Horology’s legend Jean-Claude Biver comes out of retirement to establish Biver Watches, creating the ‘perfect watch’ with his youngest son, Pierre Biver.
Text Daniel Goh
When you are 74 years of age and retired, you probably want to take it easy and reminisce upon what you have accomplished in your field of work. What you probably wouldn’t do is co-found a new watch company, building a completely new business in an industry famous for its high capital and competitors that have been around for hundreds of years. Yet, this is exactly what Jean-Claude Biver did.
If you have even the most remote of interest in watches, you would probably know of Jean-Claude Biver. He was the man who revived Blancpain in the 1980s, ensured that Omega would be synonymous with James Bond and was behind Hublot’s ‘Art of Fusion’ philosophy. Given his track record, it is little wonder that after working nearly 50 years in the industry and retiring in 2018, Biver could never really just leave it behind. “I discovered, in principle, you can never retire from a passion. You can retire from a job, but retiring from passion is impossible. The only way to retire from passion is to die,” he says.
The Birth of Biver Watches: From Passion to Reality
So, at 74, he has undertaken the gargantuan task of setting up, from scratch, a luxury watchmaking company. He is not doing this alone, however, as Biver Watches was co-founded with his youngest son, Pierre. “There is a huge satisfaction for a father when he knows he can give back to his own son,” Biver says. Pierre, 22, developed a love for watches and got his start in the industry by working for the Phillips auction house in London. At one point, Pierre was even managing his father’s watch collection and restructured it by advising Biver on the best watches to buy and sell based on the current market.
So, what would a man, who has seen and owned pretty much every type of watch in the industry, want to make? A timepiece that embodies perfection in its very soul. At the time of writing, we have not been able to even see the watch in person but, from the images, we can see that Biver Watches’ first offering takes Pierre’s love for historical watches and transforms them into something contemporary.
The Importance of Perfection: The Complex Mechanism of Biver Watches’ First Offering
Starting with, arguably, one of the most complex horological mechanisms – the minute repeater – was deliberate as it wanted to establish the cornerstone of the brand. Another core philosophy is the use of stone dials on every watch it makes. Just these two elements alone make the production of Biver Watches exceedingly complex. Additionally, to take the minute repeater from the 18th to the 21st century, it is adding in an extra third hammer, while the stone dials will all be domed. These stone dials are important to Biver as he wants to add an element of soul to the brand. “We chose them for their spiritual attributes, for the energy they radiate,” explains Pierre.
Did we also mention that the watch is outfitted with a tourbillon housed in a titanium cage with a micro-rotor? And the most important part of Biver Watches is that, despite its immense complexity, it is singularly adamant that every single component of this watch will be finished – and this includes not only the visible parts of the movement, but also those that only a watchmaker will ever see.
The Power of Network and Experience: Jean-Claude Biver’s Role in Biver Watches’ Success
Taking all of this into consideration, it is actually impossible that Biver Watches has managed to get to where it is now in just 16 months. This is where Biver’s name and his vast network have managed to grease the wheels of this locomotive, fast-tracking the many elements of setting up the company and its production. “I received more than 100 offers through letters (yes letters) and emails from people offering to join me when we decided to create this brand,” Biver says. And as a respected figure in the industry, it was easier to convince manufacturers to attempt what Biver Watches hopes to accomplish with its watch. The watch was launched at the end of March with production to begin in June.
A Father-Son Partnership: The Future of Biver Watches
Biver’s imposing shadow on the watchmaking industry doesn’t seem to be smothering Pierre but, rather, works as a sort of protective shade as the younger man absorbs his father’s nearly 50 years of accumulated industry knowledge. Respect is given to Pierre as he undertakes responsibilities within the company, such as full control of when and how Biver Watches is launched, among others.
In fact, Jean-Claude says he is also learning from Pierre: “He is 22 years old; I learn by listening to him, observing him and analysing how he thinks. And I often find the best way to remain young is to surround yourself with young people.”