Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Braveness In Watch Business, Pledges Self To Schooling

I caught up with timepiece industry legend Jean-Claude Biver in Dubai, where he came to speak at Dubai Watch Week for a day en route to Hong Kong. In a few months, Jean-Claude Biver’s contract at LVMH — where we has worked since the mega French luxury group purchased “his” brand Hublot — will be up. It marks the 71-year-old’s formal departure from the watch industry, though he quickly points out he is not abandoning his “passion” (which is watches).

If anything can be said about the marketing genius, it is that he is always able to deliver a positive spin on most situations — including the current rough state of the larger watch industry. Jean-Claude Biver does not hesitate to admit that the watch industry has some core (and immediate) problems, but his outlook for the long-term future health of the watch industry remains positive. What Mr. Biver and I consistently agree on is that the core appeal of mechanical watches will endure despite the management problems at any given brand in ..

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

I caught up with timepiece business legend Jean-Claude Biver in Dubai, the place he got here to talk at Dubai Watch Week for a day en path to Hong Kong. In a number of months, Jean-Claude Biver’s contract at LVMH — the place we has labored because the mega French luxurious group bought “his” model Hublot — might be up. It marks the 71-year-old’s formal departure from the watch business, although he rapidly factors out he’s not abandoning his “ardour” (which is watches).

If something might be mentioned concerning the advertising genius, it’s that he’s all the time in a position to ship a optimistic spin on most conditions — together with the present tough state of the bigger watch business. Jean-Claude Biver doesn’t hesitate to confess that the watch business has some core (and fast) issues, however his outlook for the long-term future well being of the watch business stays optimistic. What Mr. Biver and I constantly agree on is that the core attraction of mechanical watches will endure regardless of the administration issues at any given model in right now’s world. There is just too a lot condensed emotional attraction doable in a timepiece for a number of dysfunctional teams to damage it in the long run. He additionally occurs to have some very pointed recommendation for the watch business of right now.

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

Now twilighting out of his formal roles within the watch business, Biver has been much less shy about calling out the watch business for a lot of its silly habits — together with the truth that a company financially minded working construction might be antithetical to what a wholesome watch model must thrive. He blames “analysts” and “technocrats” who drudge by means of mere numbers after which make selections based mostly on reportable knowledge, as being these answerable for the foundation causes of lots of the issues going through the watch business right now. He additionally factors out that, till such methods of pondering (and administration) are eroded away, many manufacturers can have little likelihood of rebounding in right now’s markets. He laments the dearth of braveness he sees in most managerial roles throughout the timepiece business area. I definitely agree, however what does he imply by this?

Mr. Biver factors out that danger and creativity are what constructed this business as a result of timepieces are items of artwork fashioned by intuition — not quantity crunching. No artwork might be created by both committee or predictability. It have to be natural, human and, to a level, spontaneous. He blames a tradition of all the time making an attempt to account for ROI and future outcome predication as placing a stranglehold on the sorts of selections and spending a contemporary luxurious watch model must be partaking in. He mocks managers who refuse to spend cash on advertising as a result of they can not predict the direct return on funding earlier than spending the primary greenback. He informed me a narrative about how an LVMH analyst requested him to report on the return on funding derived from Hublot’s spending advertising {dollars} on skilled soccer. Mr. Biver merely responded to the analyst, “I don’t know! It isn’t measurable. What I do know is that earlier than we did the advertising, gross sales have been decrease, and now they’re increased, sufficient so to repay the advertising bills after which some).”

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

It took braveness for Mr. Biver to spend enormous sums of cash on advertising with out asking what the return might be. Braveness like that’s what he claims is presently lacking within the watch business the place danger is to be prevented and following established historical past is the norm. Biver is of the assumption that if a watch model’s technique is to observe that of another person, then it has already failed. In a broad sense, the place manufacturers right now thrive on their distinctiveness, he’s completely appropriate. He additionally factors out the foolishness of believing you could predict future efficiency based mostly on previous success. “No two conditions are the identical!” he aggressively reminds nobody particularly whereas earnestly making an attempt to defeat the misguided perception amongst watch model managers that they’ll discover revenue tomorrow by copying yesterday’s success that was loved by another person.


