THE STYLE SERIES: How Montblanc, a 114-year-old heritage luxury brand best known for its leather goods and $500 pens, is expanding into tech

  • Montblanc has released new smart headphones. It marks the heritage brand's first major foray into new technology.
  • The company also released a smartwatch collection.
  • In a new interview with Business Insider, Felix Obschonka, Montblanc's director of new technologies, spoke about designing new products and how the company plans to continue its expansion in tech. 
  • This is part of Business Insider's "The Style Series," highlighting fashion entrepreneurs around the world.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Headphones have arguably become the most important accessory of the modern era.

People listen more than ever now — to music, while playing video games, as they edit movies, and when watching TV shows. And of course, they're taking more Zoom calls from home now in the era of remote work prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Montblanc, a heritage brand founded in Germany in 1906 and best known for its high-end pens and leather goods, has pivoted its offerings to meet the more modern needs of its customer. The company launched its MB O1 headphones and smartwatch collections earlier this year.

In an interview with Business Insider, Montblanc's director of new technologies Felix Obschonka explains the process of developing Montblanc's new tech and why the company decided to expand into a new sector.

Editor's note: The below interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

"The headphones are our most travel-focused product, in the new tech line up that we have."

When we ask our customers, 'what is the tool or technology that is most important for you for traveling' — noise-canceling headphones are coming quite high in the list, because it gives them silence from the outside world. They actually can shut out all the noise and stress they have and really focus either on their work or actually relax. 

"We took a well-experienced design partner, who helped us get the right angles when thinking about the function of the headphones."

We also got a lot of experts from the sound industry who helped us in optimizing the sound. Overall, designing the headphones took us half a year or so. And then the total process of building a pair of headphones is usually between a year and a year and a half.

"We're also building mechanical watches. We wanted to have a watch that was true to watch design codes."

The watch really looks like a fine Swiss watch, that people would love to wear because they think it's fashionable and good looking. But it spurs with the latest technology. This one can actually comparatively connect to a network without the need for a phone. It was important that we have this connection between the latest technology and the best in design.

"It's very crucial [for Montblanc] to design products that are known for quality, craftsmanship, and fine materials. "

We see sometimes, a lot of products are, let's say, cost-driven — where people actually say, 'okay, for sure I could do this with nice fine leather material, but if I do it out of another material, I would save costs.' That's something we would never do. 

"Technology has become such an integral part of our life … So technology products become important."

Consumers have an expectation for brands to touch every aspect of their life, or a lot more of their life than ever before.

A lot of our consumers expect us to give them a holistic experience — meaning that you're not only getting your duffle bag, your writing instrument, and the watch, but you get the full experience from the brand.

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