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Hublot Chairman, positive on future outlook – exclusive interview

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Jean Claude Biver, Chairman of the Board of luxury watchmaker Hublot, owned by world’s largest luxury group, LVMH.

Hublot is a relatively young luxury watch brand in an industry dominated by heritage brands. Which have been the key competitive elements which have contributed to its success nowadays?

A brand has always the age of its leaders. If the leaders are old fashioned, than the brand will act in an old-fashioned way. Hublot has a management with a very large and deep experience which is giving Hublot its master of tradition. But at the same time its management is full of creativity and innovation, which will give Hublot a very young and dynamic attitude.

Which are the key defining elements which are taken into consideration when a new model is developed? Can we speak of a Hublot DNA?

Hublot has a very clear message: Fusion in Watchmaking. This message is promoted through a very clear Product DNA (inspired by the porthole design), which is communicated through a very innovative way. Hublot always tries to the The First, Different and Unique

You have recently developed the One Million $ Black Caviar watch, following past launches of such exceptional pieces. What is the reasoning behind these launches? Are single pieces sold or limited editions?

Swiss Watch Making, especially in Geneva has always been associated to jewelry and enamel. By promoting a 5’000’000 $ watch, after having made two 3’000’000 $ watches, three 2’000’000 $ watches and nine 1’000’000 $ watches was a very intense tentative to connect Hublot to the history of Geneva and the its watchmaking history. Each watch, even if produced in 9 samples, or 3 samples is unique. Only the price is the same

 

Hublot, Big Bang Black Caviar

 

Some luxury watchmakers have been expanding in major emerging markets with mono-brand boutiques, in some cases due to the lack of infrastructure and speciality retailers. What is your view on mono-brand stores versus wholesale?

We believe very much in mono brand stores both in structured, developed market as well as in emerging markets. It is quite often by far the best way to promote the brand and to communicate the full message and complete collection of the brand.

What is the profile of a Hublot franchisee for a mono-brand boutique? And what is your criteria in opting for franchising versus directly operated stores?

Depending on the country, the place, the quality of the existing distribution and the cost of the rent we decide either to run the store by ourselves, or run it on partnership base or as a franchise store

After sale service and customer service have become increasingly important for wealthy consumers. What is your approach at Hublot?

Proximity with the customer is the most distinguished sign of luxury. The more a brand is close to its customers, the more it can claim being a luxury brand. As such, service belongs to the CEO’s most important duties

Hublot is one of the watchbrands which is most counterfeited. What is your strategic approach to fight counterfeiting? Is there also a grey market?

We are (thanks God) one of the most successful brand, and as such we must live with counterfeited watches. What would be the sense to counterfeit an unsuccessful brand? But we spend about 4’000’000 $ to fight agains fakes, and this budget will be revised in 2013.

Most other luxury watch brands are most associated with polo, golf or tennis. Hublot is very much involved with soccer and rugby too – two sports not necessarily associated with luxury. Does this strategic awareness ensure a different consumer target?

We are associated with sports were we can claim to be the First, Different and Unique. What’s the sense to support a sport that is already supported by other brands? That’s why we try and tend to be always in sports where others have not been.

How important is digital and social media to Hublot? What is your view on Facebook as a sales tool or an ‘’aspirational engine’’ as some have called it?

Social Media is the future. If we want to be part of this future we must connect through all the possible communication tools so that the new generation (generation Y) can connect to us. All our efforts are done toward the “Y Generation”. That’s why we have to adapt our language, our product, our philosophy, our concept to this new generation.

Some luxury brands have been diversifying into other product categories. Do you have any plans for Hublot sunglasses, mobile phones or accessories? What is your view on diversification?

We have plans to start with some jewelry (especially with our un scratchable Magic Gold) and with sunglasses. Later we will see if we are going to increase the number of accessories or not.

What are your expectations of 2013 in terms of sales, given the looming recession in the U.S., the projected stagnation of most major European markets and the slow down in China?

We will grow again in 2013 and will keep growth down to 10 to 15% as we want to grow step by step.We don’t see any looming recession in the following markets : US,  Latin America, Japan, Asia, China, India, Middle East and Russia. If that’s true, why should we worry so much about the looming recession of certain european markets?

January 7th, 2013 – Geneva, Switzerland

Jean Claude Biver, Chairman of the Board, Hublot S.A. (photo Bloomberg)