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The Big Bust: Why Hublot is everywhere and nowhere

By on 13 July 2010 in Watches

The Big Bust: Why Hublot is everywhere and nowhere
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In the very early years of our horological curiosity, we used to put our finest blazers over our Polo shirts and bluff our way into luxury watch stores. It was most impressive at the time: the hushed quiet of the vault-like showrooms; the attention of the staff; the fondling of pieces it would have taken us 23.5 years of pocket money to acquire. But most of all, we got to touch watches, put them on, talk about them and pretend we had the hot air to fill out our over-sized blazers.

One particular memory is of two brothers who had a store on Brussels’ high-flying Boulevard du Waterloo dedicated entirely to Hublot and its short-lived Thor brand offshoot (Note: we can’t find a mention of the latter anywhere online, so all links welcome!). Took balls – or colossal commercial stupidity – to sell just Hublot. But these were the 80s when the brand’s fusion of classic design, elegance and an ingenious vanilla-scented rubber strap that took years to fine-tune were enough to attract the attention of the world’s Royals, including King Juan Carlos of Spain.

A watch with a rubber strap had captured the bejeweled eyes of the aristocracy, and this was enough to create some serious spin before the brand climbed into a hole that almost swallowed them up completely. And then they let loose with the Big Bang, the noise and abominable stink of which we’re trying desperately to get rid off in order to remember just what it was that sold us on Hublot back in the 80s.

Let’s be clear about two things: we know Classic Hublots are not wise investments per se (and may never be!) and we are definitely not angling for a return to the pastel-coloured, big-shouldered 80s. But like many designs of today, the need to torture an essentially perfect watch design until it shits itself is wrong in our book. And mean, man. Just plain mean.

Don’t buy that? Then take a long, hard look at the photo on your right at the top compared to the ones that follow. You feeling us now? There is nothing wrong with progress and innovation when it takes you somewhere better, not just new. And while Hublot’s Big Bang does make ingenious use of exotic metals, ceramics and rubber (yes, we also think this sounds like a walk into a hi-tech sex dungeon…), its stupendous size and girth are compounded by an endless series of designs that are either overwrought or heavy-handed, or both.

We’ve read the remarks by Hublot’s CEO, Jean-Claude Biver, that the Big Bang is to Hublot what the 911 is to Porsche. We spit out our Irish coffee and pissed our pants at the same time. Nah. The Big Bang is milking every single marketing and design flight of fancy Hublot can think up and is fast running out of ideas. A little like Paris Hilton.

Evidence? The Ayrton Senna and Maradona (Maradona!) special editions; the Mexican Football Federation and , lest we forget, the discretely named Million Dollar Big Bang. Hublot is in the World Cup, inside TIME magazine and on wide boys’ wrists at the Ocean Club in Marbella.

So, while we can point to where Hublot has come from – and very much like it – we can’t see all this going anywhere good. It’s just too much, Mr. Biver. We implore you to go back to your archives and look long and hard at the roots of your brand and who it catered to. Then go and sit in the corner for a long time before coming back out and vomiting yet more Big Busts over us. Or if you have to, please make them real ones…?

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The Big Bust: Why Hublot is everywhere and nowhere

In the very early years of our horological curiosity, we used to put our finest blazers over our Polo shirts and bluff our way into luxury watch stores. It was most impressive at the time: the hushed quiet of the vault-like showrooms; the attention of the staff; the fondling of pieces it would have taken […]

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Straight-Six had a proper job as a journalist for Dow Jones before lowering himself gently into the warm, forgiving waters of The Guide. He’s our resident fanatic: he relished detailing his BMW M3 for two full days at a time before crashing it at Eau Rouge in the wet; he spends insane amounts on his home-cinema system and has thrown tens of thousands of euros at vintage Rolex sports watches. The little fool simply does not understand the concept of restraint or the meaning of excess. He also – following a legendary "heavy" lunch – once nibbled (yes, like little dogs do) a dear lady friend of ours.

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  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Woah guys, I think you were a little rough on ole JCB here :) They’re in brand building mode remember? It’s about the brand, not the particular model IMHO. Look, you can like or dislike the design – that’s a subjective call clearly (legit question: who else uses genuine rubber instead of PU?)

    Many people accuse Hublot of being a one-trick pony and too focused on marketing. In my opinion at the stage they’re in, that’s a fairly unique advantage in this biz.

