In the watch world, Jean-Claude Biver is one of the few people who can keep a capacity audience hanging on their every word. At this fourth Dubai Watch Week, the non-executive president of LVMH’s Watch division shared some of his insight into an industry he has helped to shape, first at Blancpain, then Omega, Hublot, Zenith and, finally, TAG Heuer. All those who had packed out the room to hear him speak nodded in agreement at his comments on the industry, laughed out loud at his jokes and, when he’d finished speaking, burst into applause for a man who is, beyond any doubt, a symbol of success.
The Classic Fusion Special Edition Bronze Anticlockwise is the first Hublot watch whose hands turn anti-clockwise.
Hublot – a brand Biver propelled to stardom – had paved the way for the talk earlier that morning with the presentation of one of the seven limited editions unveiled during the week; proof of just how significant Dubai Watch Week is. What makes Hublot’s watch even more special is that it was developed in consultation with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the luxury watch retailer and organiser of the event, and includes a number of highly original features. The Classic Fusion Special Edition Bronze Anticlockwise is Hublot’s first watch with an all-bronze case, which has been aged then treated to prevent any alteration to its patina, and its first watch with hands that turn counter-clockwise, driven by a purpose-built in-house movement. As Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi remarked, the days of the 100 pieces in the edition are numbered…
Eternity on the wrist
These words must have gone straight to the heart of Jean-Claude Biver, who had nothing but praise for the event. “You can tell people are happy to be here, you can see it in their eyes. [Dubai Watch Week] takes away the commercial pressure. So many other events could learn from it.” He went on to deliver some home truths about the size of the Swiss watch industry. “Think about it. The CHF 21 billion in annual exports is less than the number-one luxury group LVMH makes in six months. It’s the amount of profit Apple makes in a single quarter.” The comparison brought him to what many would describe as a sacrilegious conclusion: “Swiss watchmaking doesn’t exist!”. Or, to rephrase, it has phenomenal potential for development. Biver cited the example of Rolex, the world’s largest watch brand, believed to sell in the region of one million watches a year in some one hundred countries. “Keeping it simple,” he went on, “this means it sells an average 10,000 watches a year in markets such as China and the US. I hardly need elaborate. We’re all seeking a way out from the ever-growing number of products with a limited lifespan that surround us, and looking towards objects that will last. Objects such as watches. Only they bring a fragment of eternity. They embrace art, tradition, excellence, even perfection.”
According to Biver, it’s time people were taught how to look differently at their watch. “Not to see what time it is. These days, there are any number of devices that give the time. We must learn to look at our watch as being about art, exclusivity and emotion. If we, the people within the industry, do our job right, if we succeed in bringing in the talent, if we succeed in cultivating the skills that are unique to our industry and injecting a healthy shot of innovation so as not to keep on doing the same things over and over, then this watchmaking, which doesn’t exist, will absolutely take off.” The audience were lapping it up!