Montblanc X RedBar "Spirit of Exploration" Tour
It should come as no secret at this point that we at RedBar are big fans of what Montblanc has been doing under the design direction of Managing Director, Davide Cerrato, and therefore, it should come as no surprise that we engaged with the brand yet again to do another whistle stop tour of RedBar chapters to help launch the SIHH 2018 novelties. Last year marked the first time that we embarked on this journey with Montblanc, with our inaugural event being held at Chicago's Montblanc boutique on the famed Magnificent Mile. This time around finished up in Chicago, but the journey back to the Windy City took us from shores of Florida to sun of California, and, finally, the plains of Texas.
For the 2018 tour, we kicked things off with with RedBar Miami at the Aventura Mall. We were welcomed by boutique manager, Flavia Ullivarri, and presented with an evening of cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, a watchmaking demonstration and, of course, a bevy of watches from the 2018 collection.
Our next stop was in NYC, where we took over Montblanc's flagship boutique on Madison Avenue during this year's Madison Avenue Watch Week. To say that the NYC crew parties hearty is to vastly understate the situation. As with the event in Miami, the evening was marked with watchmaking demos, good food, signature cocktails – even a curated Glenlivet tasting – and all the watches that one could ever hope for. Boutique manager Christian Saccal, couldn't have been more engaging, and overall everyone was made to feel completely at home.
For San Francisco Montblanc came correct in more ways that one. For starters, Kim Roberts, the boutique manager – a great guy and friend to all RedBar members – made sure that his boutique near Union Square welcomed us with open arms. (To be honest, he probably does this for everyone, because that just the kind of guy he is, but we like to pretend it's just for us.)
The evening followed the example set by our other events, but this time the whisky tasting included GlenGrant and we had an honest-to-god bagpiper out front. That's right, a bagpiper. To anyone who hasn't quaffed a wee dram of the good stuff to the dulcet tones of a bagpipe, well, I've gotta tell you, you're missing out.
Naturally, the watches were also on full display, with a surprise thrown in as well. While it goes without saying that the stars of this particular traveling show are the 1858 Collection pieces, as well as the updated TimeWalkers, this time around Montblanc saw fit to sneak in the new Heritage Chronométrie Perpetual Calendar Sapphire. This delightful reimagining of their original, game-changing Heritage collection perpetual came as a complete shock to me, and, indeed, I was trying to figure out where my brain was during RedBar's appointment with Montblanc at SIHH earlier in the year that I missed it. Well, as it turns out there's nothing wrong with my brain (relatively speaking); this was a mid-cycle debut for Montblanc and RedBar SF were among the first to get hands on with it.
Hot on the heels of San Francisco, came Los Angeles, where we decamped from the usual boutique setting to Craft LA where I was pleasantly surprised to find Patrick Parkey, the former boutique manager for Chicago, in residence as the new manager for their Los Angeles outpost. He took amazing care of us at our first event last year, and it was more of the same for Los Angeles. As with San Francisco, the Heritage Chronométrie Perpetual Calendar Sapphire showed up along with the rest of the SIHH 2018 novelties, though we did replace our usual whiskey sponsor with a cigar roller (let me tell you, this guy proved to be verrrry popular, indeed).
After Los Angeles we took a bit of a break to make room for COUTUREtime in Las Vegas, which both RedBar and Montblanc were participating in, and then it was back to work with Dallas/Ft. Worth being our next port of call. The North Park Center mall is where the action is when it comes to all things "luxury" in DFW, hence that's exactly where you'll find the Montblanc boutique.
Before I go any further, I have to note here that my traveling companion for this trip was none other than Florent-Aymeric Dubiez, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and pretty much "Mr. Montblanc" here in North America. Florent couldn't be more passionate about his brand, and in particular, their Villeret manufacture where the Minerva-based movements are crafted entirely in-house. Given that 2018 marks the 160th anniversary of the Minerva manufacture, I'd say that Florent's enthusiasm is entirely justified.
The Dallas event marked a return to the loving embrace of the boutique, Dallas boutique manager Melissa Vasquez made sure that our chapter members received an appropriately-sized Texas welcome (i.e "big"). The same applied to myself and Florent, who were gifted with cowboy hats and a six-pack of Lone Start longnecks to see us safely through to our next port of call: Houston.
Before I get into Houston, it's important to recount the epic road trip that brought Florent and myself there. It starts with the largest SUV that General Motors makes – the Chevy Suburban – and continues through our cowboy hats and a pit stop at Buc-ee's:
Exactly zero Texans were fooled by our disguises.
...we have liftoff!
Okay, I couldn't resist, but, yes, we did lift off yet another Montblanc event with the RedBar Houston crew in H-town, and, as with last year's shindig, everyone had a great time. Boutique manager Vicky Garcia was on hand to ensure that the Texas reputation for hospitality was maintained in fine style, which means that the cocktails were fresh and the watches were out and about.
The gang's all here!
Our final stop was back in the place where it all started over a year ago – Chicago. While boutique manager, Patrick, may have moved on to the sun and fun of Los Angeles, Montblanc made sure that our members in the City of Broad Shoulders were left in the capable hands of Amanda Levy.
With Amanda at the helm, RedBar Chicago had the run of the boutique, and, as was the case throughout our tour, they were among the first to get up close and personal with Montblanc's SIHH 2018 novelties.
Naturally, a proper single malt whisky was on hand...
First off – phew! We hit four states and seven cities to bring the Spirit of Exploration to the RedBar faithful, and we had an absolutely amazing time doing so. Montblanc has truly come into their own as a watchmaking powerhouse, and I believe that it's fair to say that there's something for the serious collector at nearly every price point in their collection. My personal favorite from their SIHH 2018 novelties is the stunning 1858 Collection Geosphere, but I'd gladly strap on any of the pieces from the collection. My biggest surprise? Aside from the mic drop that is the Heritage Perpetual Sapphire, I have to say that it's the new panda-dial TimeWalker, with its in-house chronograph movement and kickass Bund-style strap. Honestly, I figured that I'd be all set with my personal TimeWalker UTC Chronograph, but I've gotta hand it to Davide, the new one is an entirely different beast.