Davide Cerrato has been entranced by timepieces ever since he was a child. An unusual combination of creative and business-minded, he was perhaps the perfect man to head up Montblanc’s new-ish watch division when he joined in 2015, following stints in advertising and a successful tenure at Tudor. Here, Davide tells us why we should strive for imperfection, how he lost his favourite-ever watch — and the importance of finding a ‘hero’ product. I am a child of the 1970s, so my first watch was a dark blue plastic LED Casio — it looked like something out of Star Wars. When my father taught me how to read ontological time, it was really an epiphany for me. I still remember that moment like the moment I learnt a new language and gained access to a new world.
I had the pleasure of receiving watches from my father and grandfather, so I began to get into vintage watches quite early. There was a very special one which was a Universal Genève Chronograph, which unfortunately I only wore a few times before it was stolen when I was on a summer holiday. I’ve been looking for it ever since — in some way, I think it still influences my designs. It’s as if I am trying to rebuild it using my memory. I had brilliant experiences working with The Ferrero Group, as well as advertising with consumer electronics and cars — all before coming to the world of watches. I was involved in the strategy and planning, but I am really a creative at heart! My right and left brain are equal, and the effect is that I can do creative and analytical work. My very first job in watches was then with Panerai, a fantastic, one-of-a-kind Italian brand. A fundamental step in building up a good relationship with clients, and being on the radar for watch-lovers and connoisseurs, is having a hero product. People need to have a product that they associate with the brand — especially with a maison like Montblanc, where we have all sorts of categories of items. We now have a clear winner, which is the Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition, a vintage world timer displaying all the time zones across the world but is very clear to read.
We have already prepared our lineup for next year — we work up to three or four years ahead. What is clear now is that our existing collection works and does not need to be complicated further; we can now start playing with colour and textures. Our designs have this fantastic power to become stronger and stronger as you play around with them. Montblanc, I hope, will continue to become stronger and stronger. We can see already that the prices of the watches are growing higher and higher. The keyword for us is “consistency”, since we have enormously simplified our collection and have very clear universes in which we are playing. For example, the 1858 watch is an outdoor, mountain-exploration watch — and since we are called Montblanc we ought to be out there! What I am doing right now is the work I am proudest of in my career. I enjoyed jumping from one business to another in the beginning of my career, and I have now found something which fits perfectly — I really love watches. This job allows me to completely fulfill my creative side, so I think I am a very lucky man!
Taste is a universal language, so if something is built well and in proportion, then anyone, regardless of the culture or country they come from, is able to spot a good thing when they see it. Some of our designs have been influenced by my love of Japanese culture. The Japanese have a word, wabi-sabi, which is a philosophy of purity and simplicity and which celebrates the power of imperfections and impurities. Imperfections make things unique — and if you take the timepieces we make using natural stone, each slice is entirely standalone. My motto is ‘live and let live’ — to me and I think all creative people, it means that the freedom of expression and inspiration is very important. That’s why I love flyfishing, driving and painting. It comes down to making the space and time to clear your mind. It is more important than ever in today’s digital world to find mediation in these kind of activities.
Listen to our podcast with Davide Cerrato in full here.