Today, Montblanc is a multinational trendsetter at the forefront of the elegant and practical luxury accessory market, but it was the focus and foresight of three German entrepreneurs with an eye for new technologies and new ideas that laid the foundations for what is now a world beating brand.
There a few names in high end writing instruments that can match Montblanc’s qualities of uncompromising craftsmanship and excellence. The maker has its origins at the turn of the 20th century – a golden age of innovation and ingenuity. Hamburg based banker Alfred Nehemias and engineer August Eberstein saw the technological improvements in the area of writing implements, particularly the developments in fountain pens and recognized a distinct gap in the market for beautifully styled, simple and elegant and writing instruments for a discerning clientele. To fill this gap, in 1906 the pair conceived and developed the “Simplicissimus” pen. Literally meaning “simple”, the pen was a masterstroke.But the Simplicissimus would be the only product offering from Eberstein and Nehemias. A short time after the pen came to the market, the business was taken over by Wilhelm Dziambor, Christian Lausen. The third member of the trio, Claus Johannes Voss joined the company in 1908 and the three set about laying the early foundations of what would eventually become Montblanc.
The initial name for this new company was the Simplo Filler Pen Co. in reference to the Simplicissimus, and sold itself as “manufacturer of high-class gold and fountain pens”. A year after the Simplo Filler Pen Co. was established, the “Rouge et Noir” safety fountain pen was launched. It was to be the first major success for the budding entrepreneurs. Cleverly marketed as a pen that would not blot your Sunday best, the pen became exceptionally well known as being one of the best of its day.
This was also the year in which Simplo adopted the Montblanc moniker. Rumour has it that it was at a card game when an unknown family member of one of the partners quipped that the “Rouge et Noir” had become the pinnacle of the writing instrument world, drawing a comparison between it and Mont Blanc – the tallest mountain in the Alps. Inspired by the analogy, the company trademarked the name a year later for use on all future pen products and the rest as they say is history.
Simplo released its first pen to carry the companies new name – the technically improved “Montblanc” pen in 1910. It featured for the first time a white tip on its cap – a forerunner of what would eventually become its world-famous white star.
The subsequent years saw the brand expand into Europe with new Montblanc stores opening in Paris, London and Hamburg Berlin, Leipzig, Breslau, Hanover and Bremen. With this expansion, the company grew in confidence and in 1924, the brand leapt to the vanguard of the industry, thanks to the release of the now legendary Meisterstück fountain pen.
As its name proudly proclaimed, it was a masterstroke epitomising precision craftsmanship. Its now famous “4810” engraving began appearing in 1929 – a representation of the height of the great mountain in metres and has been engraved on all Meisterstück fountain pens ever since.
Montblanc has never shied away from innovation. In the latter part of the 1920’s the brand capitalised on the success of its successful new pen, becoming an early adopter of new techniques in advertising. Montblanc and was one of the first companies to advertise in the “third dimension”, branding the sides of aeroplanes and fitting cars with oversized fountain pens garnering unprecedented attention and acclaim.
In 1934, the Simplo Filler Pen Co. was mothballed and officially became Montblanc-Simplo marking the beginning of a new chapter in the businesses history. The company expanded to include notebooks, pen pouches and writing cases – all of which carried the new Montblanc name.
Since the then, the company has continued on its innovative path of, going from strength to strength and in the process, setting ever higher benchmarks for the brand. Used by businessmen and heads of state alike, the brand’s qualities of reliability, form and function are still its calling card
The company was acquired by Dunhill in 1977, signaling a shift its product offering outside the office with watches, leather goods, fragrances, eyewear and jewellery added to its portfolio. However the focus on quality and detail never altered. Striving since its inception, the brand has wholeheartedly pursued innovation and creativity, and in the process has cultivated a respect for the brand and its products that is virtually unrivalled anywhere in the world. Eventually, both Dunhill and Montblanc were absorbed by the Swiss luxury-goods combine Richemont.