Behind the Scenes of Orient Express x Montblanc High Artistry Collection: A Journey on the Orient Express

July 2023

Craftsmanship / Wonder

The exceptional Montblanc High Artistry A Journey on the Orient Express collaboration features 7 exclusive limited edition writing instruments crafted in the tradition of the finest artisanal techniques and savoir-faire. Thorsten Hering, director of Mont Blanc’s Artisan Atelier, shares 7 insider secrets behind the collection’s technical and creative challenges and manufacturing methods. By Alexis Chenu.


Montblanc High Artistry A Journey on the Orient Express is Montblanc’s most extraordinary collaboration to date. From the Orient Express’ rich history and the power of the pages of literature including Agatha Christie’s characters like infamous spy Mata Hari to the sumptuous settings, the décor and fine materials and the role of celebrated designers like René Prou and Lalique, Montblanc wanted to create something truly unique. Introducing the most complex collaboration ever achieved by the famed luxury house.

Artisans of wonder

The most prestigious collaborations and limited edition collections are crafted in Hamburg, at the Artisan Atelier created by Montblanc in 1999, at the heart of the Manufacture. Initially built to house just 16 artisans when it was constructed, the workshop now employs 80 people, including mechanical toolmakers, goldsmiths and gem setters, all highly skilled creators capable of transforming a product into a veritable work of art. For certain editions, Montblanc has collaborated with the fine jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels, experts in enamel work that can be seen on the Papillon model, and the Montblanc-owned Minerva manufacture, which produces the fine watchmaking mechanisms for Editions 1 and 10.

A project launched 3 years ago

The Montblanc and Orient Express collaboration began 3 years ago. Gina Bruzzi, Montblanc’s design director, immersed herself in Orient Express’ vast history, its archives and its legendary design. After showing her first ideas and drawings, she presented her complete project, namely a veritable book composed of 7 chapters and 7 editions, each telling a different story of the legend of the Orient Express. Her project seduced both loyal customers and collectors and the collection was born.

A 35-step process

The first step, which accounted for 70% of the designer’s work, involved both intense research and inspiration. The initial drawings were submitted to the Montblanc teams for budgetary and stylistic validation, before being printed as 3D models. Then it was time for prototyping and the presentation of brass products, treated and delicately handled as if they were the final pieces. If the test was successful, development of the product was to be launched.

A first time of everything

This collaboration is one of pure innovation. For the first time ever, Montblanc has created a case made of marquetry for its Limited Edition 1, similar to that featured in the decor of Orient Express trains and designed by René Prou. Also for the first time, Montblanc used a hand-engraving technique to create an Art Deco effect on the pens. For the first time, an oval shape was used instead of a round one to adorn all the writing instruments, precisely retracing the train’s original shape. And finally, for the first time, a complex mechanism has been designed to open the cap at the touch of a button, a true tribute to the elegant machinery at work in the legendary locomotive.

5,000 hours of work for the Limited Edition 1 Papillon

Montblanc High Artistry Orient Express Limited Edition 1 Papillon is Montblanc’s most complex creation to date. It took 3 years of brainstorming and 5,000 working hours to develop. The complication of the pen – which emulates the oval form of the Orient Express carriages and features a butterfly made of plique-à-jour enamel at the center of the design – obliged Montblanc to revise the entire project three times to get it just right. This unique piece is made up of 152 parts, compared to the usual 50. “A completely crazy project”, says Thorsten Hering, director of Mont Blanc’s Artisan Atelier.

Mata Hari under the microscope

The body of the Limited Edition 5 model features a window that opens to reveal a delicate miniature painting of Mata Hari. The tiny dimensions of this hand-crafted painting make it an artistic work of extreme precision, beyond what is visible to the naked eye. Swiss artisan Isabelle Villa, renowned for her microscopic paintings, is behind this singular creation.

The number 12

The cap of the Limited Edition 10, decorated with gold leaf inlays and crystal flowers, is set with 12 stones, evoking the number of times the victim was stabbed in Agatha Christie’s famous book Murder on the Orient Express.

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