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Hublot - Interview with Ricardo Guadalupe

Hublot Interview with Ricardo Guadalupe

Last week in Geneva, Hublot hosted a joint exhibition alongside TAG Heuer and Zenith. We took the opportunity to ask its CEO, Ricardo Guadalupe, what the company had in store for 2017.

You unveiled a number of new products in Geneva. Are these the highlights of the year?
No, the highlights will probably be the models we’ll present in Basel. The main piece of 2017 will be linked to Ferrari, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. We’ve developed a concept with the Ferrari team, who were very enthusiastic about the idea of designing a watch. They started out with a blank page, and came up with a choice of three different projects. We then made the final selection together, but it wasn’t something we would have done ourselves. The idea and inspiration came from Ferrari, and the aesthetic result is unusual, but very interesting. It won’t be a Big Bang, or a Classic Fusion: it’s a tourbillon chronograph based on a calibre we already have, to which we’ve made some technical revisions. It will be a piece with high added value – around 150,000 Swiss francs. But of course we’ll also be unveiling more new pieces based on the art of fusion, which is our concept and our identity, through new materials and new movements.

What are these new materials?
We’re working with sapphire. It’s a very hard material, obviously, but it has extraordinary transparency. Last year we unveiled our Big Bang Unico Sapphire, and this year we’ll be coming with a collection of men’s and women’s watches in sapphire. Even coloured sapphire – light blue and blood red – dyed in the mass, which is quite a feat. Hublot was the first brand in watchmaking history to really master sapphire, and produce more than just one or two pieces using it. We made more than 500 last year, and this year our plan is to produce over one thousand. Commercial production in such big quantities is a substantial achievement. Having said that, new materials are not invented every day. We created Magic Gold three or four years back, and we continue to devote a lot of our R&D efforts to materials; coloured ceramics, for instance, which are still quite a challenge – in red, yellow and blue.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Sapphire

And what about movements?
At the end of last year we released a new calibre, the Meca-10, a hand-wound movement with a 10-day power reserve. We believe strongly in the added value of this product, where all the mechanical technology inside the movement is visible; we feel that for genuinely top-end products, you have to add visual value directly on the wrist, not just on the back of the watch. We will continue to develop the Meca-10. This year we’re also presenting a GMT module on a Unico base, and at Baselworld we will have the highlights I mentioned, including the Ferrari 50 days. These are more concept pieces, but they have proved quite popular.

This is the first time you’ve hosted an exhibition in Geneva that is open to the public. This is also the first year that the SIHH has opened its doors to the public. Is haute horlogerie becoming more democratic?
Speaking for my company, we have always reached out to the public, through Baselworld. The SIHH made a different choice, but it is starting to open up a little, which I think is a very good thing. In Geneva, Mr Biver wanted the three brands – TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot – to host a joint exhibition on the boat, and I think this was positive. Fundamentally, the idea was to have an exhibition open to the public, to showcase our products and, yes, to try to democratise them. Geneva remains the capital of high-end Swiss haute horlogerie, and it’s good for us to be there, to demonstrate our association with the city.

This year there are no major events on the football calendar. Will you reposition Hublot with another sport?
No, because we are sponsors of the Champions’ League, and we have visibility every year through the Champions’ League and the Europa League. Last year we did a lot of football, and we’ll be doing plenty next year too, with the World Cup in Russia. This year we’ll be focusing more on Ferrari. They are the two pillars of our sponsorship strategy, and we invest a great deal in them. Football reaches a broader spectrum of people, who couldn’t necessary afford to buy a Hublot; Ferrari, on the other hand, brings us a great deal of prestige, as well as an opportunity to approach potential clients. It’s good to have that balance between the two. Apart from that, we are continuing to explore other areas, such as art and music. We will be with Depeche Mode, for example, who are going on tour this year.

Let’s talk about your network of boutiques. Will you be opening any more in 2017?
Yes. We have 81 today, 25 of which are managed directly by us – the others are operated under franchise – and we will continue to grow, with an opening planned for London in September, where our neighbours will be Patek Philippe and Graff. Other openings are also in the pipeline, probably in Riyadh, and also in Japan, in Kyoto.

How about in Latin America?
No. Unfortunately, that part of the world is in the throes of a major crisis. In fact, we had to close our shop in Rio, Brazil. The situation is better in Mexico, and we hope to open a boutique in Mexico City, but I think it’s still a little too early. In fact, many Latin Americans buy in Miami, so we tend to reach them more on their travels than in their own countries.

The brand

From the outset, Hublot has embodied design and innovation that differ markedly from the established watchmaking order. With the impetus provided by Jean-Claude Biver, by 2004 these values had already become the basis of a new DNA, leading the brand, which is currently headed by Ricardo Guadalupe - its CEO since 2012, to develop particularly audacious timepieces – most of them with a highly-developed sporting aspect.

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