HUBLOT to launch jewellery line with scratch resistant gold

Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot plans to expand into the jewelry market in 2013 after it had developed a scratch-resistant gold alloy with a local technology institute.

The company, owned by LVMH, plans to start selling cuff links and rings made with the 18- carat alloy of gold and a ceramic, Chief Executive Officer Jean- Claude Biver said yesterday in an interview at Hublot headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Watches will remain the brand’s main focus, he said.

“There is a market for branded jewelry and therefore I believe, if we have a unique selling proposition in our gold, we should use it and go into jewelry,” Biver said. The move will increase Hublot’s credibility and reinforce the brand, while also increasing revenue, he said.

Watchmakers are working with new combinations of metals and materials such as silicon to make timepieces that are more durable and lighter, as well as to reduce the need for lubricants. Hublot plans to introduce the first timepieces made using the new process at the BaselWorld industry gathering in March. It already uses another alloy designed to make watches lighter yet resistant.

Hublot remains on course for revenue growth of about 30 percent this year, Biver said. The Swiss watch industry may expand by 3 percent to 8 percent in 2012, depending on the economic situation in Europe, he said. “I’m not worried about China, I’m not so much worried about America, I’m not worried about Russia or Latin America,” Biver said. “My only worry is Europe.”

The company may open 25 to 27 boutiques globally in 2012, including about 10 stores in China, according to Biver. Hublot is also planning to build a plant next to its headquarters that will focus on case manufacturing. The facility may be operational in 24 to 30 months and employ more than 200 people in the coming years, Biver said.

The new gold alloy, dubbed Magic Gold, was developed jointly with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. It’s more than twice as hard as standard gold and can only be scratched by diamond, Hublot said. The technology used to develop it can be applied to other metals including silver and platinum. Hublot has also used the process to make an aluminum alloy. The brand has no plans to share the technology with other watchmakers, Biver said.

Hublot, which makes about 30,000 watches each year, including the Big Bang oversized model, has yet to determine the final color of the new alloy, though it has determined that the material will be slightly different from other shades of gold to make it distinctive, Biver said.