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Jean-Claude Biver Chairman of Hublot and President of the LVMH Watch Division

The Man Who Made Mechanical Miracles: Jean-Claude Biver

Jean-Claude Biver Chairman of Hublot and President of the LVMH Watch Division

Jean-Claude Biver is an institution in his own right in the watch industry.

He got his start in the world of horology in 1974, when he joined the sales department of Audemars Piguet. For most people, this was an inopportune time to be part of the mechanical watchmaking industry. Quartz had upended traditional watchmaking, and now almost all makers were either closing shop or scrambling to develop quartz movements of their own.

But as the world would eventually find out, Biver was the type of man who thrived on challenges.

Jean-Claude Biver at his desk

In 1979, Jean-Claude Biver became Omega’s youngest deputy director.  It was in his time here he began to develop his views of using traditional mechanical movements instead of converting to quartz to save Swiss watchmaking.

Biver got to test his ideas when he left Omega so that he and his friend Jacques Piguet could manage their newly purchased brand: Blancpain. The brand had been among the casualties of the quartz crisis and had gone bankrupt, but Biver knew that with the brand’s storied past he and Piguet could turn things around.

Piguet was in charge of the production of their timepieces and Biver was in charge of marketing, introducing the tagline, “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.”

While the world around them was focused on quartz, Biver and Piguet produced and sold mechanical complications such as moon phases and minute repeaters. They focused on the value and craftsmanship of traditional watchmaking and in less than two decades, they sold Blancpain to the Swatch Group for a profit.

Biver returned to Omega as a director of international marketing, and under his supervision they began one of their most memorable partnerships yet: Omega and James Bond.

After a string of improbable successes, Biver was asked to take the helm of Hublot, a small Italian brand that had introduced rubber straps on gold watches. The founder, Carlo Crocco, knew Biver from when he launched Blancpain in 1983, and was a Blancpain distributor in Spain and Italy.

Jean-Claude Biver

Biver entered Hublot as the CEO in 2004 and made changes he believed would bring success to the brand. One of which was to switch from producing mostly quartz movements, to creating mechanical movements. The next was to move from 38mm cases to larger and more modern 44mm cases.

With these changes, Hublot entered Baselworld 2005 with a big bang. Quite literally. It was at this year’s fair Biver introduced Hublot’s most successful line: Hublot Big Bang.

Much like the very first Hublot timepiece, the Hublot Big Bang resembled a porthole and married unusual materials.  It was a hit, and in November of the same year, it won the best design prize in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve.

And that was just the beginning. Biver continued to bring forward the concept of “the art of fusion” in Hublot, resulting in some of the most unexpected collaborations and materials.

Jean-Claude Biver at Baselworld 2016 press con

In the watchmaking industry that spans hundreds of years, Hublot’s success has been an almost overnight phenomenon. And it is owed to the passion and dedication of the inimitable Jean-Claude Biver.

Although he has stepped down as an active executive of Hublot, Biver continues on as a non-executive president to look over the brand.  He also continues to tour the world, making sure more people gain deeper insight into the unconventional world of the Art of Fusion. His next stop? Metro Manila.

Come visit the Hublot Celebrating the Art of Fusion exhibit on November 12 to 15 at the Greenbelt 5 Fashion Walkway.

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