Hublot Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot
A special period, 2020 has nevertheless been an important year for the brand, the future of which is proving to be interesting
The year 2020 corresponds to Hublot’s 40th anniversary; what kind of things did you have planned to mark the occasion?
Hublot is a very active brand, which is known for activating numerous events and particularly those linked to partnerships. These involve football, Ferrari, art and a multitude of different fields, each with our own ambassadors, such as the golfer Dustin Johnson who has just won the Masters at Augusta. We had planned to invite them here to the Manufacture for a big anniversary party with several hundred people on the lawn in front of our second building. To symbolically mark the occasion, we opted for a digital event based on an exhibition at the Manufacture, featuring highlights from the past 40 years, staged by our new ambassador Samuel Ross. All our Instagram subscribers, Hublotista network clients and some of the media were invited to attend the live broadcast.
Dustin Johnson © Hublot
Are you keeping some of the pieces initially planned for the 40th anniversary for your traditional January presentation?
As far as products are concerned, we have kept to the original launch schedule, presenting a new watch every six weeks or so. Just last week we unveiled a new watch linked to our collaboration with the iconic men's fashion house Berluti, which inspired one of our 40th anniversary launches, in which we revisited the original 1980 model with a 500-piece limited series in titanium, yellow gold and black ceramic. The latter has become a key material for Hublot. At the end of January, we will be holding our LVMH Watch Week – this time in a highly digital format – during which we will unveil some of the new 2021 timepieces.
Hublot Classic Fusion 40th Anniversary © Hublot
What were the pleasant surprises and positive features in 2020 for Hublot?
First of all, I'm delighted that we were able to protect our employees, because there are more than 400 of us working here, and that we didn't have to announce any redundancies. We operated with minimum of working hours when we were completely shut down, but since September business has resumed 100%, benefiting from the recovery of markets such as Japan and China, where Hublot had not so far been strongly present. We are thus seeing significant growth there. In countries that generally attract a lot of tourists such as Switzerland, England and France, that are currently deprived of incoming travelers, we need to take better care of the local clientele. More work needs to be done locally to strengthen our relationships with people in London and Paris, for example. We have seen during this global crisis that Hublot has become a brand powerful enough to be resilient, which is reassuring. We have of course suffered and 2020 shows an overall drop in sales, but Hublot is doing relatively well given the circumstances.
Big Bang Unico Berluti Cold Brown © Hublot
Is there a bestseller on the horizon for this particular year?
There hasn’t really been any major change in the way customers buy Hublot this year; our best-seller remains the Big Bang Original Ceramic Steel. We are however seeing an increase in the popularity of the Big Bang Unico, equipped with our own movement, which is in line with our objective, since we had built this Manufacture with this in mind, in order to be able to vertically integrate our production. We hope that in due course this collection, which houses our in-house caliber, will become a leader.
The Big Bang Integral launched in January in Dubai was a very big challenge, as it was completely new for Hublot to give up its supple strap and offer a watch on a metal bracelet. It has enjoyed a very positive reception so far, although of course it’s still early days. We sense great development potential. At the same time, the crisis has prompted us to speed up the roll-out of our e-commerce site, which opened in June. We are observing that customers are ready to enjoy a digital experience and buy a watch with an over CHF20,000 price tag online. We need to offer the service that goes with such a purchase, but results are exceeding our expectations.
Classic Fusion Chronograph Orlinski Ceramic © Hublot
You have been heading the brand since 2012, what do you see as the key highlights?
One that particularly stands out for me is the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Hublot was already a sponsor of the previous edition in South Africa, but in 2014 we were able to arrange for the line judges to use our famous signal boards shaped like a Big Bang watch, enabling observers to make an immediate connection with the brand and the product. Hublot benefited from incredible visibility, to which we added the presence of Pelé which sparked even more intense emotions. As a football fan, this experience will remain engraved in me forever. Next, I should mention the construction of our second building in 2015, just six years after the first. This important step underlined not only Hublot's success, but also its evolution towards the status of a fully-fledged, future-oriented Manufacture, with many different technologies and skills, particularly with regard to materials. On this subject, I would say that the creation of our red ceramic, presented at Baselworld in 2018, was a memorable step, as we demonstrated that our R&D department was capable of designing unique materials that no one had managed to create until now.
Pelé and Ricardo Guadalupe during the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 © Hublot
Has the Hublot customer evolved during this period?
Hublot's customer base remains young (88% are under 50) and composed of successful individuals. Many of them are self-made entrepreneurs, but there are also plenty of architects and doctors. These customers do not necessarily have extensive traditional watchmaking experience but are sensitive to design and our message. Since Hublot cannot rely on an age-old history, we focus on other assets, by triggering emotions. Our customers identify with the Hublot universe which most closely corresponds to them and see nothing out of the way in joining this family with an aesthetic approach they appreciate. These young people are going to follow us. The strength of the Hublot brand also enables us to reach customers who are fans of more classic brands, and who wish to round out their collection with a model featuring a more powerful personality.
What are Hublot's major plans for 2021?
Theoretically the Euro should be played, even if it means behind closed doors, so Hublot will benefit from this visibility on football pitches with our sign boards, thereby continuing to increase brand awareness enormously. In the wake of our 40th anniversary, we will develop the Art of Fusion and better explain all aspects related to the expertise of the Manufacture, demonstrating that Hublot is a brand on the cutting edge of technology. This simple yet ingenious communication devised by Jean-Claude Biver will be accentuated, revealing everything we develop in terms of calibers, design and materials.
Ricardo Guadalupe and Jean-Claude Biver © Hublot
Will there soon be a Hublot museum?
We are indeed considering this possibility, but it will be oriented towards experience and innovation. We are planning to build a third building in a few years’ time, for which we already have an option to purchase a plot of land nearby, within which the Hublot Museum would occupy an important place.
Do you think that the watch industry needs a major annual event bringing together all the brands?
I think it's important for watchmaking to speak with one voice at some point in the year, and that we need a major event for our industry. It's essential to meet up from all over the world, be it South Americans are talking to the Japanese, Europeans or people from the Middle East; whether it's retailers, journalists, or end customers. It was a shock to witness the disappearance of Baselworld, which had appeared indispensable and been there forever. But Basel is not the capital of watchmaking and logically this grand watchmaking gathering should be held in Geneva. If all the brands managed to talk to each other and coordinate – a process that indeed appears to be taking shape – it would be a good thing for Swiss watchmaking.
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.Find out more >
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