Montblanc celebrates Le Petit Prince with new Meisterstück collection

Everyone loves a good allegory. Which is why Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novella, deserves all the attention it is getting on its 75th anniversary, as it sets out to charm both old and new readers. And writers. Last month, after a wait of several years, inveterate collectors were in for a surprise in Manhattan. Not only did Montblanc’s latest Meisterstück collection reference the young Prince and his wise friend, but the cigar-like ‘power pen’ now had a colour update. Deep blue, for the night sky of the little boy’s universe.

“It was an audacious move,” admitted Montblanc CEO, Nicolas Baretzki, to his high-profile guests at the observatory of One World Trade Center, New York’s tallest building, back in April. And earlier this week, at the collection’s launch in Chennai, the dapper Frenchman confirmed that deviating from Meisterstück’s iconic black took a lot of persuasion from him. It helped, of course, that both he and the brand’s artistic director were immensely influenced by Le Petit Prince when they were 11- and 10-year-olds respectively. “The love story of the rose had such an impact on me,” he says, seated at a corner desk at the new Montblanc boutique in Chennai’s Palladium.

Precious pursuit
  • Le Petit Prince was written in New York by the pioneering French aviator.
  • At Montblanc Meisterstück Petit Prince’s NYC launch, Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman read from the classic that has been translated into 300 languages and dialects. Guests dined on filet mignon and fox-shaped cookies, while the Champagne flowed.
  • Meanwhile in Chennai, at an intimate dinner for 25 at Park Hyatt’s private apartments, it was Veuve Clicquot that filled the glasses, as serious collectors, including a famous city cardiologist, traded stories over truffle beetroot and herb-marinated sea bass, before settling down to inspect the night-blue writing instruments.

Taking stock

It is a year since Baretzki, 48, took over as CEO at Montblanc, and as he leans over to gently pick up and uncap each of the three fountain pens before him, you realise that the balancing act between analogue and digital can’t be easy. On the one hand, the brand promotes Augmented Paper (that turns writing into digital notes) and its Summit smartwatches (inspired by the award-winning 1858 collection); and on the other, it protects its 112-year heritage and the craftsmanship that goes into its writing instruments. The pens are built in Hamburg and most of the manual processes retained. For instance, each nib in 18k or 14k gold undergoes over 30 steps, with the testing taking place in a closed room – by the sound they make on paper.

Follow the star

The Little Prince collection has borrowed from Saint-Exupery’s original illustrations — from the golden star on the pen’s clip to the engraving of the boy and the fox on the nib, right above ‘4810’ (referring to the altitude, in metres, of Mont Blanc’s highest peak). A literary reference from the book — “To establish ties?... To me, you will be unique in all the world” — is neatly etched on the crown. This is after all, the tale of a boy who leaves his planet to travel to Earth and in the process experiences love and sets free his imagination. He first meets the Fox, who teaches him about love and the responsibility that comes with creating bonds. The Fox is the star here, its slender face forming a pattern on the milled cap in one version. In another, it is the embellishment on the lacquered cap and barrel. There are money clips and cufflinks and a bracelet in this line, but the quirkiest touch is the pot of orange-brown ink — referencing fox fur.

Montblanc celebrates Le Petit Prince with new Meisterstück collection

If you are not an old school journalist or writer, how often will you handwrite something in the course of a day, I wonder. I think of Montblanc’s other unconventional inks — orange, golden yellow, poppy red, Irish green — and recall what Lynn Serfaty, the brand’s head of writing culture has been saying to journalists in recent interviews. That the Montblanc pen is a tool of self-expression, with the inks “increasingly used not for writing, but for drawing and dipping brushes in”. With social media rewriting the rules of communication, she is right to expect images and words to co-exist on paper.

Future speak

At our meeting, Baretzki reiterates that everything about Montblanc is millennial ready, from the smartwatches to the pens with their story of hope, love and friendship, to the accessories and backpacks crafted by the brand in dark blue and red leather in Florence. Busy launching the Meisterstück Petit Prince around the world, and making room for the brand’s other categories, from fragrances and eyewear to large leather goods, he says that luxury, to him, is always an emotion. “I have my phone to tell the time, but I still wear my watch. It is my statement,” he jokes. Incidentally, his watch strap is the exact shade of blue of the Petit Prince pens. “That’s the French touch,” he shrugs. When his media kit reaches us the next day, I notice that he is modelling a different watch in each of his photos — all paired with the same slim single-breasted suit. There is the sporty 1858 Automatic Chronograph in one, and in another, the Montblanc Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph featured at SIHH 2018. The third has him with the 1858 Geosphere, a dual-timer dedicated to the world of mountain exploration. As he has said in the past, Montblanc is about forward thinking. And it is his job to address the needs of today’s connected generation.

The three special editions are available as a fountain pen, roller ball and ballpoint. The collection starts at ₹600 for the ink cartridges, with the pens from ₹34,800 to ₹1,23,700, at the 10 Montblanc boutiques in the city. Details: 044 66653809

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 14, 2021 6:48:50 AM |

Next Story