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Montblanc expands sports watches in Rolex, Breitling price range

[GENEVA] Montblanc, the penmaker that began making Swiss watches two decades ago, is shoring up its credentials as it expands with sports models near the price range where Rolex and Breitling timepieces start.

The brand, owned by Geneva-based luxury-goods maker Richemont, is introducing a line of Timewalker sports watches with a mountain-climbing theme this year after entering the category last year with a collection based on racing. Already strong in the 2,000 (S$3,233.07) to 4,000-euro price bracket, Montblanc is sharpening its focus on the 4,000- to 6,000-euro range, according to Davide Cerrato, managing director of its watch business.

Those price segments are becoming more competitive as watchmakers try to lure buyers by providing better value, the executive said. Demand for extremely high-end watches has been dented in the past half-decade as China waged a campaign against corruption and smuggling, which shrank the world's biggest market for Swiss watches.

Many brands have cut prices by as much as 30 per cent, meaning more producers are competing in the entry level, Mr Cerrato said. "There is this strong battle in value that is coming up," Mr Cerrato said.

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Montblanc has also been expanding in the 20,000-euro-and-higher end of the market with watches made at the Villeret, Switzerland, site of Minerva, a 160-year-old producer that Richemont bought in 2006. Such pieces include monopusher chronographs that sell for 25,000 to 30,000 euros, which is a fraction of the price of those made by Patek Philippe and Richemont's A Lange & Soehne.

Mr Cerrato said the price range from 6,000 to 20,000 euros is one of the toughest segments, because that's where most Swiss watchmakers aim.

Entering sports watches may also give Montblanc a leg up in the US, where about 80 per cent of the market is in that segment, Mr Cerrato said.

Montblanc is among the brands presenting this week at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the annual high-end watch fair in Geneva.

BLOOMBERG

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