1010 meets Zaim Kamal, Montblanc’s creative director, and gets a taste of his timeless style
Zaim Kamal makes two rather charming confessions during our conversation with him. The first is that he did now own a watch until he joined Montblanc. The second is that wherever in the world he travels to, he can adeptly keep time with his body clock.
The stylish creative director at the century-old luxury accessories brand admits that his watch collection — or former lack thereof — is amusing. “I have been around watches all my life, I grew up with them, and my grandfather used to be an avid watch collector. But funnily enough, I didn’t own a single watch until I came to Montblanc in 2013.
“My first watch was from the Heritage Spirit collection, and now I wear the new TimeWalker — because I happen to love it.”
The flagship store in the UAE showcases Montblanc’s new Neo-concept design currently being rolled out across the world. Reflecting the essence of the brand as a “Maison of Fine Lifetime Companions”, the boutique communicates the expression of luxury in a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. The immersive space also allows clients to explore the brand story on their own terms, and discover the diversity of products in dedicated areas.
He also happens to think it is one of the most beautiful watches Montblanc has ever created.
In helming Montblanc’s creative team for the past four years, Kamal has been refining the heritage and artistic direction of the brand to ensure it continues to stay relevant. The Pakistan-born dapper Londoner travels frequently to visit manufacturers around Europe. His days are filled with drawings, designs and materials, and innovative ideas across the brand’s range of pens, leather goods and its fastest growing product — watches.
Speaking volubly alongside the opening of Montblanc’s re-modelled store in The Dubai Mall, now transformed into a high artistry boutique, Kamal explains how the new venture represents the brand’s four pillars. “Although our writing instruments still take centre stage, it was very important for us to represent the four pillars of Montblanc — each with its own stage, which invites you to view and review in unique fashion.”
The watch stage for instance, is very light, and the watches highlight themselves, he explains, and thereby extend a very personal invitation. “When you walk towards a watch, it almost floats towards you. And then you can take it out, try it on, and create your own experience. We want you to get to know your watch without any strict, regal or formal introductions.”
“Passion, expertise, knowledge and the love of creating a watch stems not merely from design. It must emanate equally from the watchmaker and the leather manufacturer.
Veering off the design of the maison to the design of a watch — any watch — Kamal explains how vastly the process differs from say the bags or writing instruments Montblanc is better known for. “Even though you put in the same amount of work and passion into designing a watch, the complexities are completely different. The challenge is to find a common denominator or a red thread that runs through the entire collection.”
It is this thread or denominator that makes a client understand how it works, he explains. “Sometimes the common thread is stronger, and at other times it is subtle. It must be natural though, and we never force it. But sometimes a line speaks for itself — you don’t always have to connect everything.”
Although his forte is design, he generously gives credit to everyone involved in the making of a watch. “Passion, expertise, knowledge and the love of creating a watch stems not merely from design. It must emanate equally from the watchmaker and the leather manufacturer. For us, this is what makes the common denominator, and this is exactly the spirit of the maison.
“A watch has poetics and it has mechanics, and when it starts functioning, it is like watching a heart beating. Therefore, you need to invite people to experience a watch, because activity is very important.”
Kamal says this forms part of his standing instructions to the small six-member design team at Montblanc — when they are designing a watch, they are asked to feel part of it, to be able to take it off and put it on, and live with it. Cross-pollination of ideas is just as important, he emphasises.
When he describes the characteristics of Montblanc timepieces, it is with a glean in his eye. “If you take the Villeret collection, for instance, it marries competence with expertise. Then you take the TimeWalker collection, where you can start off with a very simple minute and second automatic. But when you go further up, you have the chronographs and the GMTs, and then you have the handmade tourbillons.
“The amazing thing is it is all within one line, and they all share the same chords. Marrying them all in one line is just one of the unique ways we work at Montblanc.”
This man who takes about 200 flights a year as part of his work, has an amazing way of dealing with jet lag — and with time. “I just don’t adjust any more,” he says, “and I work to a certain internal clock which helps me focus. But because I still adhere to a certain reality, I am never removed from it.”
Over the years, Kamal has learnt the art of “not adjusting” on trips to different time zones, and on any day can wake up five minutes before his alarm goes off. In dealing with this and by training himself, he is also able to judge time better.
“You know, I am never ever late.”
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