    But hey, what do I know, I drank the Kool Aid a long time ago ;)

    • Straight-Six

      Ah, Jerome, you raise a perfectly valid point about brand building. But this is more of a blitzkrieg than a carefully nurtured, structured long-term approach.

      JCB is raking in big money for the brand (commercial success always good!) but is doing so by hitting everything, everywhere all at once. Just look at the home page of Hublot as evidence of this. Now, we can talk all day about the need to create exposure, buzz, etc. (The Fool and I do it for a living…:), but it’s how all this resonates with the product and vice-versa that we’re trying to put our finger on here.

      So, I would respectfully disagree that the product design is somehow divorced from the marketing blitz. If anything, one perfectly reflects the other and the direction Hublot is going in. Clearly, they’ll be happy with this as will many current Hublot owners. Pity, they don’t have an original point of reference for comparison…

      And you know as well as we do that the watch world is filled with brands who win the sprints only to fail in the marathon. A truly successful brand should know how to do both.

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    I hear you, but I think he’s running a marathon, not a quick flip operation. Why? Because if you listen to even his latest interview on CNBC, what is he really going after? Future customers. Young people who may not be customers now but will likely become so in the future. And they are the only brand I can think of, besides Marvin, who is doing this.

    On the “shock and awe” marketing, I think they’re plugging opportunistic holes. Nothing wrong with that. Did you see this video? http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=125748900782514

    I think it’s quite insightful.

    • Straight-Six

      Jerome,

      I had a blast watching that video – thanks for sharing it. It’s clear JCB is a garrulous chap and absolutely perfect for what he does, but what he’s saying ain’t exactly new: Find the myth, leverage your ambassador, have them design a watch and participate in “fun” events. Repeat.

      Hublot is picking every 24k brand they can (FIFA, Bolt, etc.) in order to become a legend too. Amusing to note that JCB talks about Maradona as a legend and being “controversial” when he’s actually a recovering drug addict whose fall has been long and sordid…

      What caught my attention was JCB’s insistence that by linking Hublot to legends and myths, they will neatly side-step the risk other brands expose themselves to through the use of tenuous ambassadors. I don’t agree. Sports/music personalities are notoriously prone to brief moments in the spotlight and their involvement in watch designs has hardly yielded anything memorable. Though AP pipped Hublot to the post here with equally dismal results.

      You rightfully talk about future customers and how to bring them into the brand’s world. On one end of the spectrum you have brands like Rolex, PP and Breguet who appear to be doing nothing more than having tired monologues with themselves. Repetitive and trite, they are singularly unable to understand how today’s buyers want to relate and interact with a brand. On the other end you have the wild exuberance and uncontrollable need to hang yourself on everything that you believe to be gold-plated i.e. Hublot.

      As is often the case, the truth may be somewhere in between the above, and often depends on who is buying the watch. Cause lest we forget, I ain’t going home with JCB, Bolt or FIFA. No, I’m going home with a timepiece – usually one that has cost a fair bit. And here’s what watchmakers need to focus on: product and service. In my opinion, product speaks first with service a close second. But whatever the order, the greatest legend of all is the timepiece that shrugs off the ravages of time, ignores fashion and stays poignantly relevant. This is a universal quality that the very best timepieces enjoy and is the reserve of no one brand in particular…

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    “the greatest legend of all is the timepiece that shrugs off the ravages of time, ignores fashion and stays poignantly relevant. This is a universal quality that the very best timepieces enjoy and is the reserve of no one brand in particular” –

    That I cannot but agree with. You’ve just described “art” :) And I believe Elizabeth Doerr would agree with it as well if I’ve read her correctly in the past.

    Your ” Cause lest we forget, I ain’t going home with JCB, Bolt or FIFA.” is a classic as well. I will quote you on that one. Excellent :)

  • Ian Skellern

    I am in awe of Mr Biver’s marketing achievements, but I do wonder how much is left on your wrist after you take away the hype.

    Associating a brand with a celebrity/event/sport is obviously a successful marketing ploy because so many brands do it. Hublot just does more of it than most, or probably more than everyone else.

    I think that Mr Biver could work his magic with any brand you could name, but I also think that when he goes, Hublot’s stardust will stop glittering.