Biver additionally believes the watch business has no alternative however to additional contract in measurement. A smaller watch business seems to be the inevitable future. The business produces too many watches, and with too little advertising to create demand for these watches. Mr. Biver additional laments the dearth of academic initiatives by each manufacturers and retailers, designed to nurture watch novices to turning into full-blown collectors. The watch world of tomorrow — in response to Biver — might be smaller earlier than it ever will get greater.

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

Does that imply fewer clients or gross sales? Not essentially. It does most likely imply fewer manufacturers and watches being produced. Jean-Claude Biver particularly warns about “dilution,” or the practices of watering down the attraction of actually good buy decisions by producing too many not-so-good buy decisions. “Much less is extra” (in response to Biver) is a advantage on the subject of a model’s plans to return out with new fashions as nicely the quantity of watches produced. In an business nonetheless totally saturated with too many watches, it won’t be a simple street for manufacturers to shift their technique to concentrate on “sell-through” (watches offered to end-consumers) versus “sell-on” (watches offered at wholesale to retailers that have to later be offered to customers).

The place Biver and I disagree considerably is on the obligations of outlets. His legacy was, partly, fashioned by alliances with a number of the world’s strongest retailers in main financial cities akin to Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, and London. Sturdy shops to promote watches have been the cornerstone of satisfying the demand for merchandise created by the genius marketer. But, after I pressed on the business’s accountability to additional empower watch retailers in the USA, he scoffed on the notion that retailers must be absolutely answerable for rising their markets. As a supervisor who has all the time advocated for working each very exhausting and pondering exterior of the field, this is smart to me, although I’m unsure how sensible it’s.

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

The US, for instance, is now the most important importer of luxurious Swiss watches on the earth, as Hong Kong and China have sales space seen appreciable slowdowns. The US can also be one of many least developed main luxurious watch markets on the earth, having solely a handful of fine watch retailers regardless of the big measurement of the nation and the numerous rich metropolitan zones. Most main watch manufacturers in America likewise have skeleton crews of usually just a few folks to “handle” the whole market. The shortage of significant retailer presence in the USA just isn’t, in my view, associated to poor retail tradition however quite an absence of correct incentives. I don’t suppose that asking retailers to work exhausting to develop markets in unsure instances goes to see speedy outcomes. As an alternative, I imagine manufacturers and retailers now greater than ever have to take pleasure in a brand new period of cooperation (the technique will differ from model to model after all) versus permitting right now’s high-level of mistrust between the 2 events from stopping progress in markets akin to the USA. As somebody who preaches the clever virtues of “love” and subsequent friendship, I don’t suppose Mr. Biver would disagree with this deeper evaluation of the watch retailer drawback.

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

On many individuals’s minds is what Biver will do together with his time after his contract with LVMH quickly expires? Jean-Claude himself is leaving his choices opens, admitting that he receives a good variety of presents. The savant who constructed the fashionable Omega into what it’s, who created Blancpain as we all know it, and who turned the money-losing Hublot right into a mainstream luxurious staple has outright rejected he begin his personal model. “Is my ego not sufficiently big?” responds Biver playfully when requested concerning the notion that he begin his personal watch model.

As an alternative, Biver is devoted to training and “giving again” to younger folks. Sprightly and energetic after some years of battling for higher well being, Biver is now on a critical talking circuit. His favourite venues are college halls all over the world. Simply earlier than assembly with me in Dubai, he was at Harvard talking to a room of greater than 1,000 college students. As a well-liked speaker, he orates on way over wristwatches — he additionally talks about enterprise, administration, innovation, humility, self-respect, and naturally… love.

Jean-Claude Biver Applauds Courage In Watch Industry, Pledges Self To Education ABTW Interviews

Personally, I hope that Jean-Claude Biver will full his academic journey by focusing once more on the watch business. Watch model administration as an academic discipline is barely sparingly developed and barely formalized even in Switzerland. I see actual want and alternative for somebody akin to Biver to spearhead an academic effort to create tomorrow’s technology of watch model managers by means of his private teachings, in addition to the creation of a curriculum.

For now, although, Jean-Claude Biver will get to take pleasure in life. His followers fawn, his buddies brazenly host, and smiles greet him in any respect corners. It’s good to be Mr. Biver right now, and I like to recommend that anybody take the possibility to listen to him communicate in particular person given his attribute charisma and appeal. What I can assure is that Jean-Claude Biver’s genuine ardour for timepieces and the artwork of amassing them will hold him near the business that wants him greater than he wants it.

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