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Hublot Interview

Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe with Diego Maradona and Pelé at the "friendship match" at Paris's Palais Royal

INTERVIEWS

Active Innovation

By Michel Jeannot

Hublot

03.09.17

Aiming to be as diverse as its clientele, Hublot continues to explore partnerships in several different arenas, most notably with soccer and Ferrari.

In 2012, when Hublot signed a partnership with Ferrari, the new relationship was completely unmapped. This year, on the 70th anniversary of the Scuderia, a fourth Hublot Ferrari watch marks the occasion, the result of a true creative collaboration between the watchmaking and automobile design teams. Basking in the success of the collaboration, Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe details the brand’s latest developments. The in-house UNICO calibers currently account for almost half of the company’s production, and since 2016, Hublot has been offering industrially produced sapphire watches for the first time in watchmaking history.

How has Hublot evolved in the last year?
Hublot has further progressed in 2016. Despite a gloomy year for the industry in general, we actually increased our sales by about 5%. Why? Probably because we are both creative and active! In addition, the fluctuations in the Chinese market—which represents only 8% of our sales—didn’t really affect us. What was once a weakness has become an opportunity! However, we would like to increase this number to 20% of sales, and we’re working hard on that.

If you had to choose just one, what would you say is the event that best represents 2016 for Hublot?
No contest: bringing Pelé and Maradona together for the first time! We managed to get these two soccer legends on the same pitch to play our “friendship match” at Paris’s Palais Royal. Up until the last minute, I could hardly believe it was going to happen. What a memorable moment!

And for your watches?
Our calling is innovation and creativity. We try to make products that our competitors are not offering. All Black just celebrated its sapphire-themed ten-year anniversary with the launch of a Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire in a white version and another in black sapphire (the All Black). This is an historic accomplishment, since we have succeeded in creating an industrial process for making a sapphire watch in relatively large quantities—500 pieces! In addition, until now, sapphire watches were only available at stratospheric prices. This one has a relatively “reasonable” price of 55,000 Swiss francs. It is an exceptional model, which is inspiring remarkable passion. I strongly believe in developing the use of sapphire in high-end horology over the course of the next five to ten years. This material opens up an immense array of possibilities, for example in terms of colored sapphire.

What will be Hublot’s biggest moments in 2017?
In the field of sponsorship, our two pillars are soccer—which was front and center in 2016—and Ferrari, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year! We will be associated with the worldwide coverage of this anniversary, which is also an important part of our Baselworld 2017 approach. A commemorative piece was specially designed by the automotive team, under the leadership of Flavio Manzoni, Design Director at Ferrari. Partnerships today require true collaboration at all levels; it’s no longer enough to slap a logo on a dial! This very interesting watch has an aspect that is very “Ferrari,” while still remaining “Hublot.” It is not a Big Bang, nor a Classic Fusion, but instead a wholly new concept: a limited edition with a price point around 150,000 Swiss francs.

Hublot Interview

Big Bang Unico Sapphire All Black

Any other partnerships in the works?
Besides soccer and the Ferrari partnership, we are exploring numerous different arenas. For example, we collaborated with the tattoo studio Sang Bleu for a special Big Bang. We are also making forays into music and art, worlds that our clients also move in. Hublot aims to be as diverse as the lives of its clientele, and our communications approach must be interdisciplinary. We can’t just stick to one or two fields.

What are the strongest points of Hublot’s collections?
The Big Bang and the Classic Fusion account for 90% of our sales, with 60% for the former and 30% for the latter. The Classic Fusion, a discreet hours-minutes-seconds model, is our entry point for the collection. With prices between 6,000 and 15,000 CHF, it’s very attractive from a commercial standpoint. Big Bang has a price point beginning at 10,000 CHF. The rest of our range comprises the Spirit of Big Bang, which features a tonneau shape and corresponds to 6% of sales, along with concept watches and complications, such as the Ferrari and tourbillons, representing a small percentage but with a relatively high value.

Is Hublot increasing its proportion of in-house movements?
We are mainly equipping our Big Bangs with our UNICO chronograph movement. We also have the MECA 10, which has 10 days of power reserve. We created 1,000 units in 2016, but expect to increase that. Forty percent of our production is currently equipped with in-house movements, and we started with zero! We plan to raise that figure to about 70% over the next five years.

What percentage of Hublot’s production is women’s watches?
Our watches are 72% men’s models, 28% women’s models. For a brand like Hublot, that is satisfactory. But we are aiming for 30% or even 40% in the feminine market. For us, women represent a new clientele to win over, and we are reaching out to them with innovations in terms of color or materials, such as embroidery, denim or the bright colors of Pop Art. The use of sapphire would also be particularly well suited to a women’s watch.

Have the modes of communication changed?
Yes, all of our communication platforms are closely linked with digital, with images. Young people don’t read much. We focus our efforts on beautiful visuals, so as to distinguish them from standard photos of of a watch on the wrist, which anyone can easily post. These new, professional images are very expensive, but guarantee high-quality visuals and videos.

And what is on the horizon for your distribution network?
We have about 800 points of sale, including 78 boutiques. We are looking to reduce that number to 700, with about 100 boutiques.