Ricardo Guadalupe has been as much responsible for the success of Hublot as its legendary founder, Jean-Claude Biver. The Swiss watch industry veteran joined the company as the deputy to Biver when he took over the brand in 2004, and has been the CEO since 2012, when his boss moved up to become the chairman […]
Ricardo Guadalupe has been as much responsible for the success of Hublot as its legendary founder, Jean-Claude Biver. The Swiss watch industry veteran joined the company as the deputy to Biver when he took over the brand in 2004, and has been the CEO since 2012, when his boss moved up to become the chairman and designated him as the successor. Hublot was a big presence at the LVMH Watch Week in late January, from where Guadalupe spoke exclusively to MW.
MW: Where would you say Hublot is today, as far as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is concerned?
Ricardo Guadalupe: Hublot has been working hard to adapt itself to the new world after the pandemic. We have to be flexible, agile, creative, and innovative in order to be stronger after the end of the crisis. Last year, we closed our factory for two months as our first priority was to protect our employees. We expedited our digital transformation by four months. Now we have four hubs: Switzerland, USA, China, and Japan. Hublot is known for physical events, but football’s Euro Cup 2020 was postponed to this year. We worked towards reinventing our events digitally. We created a digital exhibition for our 40th anniversary in November, which was broadcast live on our digital platforms and was seen by thousands of people. The effort has been to gear up for the new world.
MW: How has the pandemic affected your plans? How do you see the immediate future going forward?
RG: Our retail distribution was closed in many countries, as a result of which sales were affected. But we kept all our people. We have started 100 per cent activity from September 2000. We believe we will have a strong rebound this year. 2020 is behind us, and we look forward to 2021. We are positive but we have had one learning. In countries like India and China, we have local clientele. But countries like Switzerland and France depend on tourists, which we see as our weakness. We have learnt that we should be more local.
MW: Tell us about the watches that you are launching in 2021.
RG: At the LVMH Watch Show, we showed some great products that were backed by great technology. Our major piece is the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire. It demonstrates the power of Hublot in technology, in know-how, in new materials with a new colour — sapphire orange — and a new calibre with a tourbillon automatic with a micro rotor at 12 o’clock. It is limited to only 50 pieces, but it’s a talked-about piece. Then, we have the Big Bang Integral in Ceramic. It is a challenging model for us because Hublot is known for its rubber strap, and not for bracelets. We believe that Hublot can have a share of the market for watches with bracelets, but we have to be different.
The blue, white, grey ceramic bracelets make it a watch that can occupy an integral place in our collection, and be strategically important. Ladies represent 22 per cent of our sales. We believe we can do better. That is why we have launched a 33mm Hublot Big Bang One Click. It is a watch where women can change the strap easily at home to match what they are wearing. The size of 33 mm is fit for many wrists. We have also launched the Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski in 40 mm. This is a unisex watch made in partnership with Richard Orlinski, a sculptor, who has put his art into this timepiece, including colours like blue and black.
MW: Hublot celebrated 40 years last year, and you have been the CEO for most of its high profile phase. How do you see the next decade for the brand?
RG: I try to depict the brand at the centre of all communication. With the “Art of Fusion”, I intend to demonstrate that Hublot is a brand that counts in the industry because we try new ways of developing the watches. We have to look at the past and the future simultaneously. We still have a lot of investments to make. We have to complete the integration of our manufacturing facilities in the next 10 years. We have to build a third building to manage the movement of materials, and make this brand a reference point in the Swiss watch industry.
MW: How do you look at the Indian market and the future of the watch industry in India?
RG: We have been in India for several years. I was in India in 2019 for the grand opening of our boutique in Mumbai. We believe that we would open more boutiques. We want to open a boutique in New Delhi. There are quality consumers. We believe we can grow the numbers in India. It is a country where we see potential for ladies’ watches too.