Hublot’s CEO, Ricardo Guadalupe knows that a new generation of consumer needs more than just a watch. This evolution is about innovation and authenticity
How is the watch industry adapting to deal with the impact of Covid-19?
We expect that 2021 will see a rebound from last year, but it depends on each brand. Hublot is being very adaptable at the moment. We have tried to reinvent ourselves and continue to invest at every level so we can perform better than our competitors. We want to come out of this stronger when the crisis is over.
Are you planning differently for this year?
Yes, the world has changed due to the pandemic. There will be a before and after. We believe that the world will go back to normal as soon as the vaccination is done to a certain level where we reach immunity and people can travel again, but I don’t think that will happen until the end of the year. Also, the “back to normal” will not be how normal in 2019. Things have evolved and we must adapt ourselves. Digital was already important before, but that’s become crucial, specifically for events that we were doing physically, also with distribution because now we have opened our e-commerce site. Back to normal will arrive, but it will look different.
Since launching in 1980, has the Hublot consumer changed?
Yes, for sure. 1980 to 2004 was the first period where we had a classic watch with a rubber strap. Hublot was mainly producing quartz watches and largely focusing on one country – Spain. The previous CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, completely revolutionised the brand and our consumers have since been totally different.
How would you describe them now?
Today, it’s a young consumer. We’re a brand that makes products for a younger generation and the average age is about 30 to 45 years old. In some countries it’s even younger, 25 to 40. In general, it’s people that have succeeded in life. Newcomers that have succeeded through their career, a new architect, a guy in real estate, a financial trader, but in general it’s a person that has made his own wealth.
Does the younger consumer look for something different?
We are a young brand with a concept that is quite innovative. When people are older their taste is more or less fixed. It’s difficult to change their mindset. The younger generation has a different approach to life, they’re much more open-minded. They’re not just interested in the brand history but also what the brand is doing today.
You’ve had ambassadors such as Jay Z, Usain Bolt and Kylian Mbappé – what do they bring to the brand?
Every ambassador has a big reach to the public. These days with social media that’s very important. We believe our brand ambassadors share our values and they can connect us with people who are looking at what they are wearing. Kylian Mbappé is a young footballer with an incredible following and while not all of his followers can buy a Hublot watch, he can tell a story and it becomes aspirational. Indirectly, we’re also shaping the consumer of tomorrow.
Hublot sponsors the electronic substitution boards at football matches – that’s a big coup to be so visible at every big game.
Absolutely. When we launched the Big Bang we looked at different sports, but those like golf or tennis were taken already by other big brands. I’m a big fan of football and we didn’t see any watch brand there. It was a clean territory. We started with Euro2008 in Switzerland as we thought the Swiss watch industry should be a sponsoring a tournament in Switzerland. For the 2014 World Cup we changed the shape of the board into the shape of a Hublot watch so that there’s a link between the product and the brand. It really was a game-changer because we had a brand awareness in one month that would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars if we’d had to pay for a campaign to reach the billions watching the World Cup on TV.
And at every game there are 22 rich young men on the pitch seeing your branding being held up. Do footballers now buy Hublot?
Footballers buy watches, cars and they have a lot of financial power. We are one of the brands that are successful with footballers.
Hublot has more than five million followers on Instagram – how important is it to have that kind of following?
We were one of the first watch brands to be really active on Instagram, and to be able to reach five million followers is really incredible. It’s an amazing advertising tool because some of the best newspapers in the world would maybe reach 500,000 people at best.
The brand’s philosophy is to be unique. Do you find it difficult to keep doing that?
Of course – fans of the brands are always asking “what’s next?” and product innovation is always a challenge for us. The Big Bang that we launched in 2005 is still our best seller 15 years later, which is a good sign, but we need novelties. That is why we invest a lot in research and development. During this pandemic, we’ve seen this is more important than ever, and we’re investing even more now to be stronger when the crisis is over. We’re investing in materials – such as ceramic – and new movements as well as in design. We’ve seen with our artist collaborations that it’s a vital part of the business for us.
Hublot was the first brand to use ceramic. How important is ceramic to you going forward?
The basic ceramic is black, and we thought putting the black in fashion would be interesting because there were very few black watches in the high-end segment. Now other top brands are using ceramic and it has become a standard material in the watch industry. So then we said, let’s do colours, blue, white and vivid red. It’s unscratchable and with the Big Bang Integral that we’ve just launched in blue ceramic we continue that trend – it’s a key material for Hublot.
What trends do you expect to see in the next few years?
The watch industry has to reinvent itself. A watch in the 1950s or ’60s was necessary to give you the time. But time has become secondary nowadays, everybody has a phone and you have the accurate time right there. Now you need to create a piece of art, and that’s what we’re doing at Hublot – even more so when we work directly with artists. And the mechanical movements need to be part of the design of the watch today, to bring value to the watch through what you can see – why would you cover great movements with incredible mechanics? The trend is really to show the mechanics and movements as part of the watch design.