Jean-Claude Biver: The watchmaking legend
Considered by many in the industry as one of the pioneers in Swiss high-end watchmaking Jean-Claude Biver joined Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) when the Group acquired Hublot in 2008. Today, he is the director of timepieces for the group. He supervises not only Hublot, but also mega-brands like Zenith and TAG Heuer.
Biver is one of the most captivating, innovative, and creative minds in the history of watches, and his influence in the industry is simply peerless. His love for steal machine as a kid, gave birth to his passion for watchmaking.
“As a child, my favourite toy was a steel machine. But as grow older, you realise that you cannot keep your toys. You can keep may be one as a souvenir but you cannot play anymore with it. So, that was when I decided to keep my toys close to me. I found that the watch can look like a steel machine. And the watch is indeed a machine. It’s an engine. So when I found out that watch was an engine, that watch was a steel machine, I believed that if I would work in that field, I would work in my toys. And that is the dream of every adult; to work somewhere where he can play.”
Jean-Claude Biver is a genius. In 1982, he bought a watch business that had virtually disappeared. It was called Blancpain. He built it into one of the pillars of haute horlogerie and 10 years later sold the brand to Swatch Group for US$ 43 million. After which, Swatch entrusted Biver with the resurgence of the Omega brand. He was involved in developing new products and the recruitment of famous names such as Cindy Crawford, Michael Schumacher, James Bond alias 007 and Pierce Brosnan. Biver tripled Omega watch sales, and in 2004 received an offer to become CEO of Hublot. The brand returned to its founding principle: “The Art of Fusion”, under his leadership.
The key to his success lied not in reinventing the company, but finding in its past the ingredients for future accomplishment. It was all about seeing what made the company great and what didn’t, and later by mixing the two elements to reconstruct a part of history, a part of the tradition. That was real creativity and innovation.
According to Biver, watchmaking is an art. And when making a watch is an art, you create an eternity.
“Art is eternal unlike technology which has a limit. The mechanical watch is made with a lot of attention, with a lot of accuracy, with a lot of knowledge, with a lot of love; it is eternal,” he said.
“What you can see in Hublot is also art. Our watches gives you motion, gives you colour, gives pleasure to the eyes. They represent ‘Art of Fusion’- which means bringing two elements together. We bring the tradition and marry it with the future. It is difficult, but possible,” he added.
Now in his early sixties, Biver is a dynamic member of the generation that built the industry, as known today. Under his aegis, brands like Hublot not only resuscitated but flourished. It was his experience, the expertise, the strategy, the people and his persistent urge to create unique timepieces out of sheer love for his art.
Qatar and Middle has always been a significant market for Hublot. “The people are extremely sophisticated. They understand art. They understand luxury. They understand watches. I look forward to the 2022 World Cup as we are the official timekeeper for Qatar”, emphasised the emblematic President of Hublot.
Biver is a true innovator and his views on the future of watchmaking are testament to that. Creativity goes on and so will the art of watchmaking. He sees no limit to the future of Swiss watch industry. “There are so many people to conquer, to tell, that our watches are made of love, our watches are ‘eternity in a box’. Our watches give you joy, hope, happiness, that we have no limit. Because love is unlimited,” he stated.
People today like to call him a marketing maverick, and he indeed is. With 40 years of experience in Swiss-watchmaking, he has taken the industry to new heights. But like all true geniuses, his gifts are intuitive – his success is not the result of statistical analysis, but his undying passion and exuberance.
“My mark on this industry would be love; my deep and abiding love for watches. I have treated my art, the art of watchmaking with respect. And respect means love. I have shared my success with my people, my customers and with my family. Sharing is love. And lastly, I have forgiven to myself my mistakes. But I also have forgiven the mistakes of my people, of my competitors, of my customers. And forgiving is love. So, I have only one hope that the day I die, people would say this man has loved his art and this man has loved his people,” said the watch aficionado.