LVMH’s Top Watch Bosses on What 2023 Holds
In January, at LVMH Watch Week 2023, Watchonista sat down with Bulgari’s Antoine Pin, TAG Heuer’s George Ciz, Hublot’s Ricardo Guadalupe, and Zenith’s Julien Tornare to talk about watchmaking’s new directions.
Watches & Wonders (a.k.a. the “Big Show”) is in March, but watch fans got to their fill of January surprises when Bulgari, Hublot, TAG Heuer, and Zenith introduced their first novelties of 2023 at LVMH Watch Week in Singapore and New York.
Of course, Watchonista has already covered these exuberant collections, but we also were treated to some fascinating conversations with the above brands’ top brass. But after being inspired by the amazing timepieces we witnessed in NYC, we had to get their take on what Watches & Wonders will reveal.
No spoiler alerts here – they wouldn’t be executive material if they gave away their secrets – but they did provide plenty of insight on the state of the union of their respective brands.
Antoine Pin, Managing Director of Bulgari’s Watch Division
We’ll never be able to fully describe the joie de vivre that Antoine Pin brings to every conversation. He’s a man who loves his job, and he has as much enthusiasm for the intricacies of gem setting as he does for record-setting mechanisms.
At LVMH Watch Week 2023, Bulgari presented its most recent novelties from the Serpenti, Divas’ Dream, and Allegra collections. And while each grouping has a distinctive look, they still share a strong family resemblance. That’s thanks (at least partially) to how Bulgari is structured as a company.
Most luxury houses operate in silos. Perfume divisions, for example, are not concerned with what the watchmakers are doing. However, at Bulgari, explained Pin, every innovation that goes into an ultra-thin calibre also finds a home in the more extravagant jewelry watches. And vice versa. For example, just when it seemed like watches couldn’t get any thinner, the technical team turned to Bulgari’s high jewelry department to find a new way to set diamonds into the Serpenti’s flexible wrap-around bracelet.
“Seventy-five years of Serpenti,” said Pin, “and it still surprises!” Creating a way to securely hold diamonds in curved links flexible enough to spiral around the wrist would have been unthinkable. But Bulgari’s curiosity pushes the boundaries. Or as Pin put it: “It is the essence of gem setting. But it also represents the achievements of the last ten years.”
Like with the gem setting example, making all these record-setting calibres for the Octo Finissimo has also paid off for the brand in other ways. For instance, these micro mechanisms allow the maison to outfit more high jewelry watches with mechanical calibres.
“We are progressively replacing quartz movements,” explained Pin, which means customers can experience the best of the company’s watch- and jewelry-making worlds. But, as Pin elaborated, Bulgari is also mindful that highly-precise quartz movements also have a place in certain models, like the Allegras, to make them more accessibly priced.
“Through millions of years of evolution, humanity still appreciates craftsmanship and how it can celebrate the beauty of nature. That’s our philosophy, let everyone enjoy the blessings of life!”
– Antoine Pin, Managing Director of Bulgari’s Watch Division
This spirit of inclusivity has spread beyond the technicians and artisans collaborating at Bulgari to collectors. In fact, days after the New York event, Instagram was filled with posts of men sporting the jewel-encrusted Divas’ Dream and Serpenti models, suggesting that diamonds are everybody’s best friend.
Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot
Hublot also has a very successful presentation at LVMH Watch Week. Not only did the brand introduce its most audacious rainbow-bejeweled watch to date, but it also went back to basics with reimagined versions of the original Classic Fusion from the 1990s.
While Hublot is still considered a young brand, at least by Swiss standards, under Ricardo Guadalupe’s command, it has gained critical acceptance in the luxury watchmaking circles. Is that why the rest of the world has finally caught up to the brand’s disruptor status?
“A good watch reflects the times it passes through,” commented the erudite Guadalupe about the Classic Fusion. That means, for Hublot, the disruption never stops. “We have a young clientele,” he added. And the 2023 collection, for example, has been streamlined for current tastes. The new family comes in three sizes – 42mm, 38mm, or 33mm – and each is available in three materials – steel, ceramic, or gold.
