This year Swiss watchmaker Hublot has been celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO Of Hublot
Still a relatively new brand in the world of watchmaking, Hublot has achieved so much in its four decades thanks to its disruptive, innovative approach to watchmaking, while not forgetting the true art of creation. To celebrate the milestone anniversary Hublot has been taking a look back at its journey and its daring personality and DNA. Hublot was the first watch brand to dare to combine rubber and gold on a watch, something that was completely unheard of at the time, it created a niche for itself in the form of ultra-luxury sports watches that break barriers and has continued to produce cutting-edge designs for the forward-thinking customer. The Art of Fusion concept coined by the brand highlights this audacious approach to watchmaking through innovation and partnerships, and the 40th anniversary celebrates this unique concept. Fusing together the past and present to create futuristic designs was the thought process behind the new 40-Year Anniversary Watch. Based on the Classic Original of 1980, the Classic Fusion 40 Years Anniversary 2020 Watch takes inspiration from the original ground-breaking design of 1980 but gives it a modern twist that brings it into 2020.
To support the celebration Hublot has created a 40-year exhibition at the Hublot H2 Manufacture in Nyon, Switzerland. Designed by Samuel Ross the exhibition which celebrates some of the brand’s key achievements through an immersive 3D experience, highlights four themes to showcase Hublot’s story: The Art of Fusion, the men and women who embody it, the products and the world of communication. Visitors can take a 360 journey into the world of Hublot The exhibition which will be available to access remotely thanks to a virtual platform will also welcome talks from the brand’s ambassadors and friends.
CEO Ricardo Guadalupe has been a key force in driving the celebration of this anniversary. Having worked at the brand for over 15 of its 40 years Guadalupe is truly part of the family. He joined in 2005 working alongside the great Jean-Claude Biver who was CEO at the time, before taking over the role in 2012. He has seen the brand grow and reinvent itself to become the leader in the luxury watch sector that we know it as today. It’s expansion into partnering with key artists, designers, sports and more have been part of Guadalupe’s dream to expand the world of watchmaking into an art and allow the consumer to discover the true beauty of luxury watchmaking. Here to share more about the 40th-anniversary celebrations and what we can expect to see in the near future we talk to Ricardo Guadalupe.
This year Hublot is celebrating its 40th anniversary, what re the key milestones achieved during those years?
I believe there are two key important periods in the history of Hublot. The first was the creation of the brand in 1980 and the revolution that Hublot created at that time by having the first 18-carat yellow gold watch with a rubber strap. That was the first Fusion watch, but at that time, the “Art of Fusion” concept hadn’t even been invented. For 24 years Mr Crocco the founder of the brand and CEO at that time, had amazing success with Hublot, especially in Spain where the King of Spain wore this Fusion watch and inspired everyone to have a Hublot timepiece. But the brand always remained private, not global and very high profile in its customer base. Then in 2004, Mr Jean-Claude Biver came on board as CEO and this is when he invited me to join. He created what we know as today as the DNA and philosophy of the brand: The “Art of Fusion” in watchmaking, and this has created a new revolution for Hublot. The Big Bang watch was a result of that Art of Fusion concept which involves connecting tradition and innovation and connecting the past with the future and from 2005 when it was launched we had immense success and that has continued for 15 years.
When it came to celebrating the 40-year anniversary exhibition it was difficult to explain the years chronologically, so we decided to create four themes with 40 chapters. We have ten personalities and ten iconic products, and we explain what the Art of Fusion is through materials and movements.
Of course with success come a lot of challenges, could you identify some of the challenges you have faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
The first challenge was to reposition the brand to be in the very high-end segment of watchmaking by introducing a chronograph with a mechanical movement. At that time a lot of our watches were still powered by Quartz movements so the challenge was to reposition Hublot and compete with some of the important brands in the industry in this high-end segment.
At that point, we were quite a small company and we had the challenge of becoming an influential brand. So we had to create our own Manufacture and that was a huge challenge to build and to find the right people to create and produce our own movements and materials. We have always had a lot of challenges but Hublot has had incredible success. There is a lot of substance to our brand much of which is linked to the manufacture.
Last time we spoke there was a lot of development happening at the manufacture, what has happened since and how has this challenging year affected the progress?
This year has, of course, provided unprecedented times and our industry and our company have been impacted. We had to close the factory in March for two months and we had to reinvent ourselves. There are over 450 people now working at the Manufacture and we have done everything to protect our people and their jobs. Of course, our sales will be reduced this year because of the pandemic, but we have kept all of our staff, which is very important.
We opened a second building on the site in 2015 and the idea was and is to verticalize our production with our own movements and materials. We have a third building in the pipeline and the purpose of that is to allow us to increase what we can manufacture in-house, not in terms of the quantities of the watches but in terms of the movements and materials.
In terms of strategy and staying close to your clients what has been the strategy of Hublot this year and is there anything you have changed in terms of communication moving forward?
