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We get contacted by PR agencies and marketing firms asking for help with press releases, content ideas and even some product review requests.

Most of the time, the brand or products being pitched to us are ones we’re already familiar with — celebrities, luxury goods, and technology are the usual suspects — but occasionally, we’re sent a request for a piece of content that will be completely new to us.

Recently, we were contacted by a PR agency representing a luxury goods client looking for a review on luxury watch brands. We’d never heard of luxury watch brands, so the idea that we’d be able to review a collection of luxury watches and be able to share our findings with the world was pretty exciting.

The collection in question was the Montblanc Men’s Grande Complication Collection, a limited-edition luxury watch collection inspired by the legendary designer’s signature aesthetic. From the moment we laid eyes on the collection, we knew it was going to be a challenge to review the high-end watches and still maintain our objectivity. Our job was to find the heart of the brand and give an objective review that would represent the authenticity that Montblanc is known for.

The Facts Check

Even the most seasoned journalists can be dazzled by the glittering array of luxury brands and the deep pockets of their marketing departments. It’s not that journalists are bad — far from it — but let’s face it, luxury brands spend a lot of money trying to get their products and brands in front of as many people as possible, and that means we see a lot of shiny new products and experiences being pitched to us. It can be hard to resist. This is precisely why we do our best to keep an eye on the facts when we’re doing our reviews. It’s not that we’re cynics or anything like that, it’s just that we want to give an accurate and truthful account of what we find because we’re aware that not everything that’s shiny and new is actually good.

The Pitch

The PR agency that contacted us was well aware of our watch obsession (we even have a YouTube show called Watcheting with Kristen that’s centered around our love for watches) and they knew that we’d be able to provide an unbiased opinion on their client’s luxury watch collection. They went ahead and pitched us a story idea that they thought we’d be interested in. The idea was to do a story on Montblanc’s masterful design philosophy and how it influenced the creation of their complication collection. They thought we’d be able to connect with our audience (our YouTube viewers) and show them that not only are luxury watches desirable, but that they can also be functional and have a unique design that will appeal to a broader audience.

The thing is, we don’t often get pitched stories about luxury watches, and when we do, it’s usually a pitch to do a story on a single spectacular watch or collection of watches. This is a novel concept for us, so we wanted to see how they might make it work. They pitched us a theory that if they could get multiple watches or a whole collection of watches, then we’d be more inclined to work with them.

The theory seemed logical, but could we really consider reviewing a collection of watches? Even if we could, would we want to? The answer to both questions is…probably not. We’re humans, we have flesh, and we have emotions. When you add a collection of watches to the equation, the idea of doing an objective review becomes very difficult. We’d be open to the idea of doing a collection of watches if we could be certain that each entry in the series was of high quality and would live up to our standards. In this particular case, we’re happy to report that the collection lives up to our standards — except for one glaring problem that we’ll get to in a bit.

The Research

It’s one thing to have an idea for a story and another thing to be able to execute on it. For us, the research phase is always the most difficult part of the process because we have to try and sift through so much information to find the nuggets of knowledge that can help us form our opinion. In this case, we had to do a lot of research into Montblanc’s design history and how it all fit together. The agency sent us a list of all the watches in the collection and even gave us access to an exclusive video showing us the inner workings of a watch from the collection. In the end, we needed three weeks to simply read and digest the information that they gave us.

The Research Begins

The first step in any review process is to do some research. In this case, we had to look at the historical growth and evolution of Montblanc and gain a better understanding of the brand’s current state. It’s one thing to walk into a luxury branded store and see a display of luxury watches in the window, it’s another thing to look into the history of the brand and discover that it all began with a single watch that was designed in-house by Georges Maertens and it’s been a steady march of innovation ever since.

Montblanc’s Beginnings

When we think about luxury brands, usually we think about the big guys that dominate the industry. Swarovski, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Patek Philippe, and a whole lot more. What we don’t often think about is the small bricks that built the big companies. In this case, we’re talking about Montblanc.

Montblanc was originally a small watch company that specialized in gold plated and diamond-encrusted movements. In the 1960s and ’70s, they began putting their designs into steel and creating unique and innovative watch cases. They also began taking on more and more elaborate watch designs that really started to set them apart from the rest of the industry. Pretty soon, people were talking about Montblanc and their unique designs, and that’s when the snowball began rolling.

Design Innovations

Over the years, Montblanc became known for not only their elaborate watch designs but also for their design innovations. They were the first brand to put a computer chip into a watch, allowing for all sorts of cool features like satellite navigation and data displays. In more recent years, they were also the first Swiss brand to put a 3D hologram on the dial. The list of design innovations that they are credited with is quite extensive, including the first waterproof digital watch, the first scratch-resistant glass, and a whole lot more. If you’re a fan of innovation and have a hunch that this collection might live up to the hype, then Montblanc’s your brand.

Introducing MIST

We don’t get too many pitching opportunities for blogs, but when we do, it’s usually a pitch to do a piece on a single brand or product. In this case, we were asked to take a look at a collection of products, not just one, so we were presented with the opportunity to do a little bit of brand journalism. We were given the freedom to examine multiple products from different categories within the luxury niche market and were also asked to report on how each one compared to one another.

What we found was that each product had its perks, but they also had some major flaws that made them less than perfect. We thought this was an excellent opportunity to trial a new tool that we’d developed called MIST. MIST is an acronym that stands for Multi-criteria Information Systems Technology, and it’s a tool designed to make sense of a deluge of information we usually deal with on a daily basis. It’s an excellent tool for doing subjective reviews (like the one you’re reading now) and it helps us remain as objective and agnostic as possible while giving an accurate account of what we find. It was designed to combat the risks of bias that are inherent to subjective reviews. In our experience, MIST has lessened our bias risks while still allowing us to provide an authentic opinion.

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