Jean-Claude Biver is one of those rare men who have genuinely left their mark on Swiss watchmaking. Born in Luxembourg on September 20th 1949, his family moved to Switzerland when he was ten years old. He attended the Collège de Morges, obtained his maturité at the Lausanne Business School and completed his studies at the University of Lausanne. Having obtained his HEC (University of Lausanne Business School) diploma, he settled in Le Brassus. His time spent in the Joux Valley, the cradle of fine watchmaking, had a decisive impact on his life. He took up residence next to a farm, which in later years became the headquarters of Blancpain. He seized the unique opportunity of a year’s “all-rounder” training offered to him by Audemars Piguet in 1975, after which he concentrated on sales and marketing. During that year, he was immersed in all aspects of the business, which enabled him to acquire a deep knowledge of the watchmaking art. This is how he developed his passion for watchmaking and watchmakers. In 1980, he left Audemars Piguet to join Omega as gold products manager. In this position, he learnt the rules and constraints inherent in working for a big international brand. In 1982, feeling nostalgic for the watchmaking culture of the Joux Valley, he and his friend Jacques Piguet bought the Blancpain name which had been dormant since 1961.
Using the slogan “Since 1735 there has never been a quartz Blancpain, and there never will be”, he quickly revived the company and increased the turnover to 50 million Swiss francs. Within a few years, the brand was competing with the biggest names in watchmaking. However, in 1992 he decided to sell Blancpain to the SMH Group (later to become the Swatch Group) and joined Nicolas G. Hayek’s management team. As a member of the Swatch Group’s Management Committee, he was given the task of developing the marketing and products for the Omega brand, a company he had left ten years earlier. The Omega revival was impressive, focusing in particular on the development of new products and the recruitment of famous names such as Cindy Crawford, Michael Schumacher, James Bond – alias 007.
At the end of 2003, he decided to take a year’s sabbatical but, ever the man of action, he quickly changed his mind in order to take over the leadership of a small business founded in 1980: Hublot Geneva. In 2004, as CEO he decided to focus on Hublot’s original product and develop a new concept for the brand: “The Art of Fusion”. In fact, in 1980, Hublot was the first watchmaker to create a watch which fused different materials, by combining gold and rubber. By dedicating all of his expertise and marketing talent to the brand, in April 2005 – within a year – he had achieved the tour de force of launching a revolutionary chronograph: the Big Bang. Unveiled at BaselWorld 2005, it was an immediate success. The awards came thick and fast. Hublot was injected with an extraordinary dynamism, guaranteeing exceptional growth. Jean-Claude Biver was truly responsible for the rebirth of this brand, and perhaps even for its birth, if we consider today, in 2012, the path it has travelled in just seven years. The company owes its impressive growth to the boundless energy of its unique owner: firstly, the company’s economic growth, with turnover increasing in 4 years from 25 million to more than 200 million Swiss francs in 2008, when the brand was sold to LVMH.
There has been physical growth too, with the inauguration in November 2009, attended by Bernard Arnault, of a new high-tech manufacture on the banks of Lake Geneva in Nyon. In 2015, both gentleman inaugurated the new building of the Hublot Manufacture in Nyon, which increased from 6’000 to 14’000sqm, only 6 years after the inauguration of the first building. That reflects the development and the Maison’s good health, which he took over in 2004.
A surface dedicated to the watchmaker’s art, and to the development, creation and production of movements such as the UNICO, a column-wheel chronograph, and grand watch complications including tourbillons, minute repeaters cathedral, the Antikythera movement, the Key of Time movement, and the MP- 05 LaFerrari which is the World Record for the autonomy of a watch with 50 Days of power reserve. Keen to keep Hublot at the forefront of research into the latest high-tech materials and to preserve its cutting-edge expertise, Jean-Claude Biver installed a foundry to produce Magic Gold, a scratch-resistant 18-carat gold launched in association with the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) at the end of 2011. That same year, Hublot bought the Swiss company Profusion, which specialises in the manufacture of carbon fibre components. In addition, an in-house galvanoplasty department continually tests new metal treatments. In 2013, Hublot finally introduced for the first time in the industry, a bright red colored ceramic.
In terms of marketing, Jean Claude Biver’s constancy and consistency are just as remarkable as his need to keep turning received ideas on their head, as illustrated by his strategy: “Go where potential customers can be found”. This approach made him the first to integrate a luxury brand into the world of football. In 2008, Hublot became the “Official Timekeeper” of the UEFA EURO Championship. In 2010, the brand also became the historic first “Official Watch” and “Official Timekeeper” for FIFA and the World Cup™ just after having been chosen as the “”Official Watch” and “Official Timekeeper” of Ferrari. These two masterstrokes offer Hublot exceptional visibility on a global scale.
Jean-Claude Biver and Hublot have also created an exclusive club of friends and ambassadors who go beyond sport, all real living legends in their field, with whom the brand works hand in hand on several charity projects: the fastest man on the planet Usain Bolt, Bayern of Munich, Juventus of Turin and Chelsea FC, Pelé, José Mourinho to name just a few in the field of football, the prestigious Oceanographic Museum of Monaco presided over by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, Maria Riesch and Dario Cologna in skiing, Depeche Mode and Lang Lang in the music field, Lapo Elkann in fashion… “Because the connection is all about sharing. If you don’t share, you miss out. Hublot has been fortunate and has a duty to share some of its success”.
With Jean-Claude Biver still at the helm, Hublot is also the first luxury brand to have launched an online television service (Hublot TV) and to continually explore new revolutionary interactive showcases. Commercially, the network of exclusive boutiques and approved retailers has rocketed since 2007-2008 and now boasts 750 points of sale and more than 70 exclusive boutiques at some of the world’s most prestigious addresses (Geneva, Place Vendôme in Paris, New York’s Madison Avenue, Miami, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Cannes, Saint Tropez, London, Berlin, Munich, Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Ginza, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, among others).
Anchored in the present and always evolving, at the forefront of new advances in technology and fundamental research into new materials, Hublot remains committed to traditional expertise, creating timepieces which bear the mark of the most talented master watchmakers. In this way, the brand represents the Art of Fusion between watchmaking culture and cutting-edge technical developments, between the past and the future as, in the words of Hublot’s Chairman Jean-Claude Biver, “we are not breaking with the past, on the contrary we are paying homage to it by connecting it to the future”.
Mr Biver has been appointed President of the Watches Division, LVMH Group in January 2014, and overviews Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith companies. With a view to reinforcing the synergies between the different brands and faithful to his vision that to act one must understand and get involved, Jean-Claude Biver took ad-interim the management of TAG Heuer in December 2014 and the reins of the Manufacture Zenith since January 2017.