Interview: Ricardo Guadalupe for Hublot
As the Hublot Big Bang celebrated its 10th anniversary, CEO Ricardo Guadalupe contemplates this iconic watch’s path ahead.
In a fashion worthy of its namesake cosmological phenomenon, the Big Bang by Hublot exploded onto the watchmaking scene and forever changed the way luxury watches were perceived. The year was 2005 and the Hublot watch company had just been taken over by a new management team, but there was no stopping the Big Bang from hitting the market, not when the driving force behind this watch included the likes of industry living legend, Jean-Claude Biver.
At that time, Biver and his team came up with a brilliant marketing message to accompany the Big Bang, called the Art of Fusion, alluding to how the watch combined unlikely materials in a luxury timepiece. With his team, Biver stewarded Hublot from a quiet, understated brand to become one that offers the hottest, trendiest watches money could buy. Success came swiftly for the young company, when French luxury group LVMH came knocking on its door in 2008. And in 2012, Biver handed the reins over to his designated successor, Ricardo Guadalupe, who had been a trusted associate since the mid 1990s.
Guadalupe, however, isn’t new to Hublot; he was part of the initial team that Biver formed in 2004. As such, he had been deeply involved in the creation of the Big Bang, as well as later star collections like the Classic Fusion, King Power, and Masterpiece series. Taking care of Hublot’s business operations in different markets and personally meeting the brand’s VIP customers from all over the world, it is not too farfetched to say that he is a Hublot guy through and through. The Swiss national of Spanish descent was also responsible for bringing the Mexican sport of lucha libre to Singapore earlier in the year as part of the Big Bang’s 10th anniversary celebrations. His amiable personality suits the brand perfectly – some might even say that Biver’s energetic dynamism continues in Guadalupe.
Looking at how successful the Big Bang is today, it’s easy to imagine that Guadalupe’s job is an easy one. And a fun one too, what with all the sports and entertainment partnerships, but the truth cannot be further. In order to stay continuously one (or several) step ahead of the consumers, Guadalupe has to grow the brand in the most logical and meaningful ways possible. He established the first step in the right direction with the introduction of Hublot’s very first in-house movement, the Unico Chronograph. It was also under his leadership that Hublot increasingly develops complicated timepieces, including the latest MP-05 LaFerrari, which was a huge success and a resounding vote of confidence in Hublot’s manufacturing prowess. The road ahead for Hublot appears to be lit brightly with positivity and Guadalupe knows exactly what he needs to do.
Hublot’s success is mainly attributed to the Big Bang. Why do you think this watch has performed so well?
First of all, we have a strong message, which is the Art of Fusion. This didn’t exist before we created it 10 years ago. What it meant was that we make watches that respect tradition but have a vision that connects to the future, in particular by using materials from the present. The Big Bang is a result of this message. I would say that it was the right time for us to come up with a watch like this.
The Big Bang recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. From your point of view, what is the most valuable element of this watch?
Its strong identity. When you wear a Big Bang, you can see it from far away, and this is very important. This is very important for the consumer because it lets you feel a part of a family. When you wear a Hublot, you feel that you belong to this group that makes a lot of things happen, like events and partnerships. It’s different when you’re wearing a Hublot versus another watch. With us, you can wear either a black ceramic watch, a gold watch, chronograph, or even a tourbillon. Even for ladies, our products are very iconic.
Is this why a lot of Hublot owners own several Big Bangs?
[Laughs] We say sometimes that you get addicted to the Big Bang. I know many customers who buy every new model we make. I think the Big Bang allows a lot of creativity, so we can produce a lot of different models. We construct the watch in a mechanical way and we play with the colours and materials, so they always look very different.
From a watch lover’s perspective, the numerous versions of the Big Bang are still one same watch. How is it that you can convince your customers to be repeat customers with just one product?
It’s very important to have a strong mono-product, although arguably a lot of other watch companies have mono-products too. We’re not the only ones. I think to have a strong, iconic product is essential in a brand. If you don’t have it, then there is a problem.
Does the modular construction of the Big Bang’s case also help in encouraging the flow of creativity?
Yes. The construction of the case was really an innovation that didn’t exist before because cases in general were produced just to protect the movement. There are the bezel, main case, back case, and that’s it. Ours is something different and I think it is a great innovation that we don’t talk enough about. I think it is a key element in allowing us to create so many models.
There are hundreds of variations of the Big Bang. Is the objective to keep the watch relevant to different spheres of people’s lives?
We sell our watches to people that in general have everything and always want something new and different. The creativity is important because that’s how we present novelties every year. If one day we fail to present something new, then something is wrong with us. This is part of our philosophy: Creativity and innovation. Sometimes it can be movement innovation or an evolution of a complication, and sometimes it can be creativity in terms of colour or material. Specifically for women, we have been presenting exciting novelties every year linked to trends going on in the fashion world.
Could you take us back to some of the most significant milestones of the Big Bang?
The creation of the Big Bang is the first, obviously. We created a watch in steel and ceramic, which today remains our best seller. Even after 10 years, this watch is still our best seller. After that, I would say the all-black concept in 2006. The all-black model was a really innovative concept and I would say that black watches have become a kind of standard in the watch industry. Almost all brands have a black watch in their collection. I would also say our Unico movement is another milestone because at the beginning, we didn’t really have the power to develop a movement, so it took us some time. Still, it is an incredible achievement to have your own in-house chronograph. Finally, Magic Gold, which is the invention of a new gold alloy that’s unscratchable. To me, the Big Bang Unico Magic Gold is the watch that represents the 10th anniversary completely.
How does the Big Bang evolve without changing too much?
The key is to keep the DNA of the product. That’s the challenge, so right now we have changed the engine to Unico movements. And Unico will remain the future. Right now, the references are quite big at 45mm and we understand that many trends are cyclical, including case sizes, so we are also interested in developing a smaller movement to fit a 40mm case. We have also opened up the dial because we believe that when you sell mechanical watches, it is important to be able to see the value of the piece.
What are your plans for the Big Bang for the next 10 years?
The Big Bang is our icon, but we also have the Classic Fusion, which is important because where the Big Bang has a strong design and sporty identity, the Classic Fusion is a reinterpretation of the old classic Hublots from the 1980s. They had been more sport-chic, came with thinner movements, and were smaller in general. I would say we are working on these two pillars simultaneously to develop the brand’s future. The idea is always to be innovative and different, so working on materials and further developing new movements are par for the course. We are really becoming an integrated manufacture, as are all the big brands of the Swiss industry.
Text & Interview by Celine Yap
This article was originally published in World of Watches