june 2017
may 2017

Cut and thrust: lively cross-talk with Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot

Cut and Thrust

 

At the end of the day, what’s at the bottom of the story between Hublot and Chronopassion?

Jean-Claude Biver: Atoms! It’s just like in chemistry; there are some that stick and others that don’t. Laurent and I get on quite naturally; there’s nothing contrived about our relationship.

Laurent Picciotto: We both have the same way of working; a good dose of commercial sense and marketing, of course, but also – and above all – intuition.

Is that how you’ve managed to move forward so fast?

Jean-Claude Biver (animatedly): Speed is what it’s all about! At school, students are taught about time-to-market. That means the ability to offer the right product at the right time, even if the product involves a long production cycle. Speed is something else again. Speed is being able to take decisions quickly, doing away with useless meetings, moving from thinking to doing without innumerable rounds of validation in between.

Laurent Picciotto: He’s nailed it. He does precisely that. During a recent visit to Nyon, I went to a work meeting which was planned to last an hour. After thirty minutes, Jean-Claude slammed his pen down on the table, closed his laptop and declared: “OK, is that all? Is there anything else?” By the time I’d got my jacket back on, he was already calling production, getting what had just been decided into motion.

So off to a hasty start, but with some planning all the same, though?

Laurent Picciotto: Well, it got off to a typical Biver start, in any case!

Jean-Claude Biver: What does that mean? Watch what you say! (laughter)

Laurent Picciotto: What I remember most vividly is an initial meeting that lasted almost four hours, during which you scribbled a rough pyramid on a piece of paper and explained it to me from the ground up: “There, you see, we’re going to start with such-and-such a movement, then we’ll work on such-and-such a complication, before we move onto a tourbillon, and then do this and that, and so on.” And the crazy thing is that this five-year business plan, that you put together on the back of an envelope, was what you kept to – and achieved faster than planned!

So if you had to do it all over again, would you do it just the same?

Jean-Claude Biver: Of course! I’m 64 and what I am is the sum of my successes, failures, emotions, doubts, visions and choices. I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

 

 

Laurent Picciotto: Well, it’s true that to begin with Jean-Claude found it difficult to deliver, but it’s clear that success was not long in coming – and resounding success at that. Indeed, that’s what led us to opening a dedicated shop in Paris.

Jean-Claude Biver: Your very first! Our first flagship store! Historic!

You make it sound like that was thirty years ago...

Jean-Claude Biver: Perhaps I do – but we have come a long way since then.

Laurent Picciotto: Hang on, Jean-Claude; it’s only been seven years since the brand was relaunched. That’s nothing, you’ve barely reached the age of reason!

Jean-Claude Biver (laughter): You’re right Laurent – after all, even a dog’s still young aged seven! (laughter)

So what does Hublot, this young dog, have in store for us in the future?

Jean-Claude Biver: Plenty of marvellous things! We need to keep on being creative; there’s no future without innovation. We also need to be responsive and set ambitious targets for ourselves. One example of this is our 2008-2012 business plan (drawn up at the end of 2007). Five years later, we’ve achieved pretty much all of our targets. To progress that much, the targets – and the budgets – need to be ambitious. That way, even if you fall a few points short, you’ve still made impressive progress.

Laurent Picciotto: And there you have the Hublot paradox. It’s almost as if there’s some kind of magic at work. It’s the opposite of certain retailers. Sometimes you find what seems to be a business-like approach that turns out to conceal something hardly more sophisticated than a corner shop. And when you ask those guys why they decided this or that, you often find they haven’t thought things through very well. With Jean-Claude, it’s quite the contrary. We have the roadmap and targets and he sticks to them absolutely – but when you ask him why, it’s all down to his intuition – and there’s simply no other explanation.