    • Straight-Six

      Well said, Ian. I agree that this is a matter of taking it higher and driving it in harder than anyone else has to date, which shows you how dusty and conservative other high-end watch brands are. BUT the latter are also incredibly mindful of maintaining their heritage and keeping things on a steady, even boil.

      I also recollect the management lesson of never risking the fortunes of an entire company or brand by empowering a single individual to effectively run it all…

      It appears to me like JCB calls all the shots at Hublot. But lest we forget, it isn’t even him that I really have an issue with, as he simply does what he does best. No. It’s the look of today’s Hublot and the multitude of special editions all sired by a single overweight and overwrought model. That’s where your remark about “how much is left on your wrist” is so very much on the ball…

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Well Ian you might be right as it’s always dangerous to associate a brand so tightly to a personality. Steve Jobs comes to mind..However you have to think that both are smart enough to have ensured their succession well ahead of time. If Steve were to go, would Apple flounder? Probably not, because it’s etched in so many minds. That’s what Biver is up to at the moment it seems.

  • Ian Skellern

    “If Steve were to go, would Apple flounder?” Well I for one would rather have Puts than Calls when (not if) that happens. I think that Apple’s shares would take a dive off the high board. Ditto for Hublot (but the drop might be higher).

    The big difference between the two companies is that Job’s value is perceived to be picking the next big thing and that is factored into the share price. But because the company has a well diversified range of market-leading products, the shares would just drop to reflect a possible reduction in medium/long term revenue. Apples products are – or at least are believed with some justification – to be inherently excellent. We don’t need Jobs to tell us that to think it true. We will still buy the iPhone 9 with or without Steve. But we may miss out on the revolutionary iTaste interface.

    On the other hand, Are Hublot’s watches really a cut above the herd as JCB has us believing, or do the masses just think that because they hear it so often. There is nothing at all wrong with Hublot in my opinion, as Jerome pointed out, style is a personal taste and big bold watches are very popular. But is that because they are great like Apple products, or is it because Mr Biver has, by sheer force of personality and marketing genius, made Hublot hot? If the answer is yes, then without JCB Hublot could easily cool down very quickly. If it was easy marketing watches like Mr Biver does then we would see a lot more of it. Most who try to do that go bust.

    And I have no doubt that many much smarter people than I are devoting serious time to this same discussion. Hublot is doing all of the right things in becoming a manufacture and developing their own movements, and picking up the pearls of BNB was an opportunistic masterstroke, but how many more limited edition Big Bangs can the market take? Obviously many times more than I ever thought possible! :-)

    Now what about Rolex? Isn’t it very similar to Hublot in that the underlying mass produced watches are good and reliable but nothing really that special from a horologically point of view. And I am not equating the quality of Hublot with Rolex here, just he underlying “more marketing than watch” equation. Marketing one watch for decades has worked pretty well for Rolex and Hublot adds a complication!

    • El Guapo

      Re: Puts v Calls on Apple after Jobs, The Guide’s comment section is now 1 and 1 on stock calls (See comments on Nokia article from Feb ’11)

      For those of you keeping track of these things.

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Ok so this is really interesting. I am still coming at this from a consumer perspective because I’ve been in the industry such a short while. But first, “Are Hublot’s watches really a cut above the herd as JCB has us believing…” I am not getting that message from Hublot, if you mean technically-speaking (or design wise for that matter) – Am i missing something?

    And second, when you say “..really that special from a horological point of view…” My question would be, what brands ARE that special horologically (how does one define special anyway?), and has that advantage translated in long term business growth for them?

    Thanks :)

    • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

      Such a shame you can’t make the Prodigal Meetup on Saturday Jerome; you could have had this conversation with Ian face to face!

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Dude, the thought has occurred to me :( – But as we say in French, ce n’est que partie remise.

  • Ian Skellern

    First up, how on earth do I add a photo to my replies?

    Jerome: I do not think that Hublot’s watches are horologically superior to the competition, but they are good and distinctive. What makes them special – or perceived to be special – in my opinion is JCB.

    I rate Rolex with Apple in that their products do have a technical edge, and that – along with superb (non CEO-based) marketing and control of the supply- enables a serious price premium. But take the marketing away and you still have superior products.

    • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

      Ian – Really sorry but the WordPress blogging platform we use doesn’t allow for attachments to comments. As soon as the big advertising bucks starts rolling in, we’ll upgrade the comments section! ;-)

    • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

      Ian – I just got your email. Seems you want to add a Gravatar to your comments? You can do this easily, not just for your comments here on The Prodigal Guide but any WordPress-powered blog: once you’re logged into WordPress, you’ll see a menu bar at the very top of the page. Click on the My Account menu in the top left hand corned and choose Edit Profile. From there you have the option of adding a Gravatar to your profile. You’ll need to upload a photo. Just follow the instructions.

      Believe me, if Straight-Six can manage it, you definitely can!

  • http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/ Speedmaster

    Wow, that was brutal. ;-)

    Though I would like to know how many variations of the Big Bang have been introduced. I long ago lost track.

    • Straight-Six

      That’s what I’m talking about, Speedmaster. With all this great chutzpah, marketing and technological prowess, I want more from Hublot that infinite variations of the bloody Big Bang.

      Oh, and I went on the official Hublot website yesterday and found that the Classic line of “simpler” timepieces (albeit updated from the model in the pic I used at the top of the post) is nowhere to be found…

      Give me simple exquisite beauty, Hublot. Can you still do it?

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Well @Straight first of all, timing on your post is perfect as if to balance what was released today at http://ablogtoread.com/hublot/biver-me-exclusive-inside-look-at-the-hublot-watch-manufacture.

    I like to put things in perspective typically. Although I’ll admit to being particularly drawn to Hublot from a design/style perspective, I think the truth may lie between your take and Ariel’s on the situation :)

    I don’t see Hublot as selling watches so much as energy and excitement. Love em or hate em, one has to admit objectively that they’re the one of very few brands who really “get it” from a communication perspective and who successfully address future customers. Then, there’s the simplicity of the collection right? We can bemoan the one-trick pony aspect of it but at least customers are not likely confused by too many choices. I can think of several other brands where you need an Excel spreadsheet just to keep track of which collection is which from when and for whom.
    Third, part of the attraction to the customer (I speak purely on a personal level here. I’m not a horology pro God knows) is JCB’s accessibility. Maybe I’m weird that way but to me product follows people. I mean the guy actually talks personally to customers…what a concept in the industry isn’t it? Now ok, I understand marketing hooplah and the Alice in Wonderland part, no one is naive about it, the guy is a very, very tough businessman, and he masters show business. Fine. But you have to admit no one else is driving at changing the industry as much as these guys are. That desire alone is enough to get my attention – People want to be part of “change the world” stories, not just product. And I think that’s part of the reason Hublot is so appealing to many people. Just my 2 cents of course.

  • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

    Fascinating discussion. This is exactly the sort of fiery dialogue that Straight-Six and I hope to ignite with our posts. I’m delighted.

    And who would have thought that little ol’ Hublot would be such an effective flint!?

    For my part, there are a few points I’d like to add here:
    - It’s not personal: The original post was never meant to be a criticism of JCB as an individual or even as a CEO, but simply the design direction that the company has taken with ever more iterations of the Big Bang, a watch which – to my, perhaps too nostalgic, eyes – is simply not in keeping with the design ethos that once successfully distinguished Hublot’s products: clever simplicity in design married to cutting-edge innovation in materials.

    - Nothing wrong with marketing per se: No one can or should dispute the need for aspirational marketing around any luxury brand and this is especially true of watches. I certainly wouldn’t criticise Hublot’s marketing campaign. Indeed, you have to admire it. It has taken the company back from the brink financially and turned it into one of the brands ‘of the moment’. I guess the point that Straight-Six was trying to make in his post, and which I would agree with, is that being a brand of the moment is one thing; building a brand that will withstand the test of time is another. To do that, you need to nurture your product as carefully as you do your marketing and ensure that both are being conceived with a view to the long-term.

    - Once you go bling you never go back: Luxury brands are fragile things. They can take a lifetime to build and a few months to destroy. Just ask Burberry who nearly didn’t make it out of the hole they dug themselves by putting their famous tartan on everything from dog coats to baseball caps. Their core customers, who traditionally bought the really high-end and high-profit products, deserted them in droves. It’s taken years – and a little magic from Hermione Granger herself – for them to come back from that. If Hublot goes chasing the bling ‘footballers’ market, it will find it hard to come back from that. More serious watch aficionados will, in my view, soon start shying away from the brand.

