellery.

The man in charge of all of that – which makes Montblanc the third largest brand in Richemont’s stable, with sales of about US$1 billion – is Nicolas Baretzki, Born in Paris to a family with roots in the watch and jewellery trade, Mr Baretzki started his career as an accountant at one of the Big Four but left after a year for the business of luxury.

Montblanc 1858 Monopusher Chronograph green 5

The Minerva-powered 1858 Monopusher that just made its official debut in Singapore

Mr Baretzki joined Cartier in Singapore and spent eight years rising through the ranks of the jeweller, a traditional training ground for future chief executives at Richemont. But it was during his subsequent 15 years at Jaeger-LeCoultre where he really made his mark, as a key lieutenant to then chief executive Jerome Lambert.

When Mr Lambert left for Montblanc, tasked with turning around the enterprise, Mr Baretzki was a crucial member of the new team. And last year Mr Baretzki took the top job, just as Montblanc is establishing a new identity for itself. The new Montblanc positions itself as young, cosmopolitan, and stylishly European, while keeping a careful eye on affordability, with the recently launched 1858 watch line a case in point.

We caught up with Mr Baretzki when he was in Singapore recently. Here’s the condensed interview.



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Sharon Chan Returns to Watch Auctions with Bonhams

The auctioneer continues to rebuild its watch department in Hong Kong.

Formerly the head of watches at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, Sharon Chan has returned to the auction scene as Director of Watches, Asia, at Bonhams. She joins industry veterans Tim Bourne and Vanessa Herrera, a husband and wife team who just joined Bonhams earlier this year.

With her first watch auction at Bonhams scheduled for November 2018, Ms Chan has spent some 16 years in the watch auction business, including two years running Sotheby’s watch department in Hong Kong. She departed Sotheby’s in 2016 to strike out on her own as a dealer and consultant.

The growth of the watch department at Bonhams in Hong Kong is a turnaround from the situation a year ago, when the department was non-existent after the exit of the previous team. This is happening alongside a renewed vigour in the auctioneer’s watch sales in London and New York, with its most recent London sale boasting a selection of popular, high value vintage watches from Rolex and Heuer. Now trailing industry leaders Phillips, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Bonhams has a greater chance of catching up with its enlarged team.

Ms Chan’s appointment is the latest major personnel move in Hong Kong’s watch auction scene, which is not as high profile or vintage-focused as Geneva but especially important in terms of pricey complicated timepieces and high jewellery watches. Her new role means that practically every major watch auctioneer in Hong Kong has seen a new chief take charge in the last year, with Sam Hines at Sotheby’s and Thomas Perazzi at Phillips.

Over at Christie’s Hong Kong, however, the watch team is strongly staffed but is missing a head of department after Mary Lee recently became a consultant. Instead, global watch chief John Reardon, who is based in New York, is doing the job on an interim basis.


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