According to the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), the last World Cup, held in South Africa in 2010, kept 3.2 billion fans on the edge of their seats, including 700 million for the nailbiting final that saw Spain beat the Netherlands. These are impressive numbers, particularly from the point of view of Hublot. As the official timekeeper and official watch for this year’s tournament, the brand has succeeded in equipping the fourth official with boards that bear a striking resemblance to giant watches, emblazoned with the Hublot logo, of course. Each time a player is substituted or whenever extra time is displayed, a supersized Big Bang, Hublot’s flagship watch, is brandished before supporters all over the planet. With billions of people following the matches on TV, the brand has put the ball squarely in the net.
The place to be
Already a partner to the World Cup in 2010 and to the UEFA Euro 2012, Hublot was quick to spot the potential of a sport other watchmakers have snubbed because of its mass appeal, and link itself to the beautiful game. “Our association with football goes back to 2006 when we were partner to the Swiss national team,” commented Ricardo Guadalupe at this year’s Baselworld. “We were the first luxury watchmaker to venture onto the field, and have developed many other collaborations since. A decision which has proved to be a fabulous catalyst for the brand.” Several top-ranking clubs now play in Hublot kit, including Juventus, Bayer Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, not forgetting those all-important ambassadors in the persons of Pelé and Chelsea manager José Mourinho, known to many as the “Special One”. For weeks now, Jean-Claude Biver and Ricardo Guadalupe, respectively Chairman and CEO of Hublot, have been chanting their “Hublot loves football” anthem. Which is putting it mildly.
Prominent on the pitch, Hublot also has big ideas when staging events outside the stadium. As well as donating funds to build a football pitch in a Rio de Janeiro favela, the brand has set up its HQ on the country’s legendary Copacabana beach, having fully privatised a 120-room hotel. Here, the brand’s guests can enjoy tastings of Swiss wines on the roof-top terrace, in an exclusive partnership with Présence Suisse, the organisation that promotes Switzerland’s image overseas, or view photographs of football’s greatest names in an exhibition curated by Hublot. Day and night the hotel is buzzing with fashion shows, impromptu concerts, culinary experiences and autograph sessions. In a word, endless opportunities to kick back, have fun and at the same time position Hublot Palace as the place to be.
Thin on the ground
Needless to say, the brand is also planning its future and in February opened its first store in Brazil, in Rio. So far, only a handful of watchmakers have made the move to Brazil, and those which have, such as Rolex, Omega or Parmigiani, usually have a clear reason to do so: Omega is the official timekeeper for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, while Parmigiani is the official watch partner to the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol, the Brazilian football federation. Because the country is horological small fry. Despite its 200 million population, last year it accounted for a “mere” CHF 50 million of Swiss watch exports.
The profession agrees that Brazil’s potential for watch sales is intact, but with import duties in excess of 40% levied on luxury goods, brands know they can kiss their margins goodbye. For the five months from January to May 2014, Brazil didn’t even rank among the top 30 destinations for Swiss watch exports. Those Swiss watches that do find their way to Brazil are, for the most part, purchased outside the country, Miami being a favourite spot to buy Swiss-Made. The land of samba isn’t yet dancing to the Swiss watch beat… maybe Hublot has found the right tempo.