When you hear the name Hublot, you might assume that the brand has been around for ages. Perhaps you even count it among the Swiss companies that have been dominating the watch industry for decades on end, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Hublot was founded in 1980, making the brand just 40 years old. Even more surprisingly, it wasn’t until the last 15 years that it has really risen to fame. So, how did Hublot become such a big name in the world of luxury watches so quickly? Let’s find out.
To understand the power of Hublot, you have to understand today’s luxury audiences. If there’s one thing the brand has done exceptionally well, it’s catering to the idea of “new luxury.” This is a segment that many older Swiss brands long avoided – and some still do. Moreover, you have to understand the difference between Hublot before and Hublot after Jean-Claude Biver. Let me explain what I mean.
Back in 1976, Italian-born Carlo Crocco left the Binda Group, which was known for producing Breil watches. He decided to follow his dreams and moved to Switzerland, where he set up his own company, MDM Genève, and started his watch brand, Hublot. The word hublot is French for “porthole.” Crocco wanted to create watches inspired by porthole designs using new materials and technologies.
In 1980, Crocco introduced the first Hublot watch, the Classic Fusion. This groundbreaking timepiece was the first yellow gold watch to be paired with a natural rubber strap. The combination started a revolution. Up until that point, most manufacturers were pairing gold cases with gold bracelets or leather straps. They did not regard rubber as a luxury product, so some considered the Hublot absolute blasphemy.
That said, numerous famous actors, sports stars, and royals wanted to get their hands on a Hublot Classic Fusion as soon as possible. The “fusion” of materials turned out to be a hit. It didn’t take long for Crocco’s company to make a name for itself as an up-and-coming luxury watch company. Nonetheless, despite their constant presence on the market, the brand wouldn’t become quite as big as some of the other names in the industry would over the next 25 years.
By 2004, Crocco was busy working on other projects. He needed someone to take over at Hublot. Enter Jean-Claude Biver: Biver left his position at Omega to join the brand. He soon devised a plan for Hublot with his “Art of Fusion” concept. This focused on the use of high-tech materials, including ceramic, carbon fiber, and a proprietary material called Magic Gold – a fusion of liquid gold and ceramic.
Biver also focused on new watch designs that followed the trend toward larger watches. Within a year of Biver joining the brand, Hublot presented their all-new Hublot Big Bang to the world at Baselworld 2005. This timepiece would kickstart the brand’s popularity with a new audience. Some watch journalists felt the Big Bang was too close to other modern luxury sports watches, such as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, but many either disagreed or weren’t bothered by it – and why should they have been?
The Big Bang combines a solid design with new materials and has won several prestigious international watch awards. More importantly, the watch piqued the interest of a growing audience, resulting in an incredible boost in sales.
The boost in sales was not solely down to the new watch itself. Jean-Claude Biver also knew he had to market the brand differently. Thus, the Art of Fusion became integral to their marketing strategy, which focused on finding a non-traditional audience. Biver wanted to appeal to the nouveau riche or “new rich.”
He understood the desires of his new target audience: They were craving big watches with new materials, bold styles, and flashy colors. Traditional Swiss luxury brands have generally steered clear of associating with new money, but Hublot has happily partnered with soccer teams, rappers, Formula 1 teams, and social media influencers from all over the world.
Under Biver, Hublot turned to online tools and event marketing to connect with their audience. Moreover, they partnered with other influential brands and individuals from the music, art, and sports worlds. Biver understood that offering a brand experience would help people connect to Hublot, making them more loyal customers.
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His tactics paid off. In 2008, three years after the brand introduced the Big Bang, Hublot was acquired by the luxury conglomerate LVMH. The next year, they launched a new model called the King Power. Then in 2010, they debuted a revamped version of the Classic Fusion that had started it all.
You can’t put this brand’s success solely down to smart marketing tactics. Over the years, Hublot has also invested heavily in developing new watches, incorporating groundbreaking materials, and creating in-house movements – with astounding results. The titanium Big Bang Unico Integral is a stunning chronograph, many now see the Classic Fusion as one of the original luxury sports watches that helped define the genre, and Hublot’s proprietary complications are considered true masterpieces.
When it comes to special editions, the company has made some wise moves in terms of partners. There’s the fantastic special-edition Classic Fusion, which resulted from a collaboration between Hublot and Italia Independent. Then there are the amazing timepieces from Hublot’s partnership with Sang Bleu. Plus, Hublot has been a partner of the Ferrari Formula 1 team for quite some time.
Sure, Hublot is a bit controversial – just look up Bernie Ecclestone and Hublot. And yes, some Hublot wearers use their watches to show off their wealth. However, none of that negates the fact that this company is continuing to grow and develop into a strong modern luxury brand with serious watchmaking credits to their name. Even though Biver and Hublot parted ways in 2012, the brand continues to shine under Ricardo Guadalupe’s leadership. The Classic Fusion has become an industry icon, and many see the Big Bang as a future icon. As far as we can tell, the Art of Fusion isn’t going anywhere, and the future is bright for Hublot.