    - It’s not too late: I don’t think Hublot is in trouble. But it does need to tread the lines I’ve outlined above carefully. I’m actually confident that it will: JCB is a safe pair of hands. You only have to look at what he’s done with Omega and Blancpain in the past to see that the man knows what he’s doing. We’re just going to continue heckling from the sidelines just in case…

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    Wow, it’s been a while since I read such an interesting debate. Thanks folks. I’ll try to sum up my thoughts in a few words :

    - link between JCB & Hublot : too tight. A brand is built a vision and some values – at its beginning, held by a charismatic CEO. But his job should be to disappear behind his products, his brands. JCB is here for a decade, maximum. Hublot is here for ten times more, hopefully. It’s dangerous to link too closely a man to his brand – or his disappearance will provoke the one of the brand he managed.

    - media exposure – partnerships – events – PR : sick of it all, yeah, but don’t forget we’re all professionals of the watchmaking industry. We are 10 times more exposed to PR actions than the man-on-the-street. Moreover, Hublot is one of the rare brands to have make the switch from communication to conversation. This is critical for our industry. Hublot did it. Yes, it might have been ‘too much’, in some cases. But they did it.

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    @Olivier – “to have make the switch from communication to conversation”…wow, that is one sharp statement. I’ll have to quote you on that it’s brilliant!

  • http://twitter.com/underthedial Ian Skellern

    Jerome: your last post is spot on. JCB really and truly understands the importance and value that connecting with his clients brings and he does it superbly. But every word in your post drives home the fact that you are buying Mr Biver as much, if not more, than Hublot. JCB has the relationship with his clients and potential clients, not Hublot. I honestly do not think when he goes that a new community manager and massive marketing budget will be able to sell Hublot’s USP a fraction as well.

    I personally think that as soon as you spend more than $500 on a watch, let alone $5,000 or even $50,000, that you are paying for how it makes you feel more than how inherently “good” the watch is.

    Hublot provide that feeling now. The big question is, how solid is that feeling is built on.

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    No worries my friend. But I also dropped it this morning during a long interview with the national business daily Les Echos. I’m afraid you’ll have to share it ! At least, it’s not copyrighted !

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    @ Ian : “The big question is, how solid is that feeling is built on.”

    You got it. Again, for me, the man & the brand are too tightly linked.

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    But I think every great company has a beloved giant at its head. It’s hard to worship or buy product repeatedly from companies whose people you don’t care for – say like a “board of directors” for example. If you look at Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Honda, Ford, Swatch, I mean all these places have irreplaceable giants at the helm (well, we’ll see about Swatch I suppose). Even the fashion powerhouses no?

    So you’re right @Ian, of course I’m buying the Biver behind the BigBang, no doubt, and the entire philosophy behind the company. Everyone wants to be part of a success story, everyone loves a saga about a company that was close to death and came back with a vengeance. Actually it’s the same story that repeated time and time again for us at Marvin. We just don’t have the same budget as Hublot to get the word out ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomlcarey Thomas Carey

    I am one that views Hublot as being a one trick pony. They have spent all their efforts on marketing in one form or another. With very little spent on product. Well if you don’t have the product then what is the point of all that marketing? They have greatly diminished the value of the Big Bang by coming up with one for all seasons and then some. Do they even have a single designer, or engineer on staff? It seems to me all they have now is marketing and manufacturing.

    Anyone recall when GM tried to brand the same car with some new plastic slapped on. So that the a Chevy could be a Buick, Pontiac, and so forth? They still do to some extent. But not as much as they did under the direction of Roger Stemple. That effort was a huge flop.

    You have to have an overall balance in your efforts. Hublot does not have the balance which many other brands do. A range of unique models, quality, CS, and marketing.

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    @Thomas – Have you seen this photo report? http://forumamontres.forumactif.com/forum-general-de-discussions-horlogeres-f1/visite-manufacture-hublot-fm-23-septembre-2009-photos-t64358.htm – It seems they’re putting some serious cash into R&D although I do not know exact figures but I seem to recall in an interview something to the effect of 30+%. Do you have the exact figure?

    What do you think about the new UNICO movement they have acquired/developed too?

    Would love your insight on that.

    Thanks man,
    J.

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    Why do say “acquired”, Jérôme ? Unico is a full in-house caliber, or did I miss anything ?

