Ricardo Guadalupe is the man behind innovation
[Image: Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe.]
Ricardo Guadalupe comes from Spanish descent. Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, he grew up and spent his entire school career in this region known as the cradle of Swiss luxury watchmaking. Educated in Switzerland and LA, he started his career as Product Manager at Bulgari. The company was already a major name, but in terms of its watchmaking activities, it was still a small organisation in Geneva. In 1994, following a meeting with Jean-Claude Biver (then CEO of Blancpin), Guadalupe was appointed International Sales and Marketing Director of Blancpain in 1997. He later left the company in 2001 after eight years, with over a 100 million in turnover to his credit.
By 2004, Jean-Claude Biver decided to take over the running of Hublot. He called Ricardo Guadalupe to come and join him in this new challenge. The task set was ambitious: in short, to revitalise this brand and redevelop it to switch from producing 90 per cent quartz watches to producing 90 per cent mechanical watches. At the time, the brand created in 1980 only had a turnover of 25 million Swiss francs and a small workforce of around thirty people. What happened next is rather better known: Jean-Claude Biver and he combined their expertise and their talent to make a success of Hublot.
a&e met the CEO of Hublot on his recent trip to Dubai for their impressive event at The Dubai Mall Fashion Atrium for the All Black party.
Tell us about your background. How did you get into the world of watches?
I was born in a city called Neuchâtel, which is the centre of the watch industry. There were people who worked in the watch industry and there were people working in finance – banking or insurance. Being born in Neuchâtel influenced my decision to be part of the watch industry. I would always say I prefer to work in the watch industry because you have the physical relationship with the product. In finance you just have numbers, and for me it is important to have a physical relationship.
I joined the industry 28 years ago. I started with Bvgarli which is part of LVMH group. I joined Hublot 12 years ago. Our chairman today, Jean-Claude Biver asked me to join him. He’s a big personality of our industry. He asked me to relaunch Hublot which was at that time a small brand – a sleeping beauty. The last 12 years has been an incredible success. The brand has become one of the best well known brands of the Swiss industry.
Tell me about the watch you are wearing today.
This is our new watch called Big Bang Sapphire. Here we are working on transparency so it is see through and you see the mechanical movement. It’s sapphire so it’s the hardest material on Earth, it is unscratchable and at the same time it is fragile. We are the only brand in the world to be incorporating this product today. This is the product that we are focusing on in the future for more success. We also have the All Black Sapphire.
Tell us about the success of the Big Bang watches.
It’s a product that resumes very well with what is the art of fusion. Why the name Big Bang? The first big bang was the creation of our universe. The name is a strong name. The product has such a strong identity. You can recognise the watch from far away. This identity is very important for the success. Although many brands do well, you have to check on the dial to know the brand. The Big Bang is our iconic model. It will be timeless.
What is the current state of the Swiss watch industry?
The Swiss watch industry is suffering. The Chinese are the biggest buyers of the luxury products. There are some political issues like custom issues and people are not buying like they used to. The watch industry is down 12 per cent, but in this difficult moment Hublot is doing better. It is time for us to take what we call market shares. To become bigger and stronger than our competitors. The idea is to be very active to invest a lot in marketing.
[Image: Regional Director Hublot Middle East and Africa Marco Tedeschi and Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe.]
How has Hublot changed since you joined?
It’s become a very known brand in our industry. We have set some trends like the All Black Concept. We’ve become a reference for watches using new technology, especially in materials like ceramics. We invented the new material which is called magic gold. This is 18 carat gold, which is non-scratchable. We have set some trends creating watches that are different from what was done in the past. We are making watches connecting you to the future.
What makes Hublot special, innovative and unique?
Our identity highlights the art of fusion in watchmaking, which means we respect tradition. Watchmaking is over five hundred years of history. Five hundred years ago watch makers were producing pocket watches or big watches.
We want to make watches that are different through innovation and through things you couldn’t produce fifty years ago, like Sapphire transparent watches with new complications. We are different from the other watch brands of our industry, but after 10 years other brands are following us to keep up the pace. They are using ceramic, rubber and carbon fibre. This means we are paving the way for the future.
How would you describe a typical Hublot client?
A young entrepreneur who has succeeded in his life. He wants to share the success with the brand. When you wear Hublot you are a successful person.
What about your watches for women?
Women’s watches are almost 30 per cent of our sales. We are able to sell to women because, again, we are creating watches that are different and unique from other watch brands such as Cartier. We focus on creativity, like colours. Take our pop art collection, embroidered watches or denim collection for instance. It may not be the first watch a woman may buy but it is more a luxury accessory for a woman who has a lot of things.
What’s the watch you love most?
The Big Bang All Black created 10 years ago. We set a concept that is revolutionary.
What’s the most expensive watch?
Three years ago we made a watch that cost US $5,000,000 – the Big Bang 5 million. When you make a watch like this you need to put diamonds on it. You need to mix the know-how of watchmaking art and the know-how of high jewellery.
What part of the business interests you most and why?
The creation of watches and to create new products. I’m most passionate about that.
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes from life, from the time you wake up and when you travel. I can be inspired by Dubai or meeting somebody in Dubai. Sometimes people give me an idea, it could be the watchmaker’s idea or the engineer’s idea, there so many possibilities.
Do you find fashion and trends inspire your brand?
Yes absolutely. We always have to be fashionable, because we want to last in the future. You always have to renew yourself. We work with brands like Berluti, for instance, it’s a fashion brand but known for their leather goods.
[Image: Inauguration of the soccer field at favela Jacarezinho with Pele and Guadalupe in Rio June 27th, 2014. Photo by Luciana Whitaker 2014].
Memorable collaborations and new ones coming up?
We are partnering with Ferrari. We are also keen on football. In the future, we are looking into lifestyle in terms of art and music. We are partners with Depeche Mode and we will sponsor their tour next year.
How important is Middle East for Hublot?
Very important especially in the last 10 years. It is a key market for us. It still has a potential to grow even though it is a mature market. We currently have a boutiques at the Dubai Mall and at the Mall of Emirates and we are present all over the Middle East.
For me, it is being part of a brand and taking it from almost nothing to bringing it to where it is today. Being be part of this adventure. You can be part of a big brand but it is not the same as starting from something so small to becoming one of the biggest brands of our industry. That is incredible.