Jean-Claude Biver

Time-Related Issues, Jean-Claude Biver Talks Time With Watchonista

"Time, this luxury" a timeless interview with Jean-Claude Biver. We discuss his life, achievements, and his Special GPHG Jury Prize given at this year’s awards.

By Joël A. Grandjean

Back in 2010, in the “Esprit d'Entreprise” (translated “Company Spirit”) category, Jean-Claude Biver received the most prized of all awards in the watchmaking industry, the Gaïa prize. Awarded by the Institut l'Homme et le Temps of the MIH, the International Museum of Watchmaking. It was the same year as Elmar Mock and Jacques Muller, the two inventors of the Swatch watch, it was two years after Nicolas Hayek Sr.

Serial marketer: from humble watchmakers to the worldwide stage

Who knows why the watchmaking world’s marketing experts are always pitted against talents from the fields of technology, manufacturing, and patents. Why should excellence not be a part of the world of sales and marketing? Selling a fridge to an Eskimo? Jean-Claude Biver has always had a flair for "going where potential customers can be found."

During his career, this great maestro succeeded in making us believe that quartz had existed since 1735 and that soccer was a sport for which a precise watch could have any use. Let me explain: with his slogan "Since 1735 there has never been a quartz watch at Blancpain and there will never be one", he made us forget that quartz only appeared in the 1970s, 235 years later. Then, with his concept of timekeeping in football matches, he made us forget that the minute and second of the end of a game is determined by the referee's goodwill and not by a well-defined precision timekeeper. Jean-Claude Biver has always had a sense of formula and language, but also an awareness of detail. He knows how to commit himself.

Missionary for Switzerland and ever-present

Flamboyant, charismatic, humorous, Jean-Claude Biver knows how to maintain the cult of his own persona. He’s used it to sell his watches for nearly a half-century. He has enjoyed emphasizing his brand’s advantages and establishing a Swiss identity. As an insatiable enthusiast of Swiss symbols, he did not hesitate to join forces with cheese or “désalpe" (the end of the cattle's summer on the pastures) or to set up a press conference tent in front of the Grütli plain. He even Swissed the principle of the popular lunch cocktail, replacing the plural, conventional and varied snacks with original fondue shots.

To those who complained about his omnipresence, his hyper Presidency, as a journalist, let me remind you that any question submitted to Mr. Biver will be answered within a short time. So there was never anything unfair about giving him the microphone compared to other CEOs. Indeed, anyone interested in the issues of journalism knows that responsiveness remains crucial and that feedback often occurs after publishing.

At a time when Jean-Claude Biver is withdrawing somewhat from the main stage, with his official title kept within the LVMH group as a matter of respect and reference values, but just before the watchmaking fairs of January 2019, where the brands of Bernard Arnault's group will settle in Geneva at the Kempinski between Monday 14 and Friday 18 January.

It is an excellent time to reminiscence: Blancpain, Omega, Hublot, TAG Heuer, and Zenith were his territories of conquest. This leading public voice of Swiss watchmaking throughout the world is an ebullient businessman who saved a lot of time and therefore a lot of money for his shareholders trusted him.

Interview with Jean-Claude Biver

Moreover, it seems inconceivable that Biver is not thinking about a new challenge at this time, an ultimate conquest. In the meantime, what about the human being he is? What about his relationship to the passing of time? Sometimes indiscreet, my questions reveal who he is and what makes him endearing.

JAG: So, Mister Biver, when was the first time?

JCB: Every day is like the first time, that's what makes the days so exciting.

JAG: Are you always on time?

JCB: Yes, it is my principle, and it is also my definition of respect.

JAG: What is the worst delay you remember, the one that has put you in the most embarrassment?

JCB: When I have to say that there was a traffic jam on the highway... Today it is no longer an excuse because you have to include it in your schedule.

JAG: Is there a delay or advance that has allowed you to escape the worst?

JCB: No, not that I can remember. I believe in my destiny, and what happens to me happens to me because it had to happen.

JAG: Is there a delay or an advance that has allowed you to experience the best? Do you remember a blessed moment, a free moment...

JCB: Being early back home is always a good privilege because I can never enjoy my home and family enough.

JAG: What was your longest day?

JCB: My wedding day, because I wanted it never to end.

JAG: Apart from a timepiece, what is the design that you consider to be the most timeless?

JCB: The Matterhorn, one of the most beautiful designs on the planet.

JAG: What is the personal object you would like to remove from the influence of time?

JCB: My grandfather's typewriter. When I was a child, I was fascinated by it, and often I didn't understand how he could fall asleep with his head bent over the machine.

JAG: What is the type of time-consuming people or things, the ones who eat your precious time, that you are most dreaded by?

JCB: They are the ones who ask questions with obvious answers, those who try to get noticed. I can't avoid them, but when I recognize them, I answer them very abruptly in order to discourage them.

JAG: If time were abstract, what would it look like?

JCB: Love, living forever with my family, which is so important to me.

JAG: There is a southern proverb that says, "You have the hour, we have the time!" Comments?

JCB: Having time, enjoying time and mastering time is for me the real luxury!

JAG: Your first memory referring to a duration, whether positive or negative?

JCB: School seemed endless to me when I was a child. Then later I felt so comfortable that I regretted leaving it.

JAG: What are your moments that should never stop?

JCB: When I play with my son Pierre and when we have family dinners or lunches. A family celebration should never stop.

JAG: What difference do you make between time and eternity?

JCB: Eternity is illusion and idealism, and time is the reality.

JAG: Your first watch?

JCB: The one of my first communion offered by my grandfather.

JAG: What role do the watches you own play in your life? Please indicate approximately how many?

JCB: They are my toys for the grown-up child. Each one gives me emotion and made me dream. I own about sixty watches.

JAG: The one you would most like to have, apart from the brands you are working for?

JCB: My collection consists of almost all brands. Of course, I don't only collect watches from my brand! Because I am passionate about watchmaking in general and not just when it is closely linked to my brand.

JAG: The watch of your brand you are most proud of? Why, its relationship to time, in a few words?

JCB: The Hublot Tourbillon Chronograph Big Bang All Black. It's my first real machine. This watch has become more than a watch, but a tool for playing with the reading and counting of time.

JAG: If without a time indicator, you had to plant a personal object in the ground to inform you about the time it is, like a sundial?

JCB: My armailli stick!

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

Industry News: Jean-Claude Biver Stepping Down From His Role At LVMH

By Watchonista
According to Reuters, due to serious health issues, the legendary executive is transitioning to a non-executive President role.

Jean-Claude Biver: High-Speed Champion

By Constantin StikasPhotographer and journalist
Jean-Claude Biver is a… supersonic man!... He is always there: with his retailers, with his clients, with forum members, with the press, with his...

Prix Gaïa 2010 – Jean-Claude Biver. Entrepreneurship category

“Passion is my driving force”. The typical Jean-Claude Biver quality, taken from an interview carried out in September 2009, immediately appealed...