Bvlgari An interview with Jean-Christophe Babin
The CEO of Bulgari is aiming for the watchmaking top ten
What 2014 innovations are you most proud of?
It is too early to talk about pride, let’s wait and see if the new models sell and we make the watchmaking top ten, but I think we can be confident. Firstly for the Lucea, which is both very middle of the range and very recognizable as Bvlgari, notably by its bracelet and its beveled case with the synthetic ruby crown. It’s a worldwide player, designed right from the time of its launch in gold and steel, which is a world first at this level because the brands generally firstly offer one or the other before combining these two metals. Its design makes it universal; it is available in three sizes, with a mechanical or quartz movement and enjoys the benefit of intense marketing. Bvlgari has everything going for it to make it an essential on the ladies’ watch market. On the men’s front, the Octo chronograph has a design that is completely in keeping with the brand’s powerful Roman DNA, while introducing a playful element which is engaging and a distinguishing feature. The level of its finishes and its sophistication allow its owner to discover a new detail daily and thus makes him want to wear it forever.
How does one make it into the watchmaking top ten?
You need to fill a CHF 150 million gap between the 15th and 10th ranking of the watch brands, which represents important, but realistic growth for Bvlgari enterprise wide, assuming that the necessary coherence and means follow. Coherence begins with an increase in this respect of jewelry watches, which may seem obvious for a jeweler. So the watchmaking interpretation of Diva High Jewellery collection was launched at Baselworld, ranging in price from CHF 40,000 and 200,000. We also launched a brand new watch collection, Lucea, attacking the heart of the market with a price position between CHF 3,500 and 35,000. The already well-established Bvlgari-Bvlgari line continues its momentum and enables sales of feminine/masculine pairs that are highly sought after in Asia. A jeweler’s priority naturally remains being a leader in this segment, but Bvlgari also emphasizes its particularity of being a relevant player in the men’s arena. Octo is becoming a complete collection and is also positioned as a Manufacture-made watch because Bvlgari designs its case, bracelet and dial in-house and henceforth its movement as well. Parallel to this, our teams are working on redoing our distribution network in such a way that our 700 retailers really get behind the brand and use all the tools that we make available to them to optimize Bvlgari’s image in their multi-brand universes. Lastly, the means also involve making a 30% bigger investment in communication this year and 40% bigger in 2015.
What surprised you the most when you took up your position as head of Bvlgari last year?
Like many people, I under-estimated the wealth of the brand’s watchmaking know-how, the diversity of its expertise and its ability to innovate. For example, innovations such as our grande sonnerie offer a development platform at the very top of the range, a field where we are already capable of producing 100 tourbillons per annum, as well as in other more affordable segments.
Does the perception of the brand change much from one continent to the other?
Bvlgari is perceived to be both a leading High Jewelry and watch brand that is established in both Italy and Japan, but for the time being the jewelry image has the upper hand in most countries.
In China and the United States for example, our complete industrial integration will enable us to benefit from enormous growth potential, while legitimizing the marriage of unquestionable technological know-how with artistic finesse inherited from an ancestral culture. The image of jeweler-watchmaker evolves through creations such as our Octo Finissimo, equipped with the slimmest tourbillon in the world, which is completely made in-house. In its complicated or small seconds version, this innovation captures the hearts of high net worth lovers of chic, discreet elegance. Bvlgari is now on the list of Manufactures that count when it comes to Fine Watchmaking in the eyes of our refined clientele. This image will become even more powerful through our 300 mono-brand boutiques located in the most beautiful places in the world, which help us to create emotion and to offer our clients a unique experience.
"L'Octo Finissimo est équipée du tourbillon le plus plat du monde"
What was the best new Bvlgari release this year?
Doubtless the Octo Finissimo because this innovation represents the ultimate expression of the Octo, of the ultra-thin tourbillon and of Bvlgari’s inimitable expertise: we not only make the platinum case and the dial in-house, but now the caliber as well. The Octo Finissimo is a compendium of our technical and aesthetic know-how, insofar as we have achieved a high-performance ultra-thin watch which retains all its character.
What synergies do you enjoy the benefit of between the brand’s different professions?
In this realm, the brand is something of a pioneer and was the first to transpose jewelry codes into watchmaking. Thus the initial Bvlgari-Bvlgari collection is a jewelry code that has become a ‘horological’ watch, followed by the B Zero One, and the Serpenti jewelry translated to a wristwatch, with a wide range of prices (from CHF 6,000 to 350,000). Other than the aesthetic synergies, Bvlgari also benefits from industrial synergies, notably with the body of the Serpenti which can be used as a bracelet on its own, or as a watch once the head is assembled in Switzerland. In Bvlgari hotels, the rooms and common areas are decorated with photos of celebrities who have worn the brand’s creations and products from the perfume and cosmetic divisions are provided in the bathrooms. We are opening a new hotel in Shanghai next year with the aim of having some ten establishments between now and 2020.
Bulgari has its own clear definition of excellence, which involves the perfect balance between design, added-value, quality of its products and its worldwide service. In the case of Bulgari watches, it all started with the Bulgari Bulgari watch that led to the creation of Bulgari Time in Switzerland in 1982.Find out more
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