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Behind great brands are great men. Hublot is not an exception. This week, the LuxuryActivist team had the privilege to obtain an exclusive private interview with Mr Ricardo Guadalupe, Hublot’s CEO. We met a determined man, very passionate for what he does and definitely the engine of Hublot’s current success. His strong experience within the Swiss watchmaking industry gives him a clear vision on where he should lead Hublot and he has the entire trust and support of his team. His speech is very inspiring and should be a lesson to many people. Swiss watchmaking is a leading force and the men working very hard behind the scenes are the number one inspiration of this success. Mr Guadalupe is an important person worth listening.
LuxuryActivist (LA): You started in 2012 as Hublot’s CEO, what is your recipe that guided you all the way to accomplish what you did so far?
Ricardo Guadalupe (RG): It is difficult to talk about recipes but probably I could talk about my passion for what I do. I am attached to everything related to creation. As far as I am concerned, I am a man whose interest for new product creation is my true passion. We can do the best marketing in the world, have the best distribution but if the watches that we wear on our wrists do not transmit emotions, the purchase will not take place. I try to share with the Hublot teams the philosophy of creativity and innovation. These teams can be from R&D, Marketing or even logistics. We have the innovative spirit at all levels.
Every time we start a new project, we always ask ourselves the same question: what can we do better and different?”
It sounds easy to say but the most important thing is the creativity we place in the watch, the materials used or the movement. All this happens in a very intuitive way, buy talking to the teams and engineers. I am personally very connected to all these people.
LA: You declared several times that your preferred Hublot watch was the All Black 2006. Is it still the case? and why?
RG: Here is an example about listening. The original idea of the Hublot All Black came from a retailer. One day, just by talking to one of our commercial partners, he said: “why not doing a full black watch! This could really work!” It was the start of an amazing project. With the Hublot All Black we made time disappear. At the same time, we created a concept with a huge visibility. When you have a completely black watch on your wrist, there is a great aesthetic force. At Hublot we manufacture watches that makes something more than just tell time. We sell an object of art, we sell eternity or simply what our customers want to see in a Hublot watch.
LA: How would you describe the Hublot customer?
RG: They are young people from 25 to 45 years old. They are self-achievers, they succeed their lives only by the force of their own determination. Young generation of entrepreneurs who have built their own companies and being successful with it. They wish to express their success and the watch is a strong symbol. Men are concerned but also women. Hublot has around 30% of female customers. Our customers wish that people recognize their Hublot watches and to use it to express their state of mind.
LA: With the inauguration of Hublot 2, you have double the production facilities. What have you earned and what do you expect to accomplish in the future?
RG: We have in deed doubled our production area but the main objective is not to double production but to accomplish a further verticalization. We wish to master almost all strategic steps in-house. By leveling up Hublot in the Swiss watch-industry we need now to express our “esprit Manufacture”. This also allows to cumulate Hublot’s added value into our products.
LA: What did you think about 2015 where we had a strong Swiss Franc and a weak China?
RG: Hublot is not very strong in China, so the difficult economic situation of this country did not really affect us. It is true that 1/3 of total Swiss watches exportation go to China. If you consider the fact that Chinese buy a lot of watches abroad, we can estimate that 50% of Swiss watches are purchased by Chinese. Hublot is not concerned by this, which is in a way a great thing as China has slowed down. Nevertheless, if we would look for future growth worldwide, it is definitely in China where we would find it. It is a tremendous development opportunity for Hublot. China has for sure slowed down but Chinese people love to go shopping while abroad. They love to buy luxury goods and especially watches. I saw 25 years ago the Swiss export sales at CHF 5Million. Today we are at CHF 21Million so at one point we needed to have a consolidation. For the strong Swiss Franc, our typology of customers is not price sensitive, so 20% more in a Hublot watch is not really a problem. We could then focus our sales in Europe as our prices became more affordable. In Switzerland the situation was more challenging but since then the Euro got back to the race and things seem more normal.
LA: How would you see the Swiss watch industry to evolve in the incoming years?
RG: There are different levels of analysis. In the below CHF 1’000 watch segment, the arrival of connected watches is a true challenge. Any customer can buy a CHF 400 or CHF 500 Apple watch as well as a Swiss or Japanese traditional watch. The Connected watches bring the creation of new jobs that are not traditionally watchmaking. They are jobs about technology and electronics. We definitely need to pay attention to this phenomenon. For the high-end luxury watches, things will remain the same. Nobody will wear a smartwatch on one wrist and a high-luxury watch in the other. Luxury watches still are jewelry for several men and women, so it will always have a stronger perceived value than a smartwatch. At Hublot we have a strong believe on the “visible mechanics”. Not like a skeletonize of the watch but rather giving visibility of the watch movement that often is hidden behind the dial. It provides the watch added-value and richness. Watch dials hide the movement and we believe there is currently a strong trend to stop using dials in watches in order to reveal the mouvement. It is the mouvement that generates the perceived added-value.
LA: What should we wish you for this new edition of Baselworld?
RG: The watchmaking mood is currently quite difficult, we try to remain optimistic. We basically try to be better than anyone else. For that we are quite well equipped at Hublot to face this challenge.
You can listen to an audio extract from the interview here:
Mr Ricardo Guadalupe has a precise and passionate vision of watchmaking. He has the charisma and the energy to lead the Hublot team even higher than we think. Step by step, year after year, Hublot is ascending the Swiss watch-making mountain and there is only one target: the mountain top. You can read more about the new models launched this year during Baselworld by reading our previous review here:
The LuxuryActivist team thanks Mr Ricardo Guadalupe for his time and interest. We also thanks Ms Annabelle Galley for the amazing opportunity. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available without permission requested. Images are copyrighted and for illustration purposes only. Official photography of Mr Ricardo Guadalupe: Fred Merz.