Three years and close to CHF 3 million later, Hublot unveils its first in-house movement, UNICO, a column-wheel flyback chronograph (Calibre HUB 1240). It equips the brand’s King Power model and demonstrates the continued vertical integration of Hublot’s industrial capacity. This new movement stands out for the removable platform escapement, which can be engraved on request, and for having the mechanism and column wheel on the dial side, the latter taking the place of the hour counter at 12 o’clock.
A second landmark this year is the launch of the Confrérie Horlogère Hublot, a concept borrowed from BNB. Hublot took on some thirty former BNB watchmakers and managing director Mathias Buttet after the company filed for bankruptcy in January. Now the Confrérie – groups of specialists working on exceptional timepieces – is presenting its first model, a manufacture tourbillon to commemorate Hublot’s 30th anniversary. It too equips a King Power model, proposed as a limited edition of 50. The architecture of this characteristically all-black watch is modelled on the pipes of the new Hublot Manufacture.
Jean-Claude Biver: Yes they are, simply because a strategy shouldn’t be changed. At most it can be adapted. Both these models, part of our 2010 launches, take us further towards complete autonomy, meaning the capacity to design and produce our own movements, from a three-hander to a minute-repeater.
A tourbillon minute-repeater, a GMT tourbillon, a tourbillon chronograph, a three-hander and the two movements we’re presenting at Baselworld, namely UNICO and a hand-wound tourbillon. All we’re lacking is a perpetual calendar and an annual calendar, which we’ll be able to develop from our existing movements. Then, of course, there are the Confrérie’s projects.
In all honesty, I’m sorry it’s already over. Years like that are made for the strong, the bold, the clairvoyant. You have to grab them while you can. 2009 was Hublot’s second-best year ever. The last quarter was the best we have ever recorded, and we’re expecting more of the same for the three months from January to March 2010. We’ve just taken on thirty new staff and have made major investments in the Manufacture. Put simply, 2009 was an exceptional year that brought us a lot of benefits.
On the contrary, it’s a great kick-start. This is something we would have done anyway, taking more time and perhaps finding it harder to recruit this type of talent. For an international brand such as Hublot, which is self-financing, with no debts, good cashflow, strong marketing and an established distribution network, I’d say it’s a piece of cake.
We have to be where our customers are, and they are everywhere. Customers today have many different passions. Wherever they go, they have to see the Hublot name to feel that the brand is part of their world. This is exactly the strategy certain retailers were applying twenty years ago. My customers travel so I travel with them. Wherever they are, we are. Having said that, at around 25% of turnover, our marketing budget is in line with the average for the sector. The only difference, perhaps, is that we invest more in high-profile events and less in traditional media.
We will have to “absorb” a certain number of elements over the coming months: the new movements we’re presenting, former BNB staff, new production capacities, new markets, in particular China where we’ve opened four points of sale, and new professions. The challenge for Hublot this year is to integrate these forces that will make the brand stronger than ever.