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He has often been referred to as the disruptor, the rebel, and several other unsubtle adjectives that one does not usually associate with high end Swiss luxury watchmaking. However, there is no denying the fact that the name Jean-Claude Biver induces reverence. In the 1980s, Biver bought and revived Blancpain, a name that had been redundant since the early 1960s. In the mid-1990s, he orchestrated Omega’s partnership with James Bond. And in the Nineties, he turned Hublot from a peculiar Swiss watchmaking concern into a global brand that now counts footballer demigod Pelé, the Ferrari F1 team and Usain Bolt among its partners and is the official timekeeper of the FIFA World Cup. In 2005, launched the Hublot Big Bang, a brazen, larger-than-life watch that is as good a metaphor for his impact on Swiss watchmaking as any.
While there is a general consensus that the luxury watch-making industry is going through a down turn, Biver is trying very hard to reverse the trend. What is he doing to reverse the trend? Last year he slashed the prices of TAG Heuer Watches, repositioning the brand for a younger audience after a decade spent pursuing the super-rich with low-volume, six-figure complications. At the same time, he signed Cara Delevingne, Cristiano Ronaldo and most recently Formula 1 upstarts Red Bull Racing.
The TAG Heuer Connected watch was Switzerland’s most aggressive answer to the Apple Watch. Living up to his forceful personality, Biver even held the press conference in a New York tower, within eyeshot of Apple’s iconic glass-box store. The strategies Biver has put in place since taking over the LVMH Watch Division appear to be working. Biver has recently begun focusing his attentions on the old brand, Zenith. Few would bet against him turning it around. “You can safely count Jean-Claude among the giants in the industry,” says Solca. “His vision and competence in watches can be compared to that of the best entrepreneurs we have seen in this business in the past 30 years.”
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