Bvlgari Watches MD Antoine Pin achieves a fine balance between being all things to all people while nurturing true horological icons of our time
“We’ve tried to bring preciousness to all the products we are launching this year at different price points,” shared Bvlgari Watches Managing Director Antoine Pin. This preciousness comes courtesy of exceptional touches ranging from the three-hammer chime of the new Octo Roma Carillon Tourbillon to the mother-of-pearl marquetry dials of the latest Lucea ladies’ watches in steel.
Making sure that there’s something compelling for clients of all stripes will be especially central to the brand’s COVID-19-era strategy. Asked if he plans to focus on any specific region in the year ahead, Pin said: “We like to think that we propose watches that are universal or can fit different markets. It’s difficult for me to focus on just one market when we are thinking of our product collections and plans.”
How often does a truly unique design like the Octo Finissimo come along?
Very rarely. That’s why we are so proud of it. If you think of products that have made not just a design difference over the last 20 years, but have also reached a certain level of awareness among the general public, there are very few. I would name the Big Bang by Hublot and, interestingly, someone recently mentioned the Chanel J12, but that is now 22 years old. There is a lot of creativity in shapes but for a design to stand out, grow and become an icon is very rare. This is why we protect and nurture this Octo collection.
What’s the story behind your 2021 blockbuster, the Octa Roma Carillon Repeater Tourbillon?
The new Octa Roma minute repeater has a three-hammer, brand-new calibre BVL 438. This completes the Octo range of minute-repeater calibres; we already have a two-hammer repeater and a Grande Sonnerie. This three-hammer repeater comes in a very modern titanium case with a completely new structure that emphasises the sound.
The Octo Finissimo has been breaking thinness records every year. How challenging is it to keep this up?
It’s getting more and more challenging (laughs). But I truly believe that this quest for the the next achievement is one of the major engines of motivation for us. We are continuously building this culture to push the boundaries of micromechanical movements, so the next couple of years will be interesting because there will be a fair balance of calibre developments for both men’s and women’s watches.
Last year, Bvlgari Watches partnered with interesting names like architect Tadao Ando and Japanese streetwear brand Fragment Design. Are there more partnerships in the pipeline?
There will be some very cool collaborations, but you’ll have to wait a couple of months.
(Related: Highlights from the LVMH Watch Week 2021, Part 2: Bvlgari)
Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe on how his brand is making up for lost time with new movements, materials and collaborations
“We wanted to send the message that Hublot remains active and innovative,” said Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, when asked about the full slate of novelties that the Swiss brand launched at LVMH Watch Week. Besides new movements, materials and collaborations, the launches reflect Guadalupe’s confidence in what lies ahead this year. The industry veteran of 30 years shared: “I am optimistic. It cannot be worse than last year. We had to close our factory for three months then. I believe we will see a rebound and double-digit growth – maybe not yet reaching the numbers of 2019, but positive.”
A key novelty this year is the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire. It’s a bold move to put your first automatic tourbillon movement in a case made from such a striking new material.
Yes. We said, let’s put this new calibre in a new material. That way, we have two novelties in one, which is what Hublot represents – the Art of Fusion, which is innovation with tradition.
Hublot has expanded the Big Bang Integral collection with new ceramic models in navy blue, white and grey. The line was launched last year as Hublot’s first Big Bang model with an integrated bracelet. How has the response been?
It has been good. That said, the challenge for us is that we are known for rubber straps – 90% of our watches are sold on rubber straps or rubber-lined leather straps. The Integral lets us nurture new customers who want a bracelet. In the case of metal bracelets, there are offerings from other strong brands. For Hublot, we have the Integral in materials like titanium and ceramic. The latter is key because it is one of our signature materials.
Another important piece this year is the Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black, a collaboration with the Japanese artist. The monochromatic palette is surprising for an artist known for his colourful works.
For me, the idea was to do a colourful watch (laughs). But he wanted to start with a black watch because the all-black concept is a Hublot one; we were the first to come up with an all-black watch in 2006. We began talking to Murakami three years ago. He finally said yes to the collaboration when he came to the manufacture last February. He saw and understood our R&D, our movements and cases – essentially, that we are a brand with substance and know-how.
What is your outlook for the year?
We hope that the world will have an effective vaccine that lets people travel a bit again. Without travel retail, our sales in countries like Switzerland, France and England are suffering. China is booming, Japan is recovering, and we are doing well in South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. We have a strong local market in Russia and the US is coming back, so, overall, we feel positive.
(Related: Highlights of the LVHM Watch Week 2021, Part 3: Hublot)
Zenith CEO Julien Tornare on shaping the present by harnessing the past and the future
On 21 January, Zenith launched its all-new chronograph model, the Chronomaster Sport. That morning, Zenith CEO Julien Tornare woke up to a flood of emails about the collection.
The Swiss native, who took the reins at Zenith in 2017 following two decades in the watch industry, says” “The minute we launched it, I received tons of emails from two regions: Asia, because you guys had already woken up, and the West Coast of the US, because they hadn’t gone to sleep yet. It has been a hot and busy start – we sold 150 pieces of it over the weekend. I’ve never seen something like this in my career.” He tells The Peak more about this new timepiece and awakening the ‘sleeping beauty’ that was Zenith.
What did you want to achieve with your big launch of the year, the Chronomaster Sport?
We wanted to re-establish Chronomaster as a key product line. Launched in 2017, the Defy line is about contemporary watchmaking – today and the future. The Chronomaster is about yesterday – all our history – and today. In 2018, we looked into our history, and saw these great sporty and technical products and decided we had to relaunch something in this category. That’s why we created the Chronomaster Sport.
The Chronomaster Sport stands out with its 1/10 second chronograph that lets the user easily read precise elapsed times, thanks to its fast central chronograph hand and its bezel marked with 1/10 of a second increments. Why was this important?
Firstly, to measure 1/10 of a second, you need a movement with a frequency of 36,000 vph or 5 Hz, which is the frequency of Zenith’s El Primero movement. We wanted to show it and help people to use it easily. When we first began developing these watches, I passed the prototype to my 10-year-old son and asked him to explain how I could use this to measure the time. He played with it and understood quickly. That was important because I wanted it to be easy to use.
You recently completed the 1969 historical releases with the Chronomaster Revival A385. What other heritage-inspired designs can we expect?
In April, you will see a new version of the Chronomaster in a ‘Classic’ form. It will be inspired by the historical A386, a thin, elegant chronograph. We want to recapture Zenith as the brand for chronographs and to build on our past to be a leader in this segment.
A few years ago, former LVMH watch chief Jean-Claude Biver told us Zenith was a great watch brand but he wanted to make it more ‘sexy’. Is this an adjective you bear in mind?
I do. Jean-Claude and I work together very well. Before I started, we used to say that the brand had become dusty and old-fashioned. When I came on board, Zenith was like Sleeping Beauty. My job is to awaken the beauty and make her sexy.
(Related: Highlights from the LVMH Watch Week 2021, Part 4: Zenith)
This story first appeared in The Peak Singapore