In Conversation with Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot
Tell us about how you started out in watchmaking and what is it you love about watches?
Being born in Switzerland and in the center of this industry, it was quite an evidence.
I have always liked this link between the product and the business. I started long time ago, over 30 years ago, and through my experience I have been able to learn more and more, I can now say that I am a specialist in watches! Also meeting JC Biver with whom I have worked at Blancpain, which is a traditional brand helped.
Then I wanted to have an experience in a brand where you are much more open to creativity and diversification. We decided Mr. Biver and I to join Hublot because we thought that it was a sleeping princess. It was a small brand in 2004, we then have been really satisfied because we have been able to apply our ideas and creativity in the products.
Hublot is now of course my best experience in my professional life, I have worked there for 17 years now.
And as CEO of Hublot, what do you consider the most challenging part of your job?
What is the most challenging is to be able to understand and anticipate the changes in products and customer behavior in advance in order to propose the right product at the right time.
What is your vision of the watchmaking industry in this economy? How has Hublot managed the COVID-19 crisis?
The past year has been a very difficult year I think for the entire world, for people, economy, industries. Last year we had to close our factory for almost 2 months, our retail distribution was closed at a certain point to almost 50%, every brand has decreased in sales.
We learned that when there is no more tourists, local clients is key for us, we have much more worked in a good way in countries with a strong local clientele like Russia for instance, as well as China, Japan or Germany. Europe has been more challenging because Switzerland for instance depends on tourists, just like France, UK.
We have learned that local clientele is very important, we have to work more on local then globally, we changed a bit our strategy according to that.
The other learning is staying in contact with our customers. Digitally, creating some experience for them. I think that what remains always valid is being creative, flexible, innovative and agile.
The year 2020 Hublot celebrated the 40th anniversary. How did you observe this milestone?
Since we (Mr Biver and myself) joined the company in 2004, we have created the necessary platform and infrastructure here in Nyon. We built our first building in 2009. The second one followed in 2016, and we have been increasing our production capacity throughout the years, not only in terms of machines, but also people. In 2004, there were 30 people at Hublot. Today, we are 450 and we have already been thinking about adding a third building within the next two to five years.
And for the next 40 years, I think that, despite these times of crisis and important changes, Hublot has a very good chance, because our concept, The Art of Fusion, also corresponds to current events as well. People want something different: different products with a different type of value. So, innovation is key. We try to reinvent ourselves every day in order to come up with something new at every level. We have a really strong Research and Development department, where we conduct fundamental research. We have designers working with us, our engineers and the technical offices are working on a new type of movement. It is a continuous process of innovation. We are really aiming to be leaders and trendsetters in our industry; not to follow, but to advance.
What is your favourite creation of Hubot and why?
The Big Bang All Black from 2006. It immediately was a success. The first watch in ceramic showcasing the concept of invisible visibility that is still today our signature. Hublot has sent the trend of all black watches.
What are your plans for India and the Middle East markets ?
Our plans is to consolidate our brand in the Indian market.
For Middle East, we already have a strong brand image and therefore we want to gain market shares thanks to local clientele in UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Hublot are pioneers when it comes to innovation, How do you manage the innovation process at Hublot and how do you maintain your exclusivity?
At Hublot, innovation and creativity is something very important. We must come out with watches that are surprising, aspirational. The idea is always being first unique and different, which is what our clients are expecting from us.
What is really key in our innovation process is our R&D, we have very talented people in our R&D department, and we invest a lot in it. We must bring incredible products and watches every year, but we most also reinvented ourselves all the times. We try to always have something particular, and thanks to this philosophy, we have created a kind of universe at Hublot, where our customers can identify themselves.
Interviewed by Deepti Chandak , Editor at LuxPresso Magazine