Montblanc International GmbH is a German manufacturer of writing instruments, watches and accessories, often identified by their famous "White Star" logo.
Founded by the stationer Claus-Johannes Voss, the banker Alfred Nehemias and the engineer August Eberstein in 1906, the company began as the Simplo Filler Pen company producing up-market pens in the Schanzen district of Hamburg. Their first model was the Rouge Et Noir in 1909 followed in 1910 by the pen that was later to give the company its new name, the Mont Blanc
. The first pen (a fountain pen
) known as the Meisterstück
or Masterpiece (the name used for export) was produced in 1925. Today the Montblanc brand
can be found also on other luxury goods besides pens, for instance there are Montblanc brand watches.
The company was successful despite its founder, Eberstein, fleeing to the US to avoid prosecution for stealing company funds in 1909. In 1934 the company changed its name to Montblanc-Simplo GmbH, and introduced its first piston filler.
The company was acquired by Dunhill in 1977, following which lower price pens were dropped and the brand was used on a wide range of luxury goods other than pens.
Today Montblanc forms part of the Richemont group. Its sister companies include luxury brands Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chloé, and Baume et Mercier. Since 2000, Montblanc has manufactured all the components for Montegrappa and Cartier branded pens.
The trademark most clearly identified with Montblanc is the white stylised six-pointed star with rounded edges, representative of the Mont Blanc
snowcap from above, the symbol being adopted in 1913. The number "4810," the mountain's height in metres
, is also a commonly recurring theme.
The star is also referred to as an edelweiss, an indigenous perennial that grows in the alpine forests and mountains of Europe. Less romantically, the star is also referred to as "the bird splat" by fountain pen collectors.
Montblanc's marketing includes the use of paid endorsements from:
A common criticism among fountain pen collectors is that MB have become an entirely marketing oriented brand and that quality has suffered. In one poll
among collectors, only 19% voted that MB had generally maintained quality, and a mere 6% that it had improved it. Another poll
showed only 5% of collectors willing to use one as their primary modern pen, compared to around 20% each for the brands Sailor, Pelikan, and Pilot/Namiki. However, pre-Richemont Group takeover pens made out of celluloid (rather than the "precious resin" used for contemporary pens) can be highly collectible, with those being made before 1962 especially sought after.
Montblanc's "Limited Editions" are typically produced in quantities of tens of thousands, often far exceeding the production of pens by other manufacturers that are not
claimed to be limited editions. (See e.g. Mont Blanc Edgar Allan Poe
) Although selling for prices of thousands of dollars, Limited Editions are often injection moulded "precious resin" (a Montblanc marketing term for a plastic that has had glass fibers added which makes it shiny but unusually brittle
) likely to cost only a few tens of dollars to produce.
Editions include Patron of Art, Writers Edition, Special Theme Edition, Annual Edition, Donation series and America's Signatures for Freedom.
Some Montblanc special editions have been particularly controversial: after seeing a supplier's invoice, Diamond Intelligence revealed that heat-treated black diamonds had been used rather than much more valuable natural white diamonds for $200,000 diamond covered Mont Blanc 149 pens. This altered the value of the diamonds in pen by a factor of ten. The journal claimed that Mont Blanc had used "deceptive and unfair trade practices" in its advertising and had breached US law concerning gemstones when it failed to inform costumers of the nature of the diamonds used. Mont Blanc disputed Diamond Intelligence's legal interpretation, but changed their marketing to reveal the nature of the stones used.
Ban on Internet Sales
Authorised dealers are no longer allowed to sell from web sites and have to use telephone or postal ordering. The company claims that this is because it is aware of many fake pens being sold via web sites.