Of course we have had to reinvent our relationship with our customers. Digital was already important before the crisis but it has become key to use digital tools to allow us to be closer to our customers. Firstly we created an ecommerce site, which launched in June. But we didn’t just want to have an online site; we wanted to bring an experience to the customers through a digital approach. So we introduced our what “digital boutique” which complements the physical experience. We try to get in contact with the customer before he or she comes to the store through our digital boutique by offering customers online appointments so we can prepare them ahead of their experience of buying the watch. This is a new tool that we have implemented alongside the digital launches of all our products every couple of months. There are no watch fairs, so now we launch digitally. We are trying to have a digital approach at every dimension.
What can you tell us about the recent novelties and what is in the pipeline?
An important product for us was of course the Classic Fusion 40 Years Anniversary 2020 watch, which launched in September. The original watch from 1980 inspired it, but instead of being a replica we created a mechanical movement with a rubber strap and we used yellow gold for the first time. We used ceramic because it has become a reference material for us and we used titanium instead of steel. There are three designs in a very limited quantity of 500 pieces.
Before that, we launched our Big Bang e, which is a connected version of our Big Bang Watch. Connected watches are a popular theme globally and we believe that Hublot is a brand that is very open to innovation and that there is a niche for a luxury connected watch with a limited production that allows us to express the storytelling of our partnerships, specifically our partnership with football, and we have had great success with this watch so far.
And we also have a new world of lifestyle partnerships. We launched a watch in partnership with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto and we also recently partnered with fashion house Berluti on a watch that used leather on the strap and dial. Of course we will have the LVMH Watch Days event at the end of January where we will be launching a few new novelties but I will keep this to myself until next year!
You’ve been in the industry for many years, what is something that you would still like to achieve that you haven’t seen done in the industry yet?
For me, the most important part is the product. At the end of the day, we are selling a product that must meet the dreams of the consumer. In the watch industry, we aren’t creating watches to tell the time anymore, so we must reinvent our industry to create works of art. Watchmaking itself is an art, but I think we need more and we need to really emphasise through the mechanics and the movements the beauty of watchmaking. It’s not just about producing a watch that shows the time, it is so much more than that and my biggest challenge is to try to reinvent the industry in this way. At Hublot, we are already doing this through our partnerships with artists but my dream is to be able to reinvent the famous complications of our industry and our history and create a new way of making watches.
You’ve worked alongside Jean-Claude Biver who is truly an icon in the industry – tell us a little about your experience of working together and what is a lesson you learned from him?
Jean-Claude Biver is someone who is very important in my career and also in my life in general. It has been 26 years since we met and I still remember our first meeting in 1994 at Baselworld. He was already a big influence in the industry at that time, and I talked with him for just a few minutes and he told me “you shall work for me” and he offered me a job on the spot at Blancpain and that’s how it started! At that time Blancpain was a leader in the watch industry and so for me, it was very important to work for this kind of brand. In the beginning, Jean-Claude Biver was my boss and through the years we became friends and after I left Blancpain in 2004 he asked me to join Hublot. At that point, our relationship went from an employee to being more like partners and with time we became close friends and today I can say we are friends for life. He is of course my mentor and what I have learned from him is that you have to always be innovative and disruptive in everything you do. You have to be a leader by creating and anticipating the trends not following them.
What is coming for Hublot in the Middle East?
The Middle East is of course a very important market for us and it represents quite an important share of our business. Our partnership with the Seddiqi family is crucial to us and we have been working with them for almost 40 years. They have done an incredible job for us in the region. Having great flagship stores is also a great achievement. The Dubai Mall boutique is our number one boutique in the world. Even this year it has been performing very well. We recently opened a boutique at the Mall of the Emirates and we are looking to relocate our boutique in Abu Dhabi. In Saudi Arabia, we are performing very well and the local consumers there are very active in their buying. And we have the boutiques in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. So yes, the Middle East is really key for us and we try to be very present in the region and to keep our position as one of the top brands in the high-end segment.
Hublot is a leader in a specific market segment, especially when it comes to the sports technical watches, what in your opinion are consumers looking for nowadays from watches?
As I said, I think they are looking for objects that are pieces of art. I think the new trend that we are really exploring is to be inspired by other worlds and industries and partnering with other sectors. At Hublot, we have a number of partnerships including one with tattoo artist Maxime Plescia-Büchi, and artist Yohji Yamamoto, and I think to bring something different while keeping the art of watchmaking in mind but trying to reinvent is key. I also believe that it’s really important to show the mechanics of the watches as consumers what to know what the watches represent and the message they are representing through what they are wearing.
This month we are celebrating the UAE National Day where the UAE celebrates its 49 years, what is a message you would like to send to your friends and clients in the Middle East?
Happy National Day to the UAE. We are very proud to be present and liked by many people in the country. I know we have a lot of fans of the brand and we will try to keep you excited in the future with the creations of our new watches.