Jean-Claude Biver: the man behind Hublot watches

An interview with the outspoken watch visionary, and one of the most respected voices in the industry.

Matthew Priest July 8, 2015

Role models

It is human nature to learn from others and follow them. Every human being – from the day he’s born until the day he dies – has some form of role model. Our first leader is our mother, and then maybe our father, our favourite teacher, or our first boss – people that you look up to.

Young people today have their favourite band or athlete that they admire, which means that those people have a certain power. Today people will buy a pair of Kanye West designed Adidas shoes for $5,000! You can say it’s crazy, but it happens. That is why at Hublot our brand ambassadors, such as Pelé and Usain Bolt, have been very successful.

Smart watches

The launch of the Smart Watch is great for the industry, as it helps to introduce watches to the younger generation. Never before has there been so much watch promotion. I think that all the watch brands should pay Apple $5 in compensation for the promotion work that they are doing!

Personally, I love smart watches. They are the future, but not the only future. They will never replace a mechanical timepiece, because it is tradition in a box. The main difference is that smart watches are made to be replaced, because all technology becomes obsolete. TVs, CDs, phones, they all become dated, where as watches do not. In 100 years my grandchildren will still be able to wear my watches.

“In the Gulf it is rare to see a well-dressed man without a nice watch on – people here understand the watches.”

In the moment

The excitement of what I can still achieve is what keeps me going. Despite all my previous success, if I thought that my best – and most challenging – years were behind me, then I would give up. In life, people are excited if they can say that ‘today is better than yesterday’, and that ‘tomorrow will be even better’. The best year of my career will be 2015, but it will also be the most challenging and the most difficult. Believing that is what keeps me alive.

Watch smart

People in the Arabian Gulf are extremely watch conscious. They understand watches. In many countries people don’t care about watches and won’t buy them. But here, that is not the case, it is very rare to see someone who is well-dressed without a nice watch on.

Watch collector

I’ve never really counted how many watches I own, but it must be around 350, that includes several limited editions of Patek, Blancpain and Hublot. My very first luxury watch was an Omega Speedmaster that I bought when I was 18.

New breed

So much has changed since I started in the watch industry in 1974. The average age of the luxury watch customer has dropped by about 20 years! Another change has been the style of a luxury watch. Luxury watches used to be slim, discreet and classy, but today they bigger, sportier and more masculine. It is similar to SUVs, people in London and New York drive luxury SUVs even though they will never take them off-road. One of the biggest changes in the industry, was actually introduced by Hublot. Twenty years ago we started ‘the art of fusion’ which sought to explore the potential of new materials and colours to be used in watch making.

Nature knows best

In 1974 I was travelling on a train with [legendary watch designer] Gerald Genta. I asked him if I could combine blue and green on a watch dial. He looked at me and said it was a stupid question to ask him, for the only person who could answer it was God. Confused, I asked: ‘How do I ask God?’, and he told me that God is nature. The train happened to be in Italy, passing Lake Garda, and there was a small tree-covered island in the middle of the blue water. He smiled to me and said ‘there is your answer’. 

As Hublot’s Big Bang timepiece turns ten, Mr Biver told us his favourite story about the iconic watch. 

“When Hublot first introduced the Big Bang watch ten years ago, we initially approached Ferrari and said we wanted to make a timepiece specifically for them.

It was modern, and different, and they liked the look of it saying that it matched the spirit and quality of Ferrari. But ultimately they turned us down.

Regardless of the setback, we went ahead with it without them, and over the past decade have achieved huge success, so much so that seven years after they passed on it, Ferrari called me back up to ask if they could be involved!”

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