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 Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT

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Date d'inscription : 05/05/2005

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT Empty
MessageSujet: Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT   Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT EmptyVen 29 Sep - 3:33

The exclusive I interviews
Presented by Joël JIDET

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver
President of HUBLOT

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT JCBiverPrsidentdeHUBLOT
Jean-Claude BIVER

Less than one and a half years after taking over as the head of Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver has succeeded in propelling his brand to the forefront of the watchmaking world, overhauling watch design, launching a television channel and popping up everywhere in the media.

Jean-Claude Biver, thank you for agreeing to this interview and to answering questions to satisfy the curiosity concerning the brand over which you preside.
A first question springs to mind. Why did you leave the world of brands that already had a formidable reputation, such as Audemars Piguet and Omega, to preside over the destiny of a brand that two years ago was still little known?

This is one of the hazards of youth and ambition. As a young manager I had aspirations, dreams and a great deal of ambition. That is why I left Audemars Piguet when I had just turned 30 (having worked there for four years). I then left Omega in 1981 to buy the Blancpain brand with Jacques Piguet, which had remained dormant for almost 30 years. What we bought was in fact only the right to the name, because of course there was no longer a factory, tools, collection, production, collection, staff, etc. This had been going on for almost 30 years. It was an extinct brand that nobody remembered.

You masterminded the renaissance of Blancpain in the 1980s and this time you have breathed new life into Hublot. Are you drawn to brands undergoing a renaissance or is it just chance that your career has led to these watchmaking challenges?

I have always taken great pleasure in developing either a product or a brand. This makes me more of a “do-er” than someone who manages an asset. I have to admit that you need both types of managers in the industry. But I am more at home in the field of renaissance and conquest. Above all it gives me greater pleasure.

The design of the Hublot collection has evolved a great deal in a few months and some people recognise a certain aesthetic that reminds them of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. In your opinion is this the result of your time spent in its manufacture and simply a trend in watch design or a style specific to Hublot? In which case, what makes it different?

The form of the first Hublot in 1980. It was the work of Carlo Crocco. He also had the idea of calling the watch (the form of which was inspired by a porthole – ‘hublot’ in French) “Hublot”. Also, and above all, the idea of “fusion” with a rubber strap. This was a brilliant idea and certainly the first fusion in the history of watchmaking. Moreover, it is an idea that has caught on since then, because from Breguet to Swatch, almost all brands have now introduced rubber straps as standard. The form of the Big Bang (if you look carefully and compare it with the 1980 model) is no more than a consummate development of the 1980 version. In other words, if Mr Crocco had developed his original 1980 design, year after year, he would have arrived quite naturally and simply at the Big Bang. This watch is therefore an evolution of the DNA of 1980 enriched by the “fusion” of materials, a new form of construction (sandwich construction) and a dimension (44.5mm for the largest) that suits today’s tastes.

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT Hublotbigbangdtail
Big Bang - Détails

For the “Big Bang” and “Mag Bang” models you have opted to marry materials as diverse as steel, titanium, ceramic, kevlar, carbon, magnesium and even rubber. What do these materials contribute?

These are the materials of the future. Materials that you find in High Tech such as ceramic disk brakes in Formula 1 cars or Kevlar in the Americas’ Cup yachts. It seems natural to us to resort to these materials for our watches because we do not see why we should be restricted to steel or gold. No, we are determined to be and to contribute to the watch of tomorrow, to captivate young people with modern ideas and visions. Fortunately, there are still a number of very beautiful brands that offer traditional models.

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT HublotbigbangcloseupbackandfacepublInterview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT Hublotbigbang301b31

Two versions of the Big Bang

You preach the gospel of lighter watches and the use of materials that optimise weight saving. We see that there are other brands following this route. What makes you think that this is the best route?

I do not claim that our route is the best. All routes are good, provided that they have their customers or their market. I simply claim that there are clients who wish to look towards the 21st century and are enthusiastic about innovations and interpretations in harmony and symbiosis with their century and their generation.

The price of Hublot watches has risen substantially and the collection is following a fashion trend, which was not the case in the 1980s and 1990s. Don’t you worry that the models have a very marked early 2000 style and that both the designs and the high-tech materials will suffer from the effects of fashion?

