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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Montblanc, Marc Newson Create New Writing Instruments

Montblanc M collection designed by Marc Newson

Montblanc has teamed with famed contemporary designer Marc Newson for a new collection of writing instruments designed to appeal to a younger audience.

Together they created the Montblanc M collection of writing instruments that combine the iconic elements of the famed designer with the heritage of the iconic luxury brand. It is the first time Montblanc has participated in a design partnership in its 110-year history. 

Newson is one of the most important and successful contemporary designers in the world. He has designed products ranging from clothing to airplanes. He is best known for designing the Lockheed Lounge chair, one of which sold at auction for $3.5 million, the most expensive object ever sold by a living designer. Most recently he was hired by Apple as part of its design team and has had input in the design of the Apple watch.

The Montblanc M collection has been available since September but they received their first proper public unveiling at the recently concluded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. Newson said the writing instruments were designed with an aesthetic and a price that should appeal to a younger audience. 

“The idea was to try and design something which perhaps is a little more accessible for a slightly different demographic … a slightly younger person,” Newson said prior to Montblanc’s 110th anniversary celebration January 18 in Geneva. “A product that is not in the same price range and that we could potentially target for a different segment. It could in some ways be perceived as an entry into the world of Montblanc.”

Montblanc M fountain pen retails for $565, compared with the Montblanc Meisterstück 149 fountain pen at $935. A rollerball and ballpoint models are available at $400 each. There’s also a “ScreenWriter” for use on touch screens and a thin “Montblanc Artfineliner” for technical drawing.

“The purpose of the item was not to design a cheap product or a disposable product,” Newson said. “It was designed as a very high quality writing instrument for a younger demographic; who I might add probably doesn’t have the same historical relationship with writing instruments as someone of my generation.”

The M pens have a sleeker design than the typical Montblanc writing instrument. The rounded shape gradually moves to a flat surface at its end—a new design direction for the luxury brand. These elements are among Newson’s trademark biomorphic style, defined by its fluid and pure organic forms. 

Meanwhile, the pens have the iconic elements associated with Montblanc, such as Montblanc emblem made of white resin on the tip and on the flattened end. The platinum-plated clip is mounted into the cap so it doesn’t interrupt the design flow. The ruthenium-plated metal (a platinum alloy) forepart that balances the weight of the writing instrument is engraved with “MONTBLANC.” The 14k gold nib for the first time is plated in two tones, using rhodium and ruthenium. The nib is engraved with the letters “MN” for the designer.

“If you look at the type of person we were trying to pitch, I think the product had to be recognizably Montblanc and it had to be slightly more modern slightly more contemporary in its lines at the same time,” Newson said. “If you saw it in the window of a shop you have to be able to recognize that it’s a Montblanc. There were these two dynamics that we had to play with.”

A key functional aspect of this writing instrument is the magnetic closing of the cap and barrel, with what is described as “an additional snap mechanism” designed to the make the closure smoother and ensure the cap stays firm.

Newson said Montblanc CEO Jérôme Lambert approached him with the problem of designing a new writing instrument for a new audience. The two have worked together previously when Lambert had the same position with luxury watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre. Newson designed the Atmos 561 and 566 clocks. 

Newson described the task as a problem solving exercise. 

“He asked me if I would be interested in designing something quite specific for Montblanc,” Newson said. “Not a project but a specific target in mind and he thought I could add some value. A series of writing instruments with the same sort of design.”

The result is a collection that is both contemporary in form and speaks to the legacy of the brand. 

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