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Hublot opens flagship store in Singapore 26 Sep 2010

Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot, and Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula One Group, at the opening of the Hublot flagship store in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts, Singapore, Friday 24 September. © Hublot Hublot flagship store in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts, Singapore, Friday 24 September. © Hublot The F1™ King Power watch. The opening of the Hublot flagship store in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts, Singapore, Friday 24 September. © Hublot The Hublot clock in the pit lane, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 25 September 2010. © Hublot

Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot, Official Watchmaker of Formula 1™, and Asia’s leading specialist watch retailer The Hour Glass officially opened the doors of the Hublot flagship store in Singapore on Friday. Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of Hublot, and Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of the Formula One Group were both in attendance.

The new store, the first to be opened by Hublot in Singapore, is situated in the premium ground-floor space of the prestigious new Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts. And on display throughout the Grand Prix weekend is the first timepiece from the limited KING POWER F1™ series, the Official Watch of Formula One.

As he celebrated the arrival of Hublot’s 26th boutique worldwide (its sixth in Asia), and with a specially-commissioned Hublot clock gracing the Singapore pit lane, we caught up with Mr Biver to find out how the company’s relationship with Formula One came about - and why it is proving so successful…

Q: Jean-Claude, time is the essence of racing, so watches and Formula One racing are a perfect match. Was that the impetus for Hublot to link up with F1?
Jean-Claude Biver:
It’s a lot of things. Number one: everybody who likes cars, who likes racing, who even likes classic cars, loves watches. Cars are the toys of adults. I fell in love with watches as a child - thank god it happened to me - and watches became my passion, because I could see in the watch the steam machine that I had when I was a boy. When I was a youngster I really was fascinated by steam machines. One day I discovered a watch on the wrist of a friend of mine and it hit me: it was like, wow, this watch looks like a steam machine, a fascinating very complex little steam machine. From that day on I was in love with watches. So firstly it is toys for adults: cars and watches!

And number two: Formula One is high-tech. High tech means, among many other things, new materials - ultra light, very resistant - carbon, ceramics, and titanium. What are we? We are a watch brand that goes and explores new materials, because we believe a watch, however expensive it is, should not necessarily be made like those 400 years ago, in gold or in platinum. If it can be made, why not? There is also an opportunity to make the watch in other materials, like carbon and magnesium, so we are working on new materials - and Formula One is working on new materials. So we already have two points in common.

Number three: we are a very serious, valuable brand. We have a lot of substance but we also have a glamour factor, because glamour is part of luxury watches. Formula One is high tech, it’s very sophisticated, implies a lot of technology, but it too is also glamour. So there you have it: already three points in common.

Number four: when I met Mr Ecclestone we discovered that we could be friends - that we not only have commercial interests in common and are commercial partners but that we really could be friends. And if you have friendship in business it is like the nest of a swallow - it is built very strongly. The commercial aspect is the material the nest is made of, and the glue that holds it together is friendship.

When we put all of this together we decided there are enough positive aspects, so now we should go and do it.

Q: Hublot’s profile has been rather low key in the past. Suddenly you are stepping on to the big stage by teaming up with Formula One. Why, and why now?
Why now? Because I took over the company in September 2004 and I transformed the low profile into awareness. Low profile - if everybody knows you - is great. Certain brands can stay low profile because they have a high awareness. But if you have no awareness, nobody knows you, and you are low profile, then you are nobody. So I transformed the brand in becoming more aggressive to make people aware that we exist. I transformed the brand not only by doing more advertising, but by being more aggressive, more innovative. I also transformed the brand inside itself - I created more value and substance. So we needed to create more awareness - and Formula One is an incredible vehicle to increase awareness. Maybe that’s the fifth reason for our partnership. Now you see we have five reasons - and five reasons are always better than four because it’s a full hand.

Q: What other avenues did you evaluate before deciding to join F1?
We did not evaluate anything else. It was very clear that we would join Formula One. There was no hesitation. It was Formula One, and that’s it! Before Formula One we’ve been in football, and we still are. With Manchester United we are the official timekeeper and sponsor. They are also a very prestigious brand and a very prestigious club. We were also the official timekeepers at the World Cup in South Africa and we will be in Brazil in 2014. We are also official watch and timekeeper of Euro 2008, which took place in Switzerland and Austria, and we will be again for the next one that will take place in Poland and Ukraine. So football was already on our table and Formula One came as an additional step - it was not in competition with anything else.

Q: You have been part of the Formula One family since the start of this year. What feedback have you had so far?
Friendship, simplicity, people ready to help, and people concerned to make me happy, which is very rare. Very often you sign a contract with someone and then they don’t care any more. Here people do care. When I say simplicity then it is almost in contrast to the glamour Formula One represents on the outside. Once you are inside you see that all the people here are very normal. They don’t pretend to be somebody else. They have their feet solidly on the ground. That was the biggest - and most positive - surprise. That’s why we feel so good here because you never feel good with people who behave as if they were somebody different, as then you never know with whom you are talking! (Laughs) And of course I was amazed to see how many people here were already my customers. So I feel that this family is my family!

Q: You have opened the first Hublot flagship store this weekend here in Singapore. Why did you pick Singapore?
Because we have a Formula One race here in Singapore and Singapore is still a hot spot for doing sophisticated business in Asia. In business or in promotion, one and one can never make two - that is something for school. In business it always has to make three - we are part of the Formula One family, there is a race here and Singapore is still hot! There you have your three…

Q: You have created a range of official Formula One watches. How has the response been to these watches?
Crazy. Simply crazy. The collection is five times oversold - a good problem to have! People are screaming for watches and complaining that they don’t get sufficient allocation. We try very hard to keep up with the demand. The response has really overwhelmed us.

Q: How many models will ultimately make the Formula One collection?
Due to the success I strongly believe that we can make one F1 watch every year, or even every nine months. I truly believe that we can make three in the next two years.

Q: It is your first season in Formula One, not only as a sponsor but also as an individual. How do you like it?
I love it. I meet people who are down to earth but who still have a lot of prestige; I meet people who have very high positions in their jobs; I meet successful people. This weekend I have met Mr Grubel from UBS, another new partner of Formula One. So to whatever race I go I meet good people. For me that is the biggest surprise - at a Formula One race you have a concentration of the world’s best entrepreneurs. All in the same place. And I also feel kind of successful when I sit with the F1 people.

For more information, visit www.hublot.com.