Hublot already had a very marked style in 1980. And the model has not changed but evolved. We therefore have proof that the model is resistant to the vagaries of fashion, provided that we remain in step with the times. It is rather like the Porsche 911. The basic shape has not changed, but it has constantly evolved in tandem with new technology and tastes and trends over time.

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT HublotEvolutioncopie
Evolution of design in HUBLOT collection

In general, and looking beyond Hublot, what is your feeling about current trends in watchmaking design towards larger diameter and thicker watches? Do you believe that this trend will continue over the long term?

No trend lasts forever, otherwise it would not be a trend. But I believe that large watches will last for another half generation at least. It is difficult to wear a small watch when you are accustomed to wearing a large watch. I therefore think that the people who wear large watches today will not revert to small ones. But perhaps the next generation will.

Are there brands other than Hublot in the watchmaking world that you dream about managing today?

Who wouldn’t like to manage such temples as Breguet or Patek? But I am passionate about Hublot and I have the brand in my blood, my lungs and my heart. I only dream of raising Hublot up where it belongs.

Hublot also has a few quartz models. What are your sources of supply and do you plan to develop your own movements?

Yes, we do have quartz Hublot watches. Hublot is not a mechanical integrator as I once was at Blancpain. We therefore offer an alternative. And there are many women, whatever people may say, who still prefer quartz. We buy most of our movements from the best movement manufacturer in the world! And we are increasingly trying to develop special movements, but in limited editions in-house. For this purpose we have just acquired a 5-axis Mikron and we are going to take delivery of four more in the next two years. That is why we are building a new 3,000 m² factory right next to our current factory.

Hublot introduced a tourbillon chronograph, the “Bigger Bang”, which used the most sophisticated technologies. Is it essential for the reputation of a brand to have a tourbillon movement in its collections?

When your name is Hublot and you are determined to be the reference in the field of “fusion”, it is essential to offer movements that result from and represent “fusion”. Whether this is a tourbillon, or a minute repeater, or a perpetual calendar does not play a critical role.

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver President of HUBLOT Hublottourbillonwhitegold
Tourbillon white gold

In which markets is Hublot currently best placed and which markets do you intend to conquer?

We are still very strong in Spain, where we continue to expand our market share. I think that we must be the 3rd or 4th luxury brand in this country (after Rolex, Omega and perhaps Cartier?). We have also regained strength in the USA where we have turnover of $20,000,000 and are amongst the leaders, as well as in Japan. However we have no presence in India or China and we are weak in Russia and the Eastern countries.

How do you see the coming years in watchmaking? Do you think that we are going to see, as some predict, the restructuring of watchmaking groups and brands passing from one group to another in a Monopoly game that benefits the brands?

Watchmaking groups already exist and they are set to become even bigger. I am thinking in particular of the biggest of all, the Swatch Group, and I believe that this group will become even stronger. However, the small private brands will have to excel in their niches and stand out from the brands belonging to the large groups. If they succeed, they will have a fine future; otherwise they will stagnate or be taken over. Niche marketing is marvellous because by definition a niche is small and specific. This allows them to make objects and things that are individual and special. Objects aimed at a few privileged people. This is why the “fusion” concept found in the Big Bang is only for the few and this is also why you have to wait for this product. In a way it is a true speciality that you have to identify and then wait to have. This is also the vision of luxury.

In your view, what is most important for the success of a watch? A good design, a good movement or good marketing?

Fortunately ALL OF THESE! Today it is impossible to build a lasting success unless you master all of these ingredients. The product, quality, distribution, communication, etc. Everything must be in harmony and everything must be perfectly controlled. Otherwise success will be at best ephemeral.

How do you feel about internet development in the field of watchmaking? Do you think that the brands will make enough effort to forge a presence and are internet sales of watches likely to develop at the highest levels of watchmaking?

I have no opinion on what the brands do or do not do on the internet. I am not really concerned. Nevertheless the internet is a means of communication and a trading medium that cannot be ignored.

Mr Biver, thank you very much for answering questions on behalf of the readers of Forumamontres and Worldtempus.

Copyright september 2006 - All rights reserved

Contraria contrariis curantur. (Les contraires se guérissent par les contraires).
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