    • Mike Margolis

      Actually, Unico is completely in house, designed and developed and built BEFORE the BNB watchmakers came into the fold. Yes our tourbs were BNB and are now in-house, but Unico was in-house from the start, without any help from Matthias Buttet and BNB.

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    No I probably did :) I thought the design/implementation had started at BNB and was then integrated into H – what is the story on that?

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    Oh no you’re right amigo, but as BNB is / was part of H now, it remains , in my understanding, a full in-house caliber. But you’re right, I guess the first sketches were on BNB’s drawing boards. :)

    BTW, strange that Hublot doesn’t take part into our discussion. Fool & Straight Six, did you drop’em an email ?

    • Straight-Six

      Good idea: suggestions on who to mail other than JCB directly?!

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Yeah, Mike Margolis.

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    Mail JCB, he might jump in, and will appreciate your rang @ his door :)

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    @ Jérôme : someone in Nyon, HQ, would be better, don’t you think ? Someone of PR or Mkg, coz that’s we talk about here, no ? What’s your opinion ?

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    @Olivier – Well it would be presumptuous of me to suggest a particular response delivery channel from H – however I see Mr. Margolis active on other blogs (along with Mr. Biver obviously) so I thought perhaps he might jump in here as well. He’s done so in several forums as best I can tell.

    • Straight-Six

      Then Mike it is! I shall track him down and ask him to jump on in. And perhaps he can get the Big Man himself to join in the fray…:)

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    If you can get Mr. Biver, clearly it would be ideal :)

    • Straight-Six

      Email sent to Mr. Biver with his media guy in CC. Invited him to join the fray, preferably with a ceramic/tantalum Gatling gun in tow…:)

  • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

    While we’re talking about Hublot’s marketing, can I just say how much I’m enjoying my subscription to the Financial Times iPad app. Seriously, I think that’s a real clever coup for all involved.

  • Straight-Six

    All,

    Wanted you to know that Mr. Biver was courteous enough to respond to our mail. It’s just that he, uh, chooses not participate in the discussion as he doesn’t feel that’s his role. Fair enough, we replied, so could someone else from Hublot pipe in?!

    We’re still waiting…:)

  • http://thesydneytarts.blogspot.com aptronym

    Don’t forget the LE Big Bang for private jet owners of Venezuela

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    I just got back from the Hublot dealership here in Genoa and I can tell you there was nothing big or bang about that place! :) Not only did they have nothing in stock except the luna rossa (and 2-4 year old models) but they couldn’t tell me what the movement was, never used gloves, didn’t even bother removing the tag of the model I tried on. Couldn’t tell me anything about the brand and worst still, the watches were not clean and some even had sticky stuff on the back where I guess the glue from the label had melted or something. It was truly a shocking experience for me, even though I’m clearly biased. I realize this isn’t Milano, but still….

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    I should point out, to be fair, this wasn’t a Hublot brand shop per say. They had several brands of course, but I focused specifically on Hublot when I went there as it was the only place that carried them as far as I could tell.

  • http://www.thewacthlounge.com Olivier Müller

    Interesting, thanks Jérôme. I’ll try the Place Vendôme shop, one day.

    • Straight-Six

      Let us know how you get on, Olivier, cause we haven’t had a peep from Hublot so far…

      • Mike Margolis

        This thread just popped up on my Google alerts. I would have been here sooner if someone had invited me!

        Mr. Six, I strongly disagree with your opinion, and I vehemently congratulate you for saying what you feel. So many people today adjust their opinion to whatever they think it should be.

        Since I do work for Hublot, and since I am a watch collector who owns all sorts of brands, you will expect me to defend my brand and my CEO, and I’ll do neither. I am happy that you don’t like the Big Bang, that leaves more of them for the people who want one and can’t buy it for lack of supply. Bravo!

        The only thing I can say is that in 2004 before JCB came to Hublot, the company was doing under 25M-CHF yearly turnover, and losing money every year. 2009 the turnover was about 225M-CHF and the profit over 30M. So, even though you don’t like our watch, the company seems to be doing OK.

        Then add in that in 2004 about 95% of production was quartz watches, and in 2010 we have in-house chronographs, in-house tourbillon and in-house minute repeater, with another in-house movement to come in 2011, I would say that we’ve done a pretty good job of growing the company and our manufacture capability in six years. Oh, it’s all debt free too, the CNC machines and the new building they’re housed in.

