At the end of another very successful LVMH Watch Week, we had the opportunity to sit down, virtually, with Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot. We talked with him about the latest watches from his brand, how the pandemic is affecting the watch industry, and the passing of his good friend and football idol, Diego Maradona.
How is the LVMH Watch Week 2021 going for Hublot now it is all virtual?
Ricardo Guadalupe: I think very well. We believe that we have set up some very nice video studios where we have tried to bring a bit more content. We can show you now, for instance, in detail the new watches, so I think the retailers and the press are very quite impressed. So on one side, it’s a pity that we’re not physically together, but on the other side we have brought, we would say, a new approach with these video conferences.
So it’s basically the art of fusion, but then in a fair?
Ricardo Guadalupe: Exactly. We try always to be innovative, creative, different, and unique in everything that we do.
So, if I may ask you, 2020 was in many ways a very turbulent year; how did it go for Hublot?
Ricardo Guadalupe: It has been a very difficult year for Hublot, as it was for most of the industry. First of all, we have been closed to protect our employees for almost two months from the middle of March last year. Then also, the retail distribution, our boutiques, and our multi-brand partners have been closed. At a certain point, this was 80%. So I would say that the impact has been at least three to four months where the sales have been down heavily because we are not even able to produce watches. This makes it, of course, difficult to achieve good numbers. Our sales have been down but we have been saved, at least a bit, towards the end of the year because the last quarter was quite good. The manufacture started operating again at 100% from September on, and October, November, and December have been quite good.
Hublot is a very innovative brand with many new watches launched each year. Did the closure also affect your research and development for new models?
Ricardo Guadalupe: Yes, a little bit, of course, because we have had two months when we couldn’t advance in these projects. One thing that we have learned from this pandemic is that many people can work from home, but with research and development, we need to do physical tests, so that was difficult. But even though, I would say, we have been able this week to present quite some important novelties, and we are showing that we are investing in our research and development and being able to release quite a series of very nice new products.
Last year was also sadly the passing of Diego Maradona, who was very passionate about Hublot, on a personal level, what was your fondest memory of him?
Ricardo Guadalupe: Yes, I was really sad to learn he passed away. I was in another interview this morning where they were asking me what was the greatest moment during the years I am with Hublot, and I was mentioning meeting Diego Maradona. It was in 2010 when I met him for the first time in Russia. You know I am a fan of football, and my idol in football is more Maradona than Pele, even though Pele is an incredible player. But I couldn’t see him play live and with Maradona, I was in front of my TV when he became the World Champion in ’86. We built a friendship, and I met him several times. I remember in Paris, in 2016, when we did a game of football, and brought Pele and Maradona together which was incredible. It is very sad that Maradona passed away, it was too early.
2020 was also the year the Hublot celebrated its 40th anniversary, a big and important moment. What do you think are factors that played an essential role in giving the brand its staying power?
Ricardo Guadalupe: The past 40 years we can divide into two periods. There is the foundation of Hublot in 1980 and the 24 years that followed. It started with one watch, which was the classic Hublot in 18 karat yellow gold with a strap made of rubber. It was an incredible success, in one country in particular, which is Spain. When I arrived with Jean-Claude Biver in 2004, Spain represented almost two-thirds of the business, which is not normal because Spain, I would say, is the 9th or 10th market in the watch industry. Here starts the second period, which we can call the revolution of the brand. Mr. Biver had this incredible idea to create this concept of the art of fusion, which has changed everything for Hublot. The result of that concept is the Big Bang, which represented a total repositioning of the brand. When we launched the Big Bang in 2005, we immediately felt that something was happening. In 2008 we were acquired by the LVMH, as Mr. Arnault recognized the potential of Hublot. Since then, we have been growing almost every year with double-digit growth.
You also continue to expand Hublot’s range of manufacture movements now with this fantastic automatic tourbillon movement. How important are manufacture movements for the brand and for its clients?
Ricardo Guadalupe: Back in 2005, our ambition was to become a reference brand in the Swiss Watch industry, and to be able to become a reference brand, you must have your own manufacture, with your own movements. So it has taken time to build a manufacture of which we completed the first building in 2009. Here we created our first movement, which we launched in 2010. In our case, we are working with two pillars, which are creating new materials, colored ceramics and sapphires, carbon fiber, magic gold, and new movements. These new calibers are always more difficult because it takes a minimum of 5 years to develop and produce them. I think that the movement is a key element for being this reference brand, and to assure also our customers that when they are buying a Hublot watch it has a lot of value in it.
You introduced at the LVMH Watch Week many new models; which of the new models took the most effort to create, and why?
Ricardo Guadalupe: I think the model of the week is the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire because it’s a piece that demonstrates who we are. We are a real integrated manufacture, where we can develop new materials and new movements, like a tourbillon with a micro-rotor. It is really important for us to demonstrate this know-how at Hublot. From a commercial point of view, the Big Bang Integral is, of course, also very important. Watches on a bracelet have a significant market share, which is why we decided to launch the watch last year in Dubai. This year we are really focussing on the ceramic because we always must bring the art of fusion and we are specialists in ceramic. I think the Big Bang Integral in blue ceramic is really fantastic. The gray and the white ceramic are also a key product for us to have growth for the future. We believe that this Big Bang Integral will be one of the pillars of the Big Bang collection in the future.
If you look at 2021, what is your outlook as an industry insider for the industry as a whole and Hublot especially?
Ricardo Guadalupe: I am much more positive about 2021, because I think we are going to see a good and big rebound. We believe the travel retail will not come back, especially in Europe, but Hublot has many countries with a strong local clientele, which will drive our growth. Of course, China is one of them because last year already we achieved a very strong double-digit growth and it will probably continue this year. Also in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where we have a strong local team, we expect to grow even further. Japan is also a very important market for us, as is the US. We are doing quite well there, but we believe that there is still space to grow with the American customers.
Originally published on Hautetime.com