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Five minutes with Jean-Claude Biver


On the sidelines of Dubai Watch Week, Jean-Claude Biver, CEO of TAG Heuer, and CEO, board member and minority shareholder of Hublot, talks watchmaking, innovation and Iran.

How do you so the watchmaking industry developing in the region?
I see it developing very well, not only in the region but in general. I believe in the watchmaking industry and, in my opinion, there is a big future ahead because the industry is still very small with only a $22 billion turnover while the entire LVMH group does $32bn, meaning that LVMH is 32 per cent bigger than the watch industry. This shows that the watch industry is still small.

You mentioned that 2016 would be a difficult year for the watchmaking industry. Could you explain?
It will be more difficult. 2016 will be more challenging and we will see only the best people ahead. We had tailwinds in the past, so less-skilled brands were still doing well. Now that the wind is coming against us, we need to be strong. I predict 2016 to be challenging, but it doesn’t mean that brands will go down: the weak brands will lose and the strong brands will gain. If the small brands lose ten [billion], it might be taken by the strong brands.

How can a brand stay strong then?
You can only stay strong if you have strong people. Having strong people starts with being innovative and creative. Innovation is the future; if you don’t innovate, you cannot get ahead. How can you stay number one in tennis? By improving your game. If you don’t improve, you will stop winning, because everybody is training harder and harder. As a brand, we have to be innovative in every field – in communication, product, marketing and PR. It is all about innovation; if you don’t innovate, you are done.

For how much was the most expensive Hublot sold?
It was $5 million in Singapore, it was a Big Bang. We also sold Big Bangs here in the region for $1m and $2m.

Iran is expected to open its market in 2016. What is the value of the market there, in your opinion?
For Hublot, Iran already has the biggest turnover in the Middle East. It is our second-biggest market because we have been working with Iran for a long time – since 1979. The country has an incredible taste for luxury and exclusivity.

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