        I might suggest that you have a look at our Classic Fusion line, these are three hand dress watches reminiscent of the Hublot from 1980, but with modern materials and modernized lines.

        And please, next time you want a reply, drop me an email and let me know the thread’s over here. Otherwise, I’ll probably miss the party, like this time.

        Mike Margolis
        Sales Director, Hublot of America
        Tel 954 568 9400
        m.margolis@hublot.ch

        • Straight-Six

          Mike,

          Many thanks for finally dropping by and joining in the party. Makes sense given we’re talking about Hublot.

          And now to the points you make: you’ll find no-one happier than us that Hublot is enjoying financial and commercial success. That you have many people lining up for your current range of watches is also music to your ears, a credit to Mr. Biver and good news for the brand as a whole.

          But the real heart of the conversation – and one that is being echoed in a number of other online forums – is whether all this current and rapid success is to the detriment of the long-term collectibility and desireability of the brand and its offerings. And this has a great deal to do with the design and co-branding of the pieces in question.

          Yes, I and a number of other watch enthusiasts (good to be precise about who is providing you with this feedback!) don’t care for the current designs, finding them to be several years too late to the credit glut party.

          But apart from that subjective analysis lies the very real possibility that no-on is going to be raising their hands to bid on these Big Bangs in 10 years, or more, time, given their visceral and visual attachment to the moment (read late noughties) and the personalities/events therein.

          Thanks for the pointer to the Classic Fusion line which I had indeed already looked over in detail. But you know what I’m gonna say, don’t you? They ain’t anything on the original…:)

          Thanks for stopping by, Mike, and we’d be happy for you to jump on in whenever you like.

          Best.

          Straight-Six

  • http://www.marvinwatches.com Jerome Pineau

    Straight,

    “But apart from that subjective analysis lies the very real possibility that no-on is going to be raising their hands to bid on these Big Bangs in 10 years, or more, time, given their visceral and visual attachment to the moment (read late noughties) and the personalities/events therein.”

    Do you think someone probably made the same argument about Rolex 30 years into its lifetime? :) I think it’s hard to predict what will or won’t make a given brand successful at auction decades into the future don’t you? If not, then which relatively young brand(s) – as Hublot is – do you feel have the best chance of indeed becoming collectibles into the future?

    Thanks man – Just got back from Italy to find the Hublot thread still active – And Mike who chimed in! This is a good one indeed :)

    • Straight-Six

      Jerome,

      If anyone knew what the future collectibles would be (apart from Patek Philippe which somehow manage to always remain collectible!), we’d have a safe full of them and be living in trailers until we could begin pawning them off for a profit!

      But your question is as broad as it is relevant and definitely worthy of another post if the Fool and I can actually agree on what should or does make a watch collectible.

      In the meantime, we think Linde Werdelin may just have a shot at being one of those future collectibles. Maybe…

  • Pingback: La Fee Verte: Chasing the Linde Werdelin 3-Timer GMT « The Prodigal Guide

  • zzz

    Oh yes, you loved Hublot when it was a financial failure. Now that it is actually making money and selling you lament the good old days. I bet Hublot wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for its change in direction. This article is the epitome of whining about the reality of the world for no other reason than its in your nature to do so. Oh, and yeah lets compare the picture at the bottom of the page with the picture at the top of the page-which one looks better? Although clearly my opinion isn’t as worthy as the sagacious author of this article I would never in a million years not take the big bang over the older Hublots. Honestly this guy probably just wants some attention. You are entitled to your opinion but I think the numbers speak louder some guy who used to dress up in a polo and blazer to try on watches he couldn’t afford. what a joke.

    • Straight-Six

      ZZZ: I think you should have stayed on the meds, dear boy. Clearly they wore off and you made the mistake of waking up…

      Nighty night!

    • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

      I think you’re commenting on the post itself rather than the full trail of comments which expand on the original post and present a more well-rounded view.

      In any event, your point about commercial success is a fair one. You can’t argue with the bottom-line: Hublot is making money now and it wasn’t before. No discussion there.

