Interview with Hublot CEO Jean-Claude Biver

How important is a manufacture movement to a watch company charging $10,000 and above for their timepieces?

The manufacture gives to the brand an access to its own creativity which is essential. A manufacture gives independence from third party suppliers. And last but not least, a manufacture creates substance which provides value to the brand.

I’ve read that the Hublot “Unico” in-house movement was based on the design of the famous Valjoux/ETA 7750. Is this true? The silicon escapement is an obvious improvement over the 7750, but what other improvements were made?

It would be nonsense to design, develop and produce an in-house movement based on 7750. It would then be better to copy and produce the 7750 as it is today patent free. UNICO is based on the dimensions of 7750. And that’s it. For all the rest is a total unique and innovative movement. The idea to build UNICO in the same dimension than 7750 is to enable one day to anybody to change (in the same case, same dial, same hands and so on) from 7750 to UNICO. That again is a total new concept that no brand has ever tried to make. The major improvement compared to 7750 is the column wheel, the double gearing and the chronograph on the side of the dial.

How many brand boutiques does Hublot have, and how has this impacted your retail network?

We are opening on the 29th of November in Beijing the 28th boutique in the world. And on the 3rd of December at the Place Vendôme in Paris, we will open the 29th boutique. In 2011 we want to open 20 more Hublot boutiques. Among them, we will have Los Angeles (Beverly Hill), Las Vegas, Madison Avenue in New York and Ginza in Tokyo.

At what production capacity is the new Hublot manufacture operating? When do you project full production capacity to be achieved?

The new manufacture will enable Hublot to produce up to 20,000 movements and watch cases. From Minute Repeater Tourbillon to UNICO.

I’ve heard that the Hublot F1 watches are in high demand, is this the case? How did the idea to partner with F1 come about?

We have on purpose limited the F1 watch to 20% of demand. In other words, we could have sold 2,500 or more and limited production on purpose to 500. In order to create rarity, exclusivity and value. The idea came from our discussion with Bernie Ecclestone and our people. The entire F1 program is the result of a friendship between Bernie Ecclestone and ourselves.

What are some of the improvements Hublot has been able to realize as a benefit of being part of the largest luxury group in the world (LVMH)? New manufacture? Acquisition of BNB staff and machines? Any other improvements?

The main improvement is clearly the internal organisation (logistic, reporting and so on). This improvement has enabled us to be much more efficient in our production line. Furthermore, we are benefitting from LVMH leadership in retail and this will make the access to top locations much easier. The acquisition of BNB has certainly been facilitated thanks to LVMH, but even without LVMH we would have proceeded.

I’ve read that you have a large collection of Patek Philippe watches, are there any brands other than Patek or Hublot that you admire?

I love Patek for their phenomenal and unique contribution to the development of Swiss Watch Making Art. I also like their high quality and exclusivity approach. And last but not least I admire their family concept and heritage.

A number of luxury brands have recently begun selling their products online, do you see Hublot doing this in the next two to five years?

No, we are not going in that direction and will remain faithful to our distribution concept based on exclusivity and/or selectivity.

What is the impact of WISekey smartcard technology on the counterfeiting of watches?

It enables anybody to instantly check if his watch is fake or not. It enables the owner of the watch to trace the history of the watch and it enables the owner of the watch to get access to a special, exclusive internet site called “Hublotista.”