HUBLOT CEO

[dropcap size=small]M[/dropcap]any factors can drive the success of luxury watch brands, but time-telling, apparently, does not have to be one of them. Just consider the monochromatic bestseller from Hublot’s core Big Bang family – the All Black, launched in 2006. Almost entirely done in black, from its ceramic case to its hands and numerals, the watch is the horological antonym of legibility. It is also Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe’s favourite Big Bang watch.

In town recently for the opening of Hublot’s largest pop-up store to date – an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Big Bang – Guadalupe shares: “(For us), the time is not the most important thing. It is important, but we sell something different – we sell a piece of art.”

While this boldly unconventional approach has seen the LVMH-owned brand derided by some as a marketing-driven brand, it has also made the Swiss watchmaker one of the fastest-growing names in the industry, reporting double-digit growth, even as slow market conditions dog many of its competitors. Here, he gets candid about his plans for the brand, why he thinks independent brands are in trouble, and what he has learnt from his mentor, former Hublot CEO and LVMH watch chief Jean-Claude Biver. 

Hublot’s Big Bang All Black is also CEO Ricardo Guadalupe’s favourite.

 

Hublot’s “Art of Fusion” slogan refers to, among other things, its innovative use of materials. With more companies using materials in unusual ways, what will set Hublot apart in future?

We have a creative and innovative spirit, and we have the financial power to create materials like Magic Gold (Hublot’s gold and ceramic alloy). It took millions of Swiss francs to develop it, and some brands cannot afford to make this kind of investment. We are always working on different projects. I think we can do new things with ceramic – such as (alloys of) ceramic and platinum, or ceramic and aluminium, for instance. Sapphire is also interesting; we are working with it to see what we can do.

You joined Hublot in 2004 as its managing director and became its CEO in 2012. What is your greatest challenge as CEO?

To make the brand a real manufacture. We were very small when we started. It took us five years to develop and produce the Unico. This year, we will make about 12,000 Unico movements. Our (new production facility) will enable us to (take this number) to 25,000. In future, the idea is to have 70 to 75 per cent of our movements made in-house, and produce all our high-tech materials – to slowly create a real manufacture with a (wide range of) watchmaking know-how.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the watch industry in the past decade?

The concentration of brands in big groups. To be a strong brand, it’s better to be part of a group. A few independent brands still remain, but I think some will disappear very soon. Some will remain, but it’s going to be tough for them. Hublot was sold to LVMH in 2008 and, since then, we’ve grown and grown. Being part of the group has allowed us to have more independence, in a way. If we had been independent, we might not have been able to invest in certain things because they would have cost too much.

You have a 20-year friendship with Biver, who has spectacularly turned around brands like Hublot, Omega and Blancpain, and is currently Tag Heuer CEO and Hublot’s board chairman. What’s the most important lesson he’s taught you?

He’s my mentor and my guide. He still participates in product development and marketing strategies. Every time I have doubts, I talk to him. His philosophy is to always be different and unique and the first. And work hard to be successful. 

(Related: The Peak’s Baselworld 2015 Report)
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