However, just as important as the aesthetics is the message. And Guadalupe asserts that embracing the digital realm with online shopping, social media platforms, and NFTs keep Hublot on the cutting edge, especially when it comes to marketing limited editions and ongoing collaborations with artists such as Takashi Murakami.
“You can’t do only physical watches anymore. There’s a generation interested in being more interactive with luxury watches – especially post-COVID – and that’s a great thing!”
– Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot
You can credit Hublot’s current success to the fact Guadalupe and his team are dedicated to exploring the brand’s “Art of Fusion” philosophy from every possible angle. And outside of the online opportunities, this also means playing with space-age materials in models like the yellow neon Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic, which is crafted from an alloy dubbed “Sapphire Aluminum oXide and rare Earth Mineral,” or SAXEM. The result is brighter than bright and totally unexpected.
Finally, Guadalupe promises Watchonista that Watches & Wonders 2023 will bring even more surprises that involve unexpected materials and cool collaborations. “You can’t just be disruptive, at the end of the day the watch has to be significant,” said Guadalupe. “Then it becomes a work of art.”
George Ciz, Chief Marketing Officer of TAG Heuer
According to TAG’s affable CMO, George Ciz, the keyword to the brand’s approach to tech is duality. “It’s not enough to have a great-looking watch, and it’s not enough just to have a solar-powered watch,” Ciz said about models such as the super popular Connected Golf.
TAG Heuer is also listening to new collectors by embracing materials such as titanium and making aesthetic changes that make watches more wearable. For example, the 40mm case of the Solargraph means it can be worn comfortably on a wide range of wrist sizes. “It’s a little chameleon,” Ciz added. “You can dress it up with a suit or wear it casually; the feedback we got when we launched the first Solargraph last year was that people were impressed with the quality point and the five-year guarantee. It’s a watch that people aren’t afraid to wear.”
While TAG Heuer is on the leading edge of smartwatch and sustainable technologies, Ciz promised that the maison will also honor its history with new launches throughout 2023.
“It’s the 60th anniversary of the Carrera, so you’re going to see limited edition tributes and re-imaginings throughout the year. I’ll get in trouble if I say anymore, but there will be a non-limited watch added to the collection.”
– George Ciz, CMO of TAG Heuer
Julien Tornare, President & CEO of Zenith
While TAG brought the most toys to LVMH Watch Week, Zenith focused on its DEFY Skyline collection with timepieces that are mechanically and visually impressive.
According to Zenith’s President and CEO, the avuncular Julien Tornare, the company’s current direction comes from conversations he had with employees who worked on the emblematic El Primero calibre in the 1960s and 1970s.
For example, the movement of the new DEFY Skyline Skeleton is based on the El Primero, and it is the first of its kind to be fitted with a 1/10th of a second indicator.
The construction also addresses the age-old conundrum people face when wearing an openworked timepiece: Everyone wants to see the beauty of the movement, but nobody wants to see your arm hair squashed between your skin and the sapphire case back.
This model features a layered skeletonized dial. That recalls Zenith’s star logo from the 1960s that lets you peer deep into the inner workings without taking you out of the effect by exposing your wrists.
“One of my top five moments in the last six years was when they told me, ‘Julien, it’s great to do revivals, but it would be better to treat it the way we did – like a start-up.’ They gave me the green light to bring new ideas and materials to the table.”
- Julien Tornare, President & CEO of Zenith
So where do these innovations come from? “We have a very small task force of me and couple of other people,” explained Tornare. “Then we have a product development committee of 10 to 12 people. And then we organize a monthly breakfast with the watchmakers, and I ask them to give me ideas and suggestions because they are the ones working with new techniques and materials.”
Even something as simple as a color can provide the jumping-off point for something completely contemporary. And as an example, Tornare pointed out a watch worn by Romain Marietta, the Director of Product Development and Heritage for Zenith, earlier in the day.
“That was the original DEFY with a nice gradient, but now we can do a kind of blue that just draws your eye in an entirely different way,” Tornare said. “It’s daring, but it’s in the spirit of the original. The inspiration we’re taking from our heritage is that you can take risks that help you make things in a very modern way.”