Swiss watchmaker Hublot and pianist Lang Lang are world‑famous, but it is their parallel philosophies that cement their camaraderie, says Nicolette Wong
We need to respect what has been done in the past, but at the same time, we have to chase a new time zone.” This may sound like it came straight from a watch industry executive, but its actual provenance is a little further afield. It actually came from world-renowned pianist Lang Lang, whose big personality and novel approach to playing has made him a household name, even for people who know nothing about classical music. So it is no coincidence then that Lang Lang is the ambassador for Hublot, a watch brand that shares the same philosophy. Hublot has never been shy about its approach to creating bold, innovative timepieces whose aesthetics challenge watchmaking traditions. Who says that a watch has to be round and slim, or that sapphire glass can only be used to protect the dial and caseback? Or that it is impossible to create a high-end smartwatch? Hublot has defied many of the limitations and traditions of the watchmaking industry, mostly because it can. In recent years, CEO Ricardo Guadalupe has helped Hublot cement its status as one of the most innovative watch brands in the industry. It has created new materials such as Magic Gold, the world’s first scratchresistant gold made possible by the fusion of liquid 18K gold and ceramic. This year, it also created the world’s first bright red ceramic in the Big Bang Unico Red Magic. Its MP-05 Laferrari Aperta has a recordbreaking 50 days of power reserve thanks to the use of 11 barrels in the movement, when
most watches only have one. Most recently, Hublot created the Big Bang Referee 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia, a smartwatch which had previously been unthinkable for a luxury watch brand to produce. These bold collaborations are also key in Guadalupe’s strategy for Hublot’s future. When it comes to appealing to the younger generation, he says, “Product is key.” Guadalupe believes that the Hublot customer is someone who wants to have his (or her) watch easily identifiable from afar, and in order to do that, the brand’s watches cannot simply be a slim three-hand watch with a white dial. “To have a product with a strong identity is important,” he says. “Thanks to our innovation and creativity in both the use of materials and movement development, we have been able to create watches that no competitors have in their collections.” When asked whether Hublot would ever diversify into creating more classical watches, Guadalupe merely says, “We already created the Classic Fusion—that’s our interpretation of a classical watch. We don’t want to be a Patek Philippe or a Vacheron Constantin—if you want a classical watch, why would you buy a Hublot? A Patek would be perfect. We have to reinterpret watches in our own way.” There is room, in other words, for more than one type of watch in every connoisseur’s collection. On top of innovative products, communication is also key to Hublot’s expansion strategy—as exemplified by Hublot’s logo appearing on millions of screens worldwide during the recent Fifa World Cup, where it was a branded licensee. “We believe that through innovative marketing, we can speak to the consumers of today, and shape the consumers of tomorrow,” Guadalupe affirms. Innovative communication is also where the partnership with Lang Lang comes in. “It is true that classical music and Hublot make a peculiar partnership,” muses Guadalupe. “But we are building a world of Hublot. You can have football, Ferrari, art, gastronomy, and many different things. Lang Lang is trying to reinvent how classical music is interpreted and seen in the world,
and that philosophy meshes very well with Hublot’s spirit of innovation.” Clearly, Hublot’s strategy is working. While the rest of the watchmaking world was struggling through 2017, Hublot reported a 12 per cent increase in sales revenue. The brand also just opened its first boutique in Vietnam, at the historic confines of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. The boutique is a collaboration with The Hour Glass S&S, a joint venture with the Vietnamese partner of luxury watch retailer, The Hour Glass. And while the market is still developing in Vietnam, Guadalupe has high hopes, saying that he estimates the sales revenue from the country would likely double or triple over the next few years.