A collection inspired by Hannibal

‘Technical virtuosity paired with boundless creativity’, is how Montblanc describes the Hannibal set

Jens Henning Koch, Executive Vice-President of Montblanc International, relates the story behind the stunning, intricately crafted and one-of-a-kind Hannibal Barca pen collection. The German brand, known for its high-end writing instruments, has exceeded the expectations of luxury pen collectors with its recent collection. Created by some of the finest artisans at Montblanc, the limited-edition pens inspired by Hannibal showcase the most extravagant works of art produced by Montblanc yet.

A Punic military commander from Carthage, Hannibal Barca is considered one of the greatest war strategists of ancient times, alongside Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. The Hannibal collection features several outstanding techniques, from stone-cutting and setting to granulation lacquering, and such cutting-edge technologies as the use of ultraviolet laser in constructing the writing instruments. The exquisite diamonds and blue sapphires these instruments are studded with push the prices of these limited-edition items into the arena of fine jewellery, with a whopping price tag of €1.5 million!

The choice of Hannibal Barca as an inspiration, however, seemed a curious choice. Koch explains what inspired Montblanc to select Hannibal as the hero of this outstanding collection. Excerpts from the interview:

Montblanc has created many special writing instruments inspired mostly by literary geniuses and art heroes like William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy and Leonardo Da Vinci. Hannibal Barca doesn’t quite fit into this list. What was the idea behind creating such a highly-valued pen series inspired by a war General?

If you look at European history, you can see how much of it is shaped and influenced by the Roman Empire. Hannibal bravely challenged the Roman Empire, even before Christ! His way of aligning his forces strategically is something that is still referred to, even today, in military academies. He invaded Italy by crossing the Alps on the back of an elephant! When his generals warned him, he said, Aut viam inveniam aut faciam – I will either find a way or create one”.

His way of thinking continues to be relevant when you think about business leaders and about the challenges we face in the world. We aren’t paying homage to his achievements on the battlefield as much as we are for his strategic thinking. We’ve used representations of both the strong cultures as well — Roman and Punic culture have been expressed well in the craftsmens’ work.

What artistic techniques were used to create the beautiful work seen on the Hannibal Barca pens?

We begin creating a new product by first deciding upon the story we want to tell. We look at different facets of the story and the creative direction we want to take in terms of design and using different elements.

We take different approaches, like using the perfect diamond cuts for various parts of the pen and using different cuts to shape the elephant’s head. The architecture of the elephant’s head is such that it is masculine yet refined, even in the pens without diamonds.

The trunk of the elephant makes the pocket clip. Great technicality was involved to craft this. It’s a clip that is soft enough to push and yet hard enough to be cohesive with the overall design. Montblanc had purchased more than 10,000-year-old Mammoth teeth that were used in the pens.

How does your research team select an inspiration that becomes the focus for artisanal work at Montblanc?

We think of well-known personalities and think about how we can tell their story in a way that is relevant today. The story should have depth, gravity and appeal for buyers.

Montblanc has made a mark in the luxury market with some of the finest Swiss watches. As a well-established watch brand, do you face challenges in attracting the millennial generation to invest in watch collections?

Traditional watch connoisseurs tend to think inside out; they give priority to the complications and technicalities inside the watch before they take in the exterior. However, younger collectors think outside in, so although they can appreciate the technical complications, the look of the watch precedes what is inside.

We have the Timewalker watch collection, that expresses the spirit of racing and caters to the buyer looking for a watch that showcases his or her personality while offering technically sound machinery inside.

This year, Montblanc launched a smart-watch in India. With wearable technology advancing so quickly, what is the next big development that can be expected from Montblanc in the consumer technology segment?

Montblanc knows the importance of technology today, and we’re embracing it. We are integrating the codes of fine watch-making with technology, and the result was the The Summit, a smart-watch that was welcomed well in the market. This market is dynamic and we are observing it very closely.

How important is India as a market for Montblanc?

India is a very important market. We recently signed AB de Villiers as a brand ambassador for our writing instruments, smart watches and leather collections to target Indian customers. It’s a market where we see high appreciation and growth for our products.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often been seen using Montblanc pens...

Montblanc is a fine life-time companion. When you visit our headquarters in Hamburg, you can see a variety of photos of world leaders who use Montblanc to sign treaties. When world leaders use our pens, it’s not only a sign of sophistication but also reflects the gravity of what they sign with these pens.

The interviewer, a former TV journalist, is founder of www.LuxuryVolt.com, a lifestyle portal.

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