      Except, we’re not suggesting that what we’re offering here is commercial advice. We’re not saying that we know better than Hublot’s management how to make the most money. What we’re offering is good old-fashioned – and totally subjective – opinion of taste. But to call it “whining about the reality of the world” is just plain silly. We’re expressing a preference, we’re reacting to something that is meant to be reacted to. Design – good or otherwise – invites comment. Otherwise what’s the point?

      Oh, and a man who can tell that ‘polo and blazer’ story is a man who doesn’t take the world – or himself – too seriously. Try it, you might like it.

  • Ian Skellern

    Going off at a tangent inspired by Mike Margolis’ well-worded reply following the, “Don’t fight with a pig. You will only get dirty and the pig will love it” philosophy, I’d like to point out that Mike was one of the earliest, and perhaps the very first, “Community Manager”, certainly among watch brands.

    While there were quite a few watch brands that saw the importance in dedicated brand forums with usually passionate, but amateur, moderators, JCB saw very early on the growing importance/influence of internet communities and how they might grow ever more so. From memory – and the story was told over a few glasses of champagne in a Dutch chateau – in 2007, Mr Biver basically said to Mike, “I want you on board and you can write your own job description – do whatever you think needs doing.” And the rest is history.

  • http://www.thewatchlounge.com Tom Mulraney

    Great article/debate everyone, its really good to see a bit of intellectual discussion going on as opposed to the usual “that looks nice on your wrist.” :)

    I have to say I agree to some extent with some of the points raised, however, from reading all the comments above I think it’s probably worthwhile noting that outside of the dedicated horological industry observers (i.e. all of us above) I would suggest that very few consumers of Hublot’s products actually have any real understanding (or interest for that matter) in who JCB is or what he does. Let’s be honest here, how many people who have written a comment above actually own a Hublot? I know I don’t and the majority of people I spoken to who do, have no concept of JCB (including some retailers!) In my opinion, although WE associate JCB very closely with the success of the Hublot brand, most of their customers do not.

    However, as I am sure all of us will agree, JC very much understands what his customers associate his products with! We were very fortunate to interview him a few months ago about his reasoning behind becoming the official timekeep of the FIFA World Cup and the F1. You can read the full interview here: http://thewatchlounge.com/interview-with-jean-claude-biver-ceo-of-hublot/

    One comment that really stood our for me though was this one:

    “We never enter any sport or event because of personal connections or preferences. Our decisions are motivated through our customers. Wherever our customer goes, he must meet Hublot. It is our goal to make the customer feel that we belong to his world, to his life style, to his emotions and to his dreams.”

    It may sound a bit corny but the simple fact is it works. Most Hublot consumers don’t associate the brand with JC, they associate with people like Bolt and the host of other ambassadors that represent the brand.

    Having said that, I must say I completely agree with Ian’s comments that Hublot will lose its sparkle once JC moves on. Not because he is too closely associated with the brand, but because it is the sheer force of his determination and personality that has dragged it into success, and quite frankly I don’t think there is anyone else in the industry who is as charismatic or energetic as Jean-Claude Biver. There is no doubt that he is a marketing genius, but he also a work-horse the likes of which is becoming increasingly rare these days.

    All in all, he has done exactly the job he was brought on to do. Turned a failing business into a glittering success, long-term succession, however, will be somebody else’s problem :)

    • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

      Tom – Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated. It’s great to see The Prodigal Guide harbouring such strong, well-informed discussion. I’m delighted.

  • Lord Hackers

    Ouch. But spot on! Once you start wearing a Hublot you’ll invariably start wearing white loafers and pastel coloured t-shirts under your linen suit!!! And holiday in Marbella…..

  • Joseph

    I’m a couple years late to the party but thanks for the fascinating read.

    I would like to say though I find it intriguing that Hublot ‘special any ‘special editions’ of the one line of watch and appear to still be pursuing this line. I did make a comment several months ago on the perpetually blog but it was never published and subsequently the comments section was shut down. Go figure.

  • http://atomicforex.com/partnerzy atomicforex

    I love those watches and I would never forget my first one – gift for my 18th birthdays.
    Well done guys, and nice blog btw…

    • http://www.TheProdigalGuide.com The Prodigal Fool

      Thanks.

  • plin

    I like how the author is talking crap, meanwhile hes the one wasting salespeople’s time and pretending to live a life that he cannot afford… Spend more time working on yourself and less time criticizing people who are more successful than you….

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