Hublot And Ferrari Call It Quits: What’s Next For The Scuderia?
The Hublot Ferrari automotive and motorsport-inspired timepiece-and-timekeeper collaboration quietly concluded at the end of December 2020.
In November 2011, at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, Hublot became the official timekeeper and watchmaker for both Ferrari and Scuderia Ferrari as well as the official timekeeper for the Ferrari Challenge, a remarkable mono-marque FIA-approved race series. But the end of the corporate alliance between Hublot and Ferrari in December 2020 was antithetical to its ballyhooed announcement nine years and one month prior.
A Prolific Partnership
Hublot and Ferrari made up perhaps the most conspicuous partnership in a truly august car/watch club that includes (or has included) other enduring joint ventures such as Breitling and Bentley, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin, and Chopard and Mille Miglia.
However, the staggeringly prolific output of the Hublot-Ferrari partnership made this relationship particularly noteworthy. In all, it encompassed 70-some timepieces, including two generations of Big Bang Ferrari. In fact, the next-gen Big Bang Ferrari Chronograph Unico was created by Ferrari chief designer Flavio Manzoni to reflect the curves and angles of some of his famed supercars – Ferrari’s LaFerrari and Monza SP1 among them.
The high-volume partnership was also notable for its groundbreaking designs and technological achievements. The revolutionary Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph (also designed by Manzoni and his team) is one. The iconic masterpiece MP-05 LaFerrari Manufacture – an extraordinary vertical tourbillon mono-model sub-collection with 11 series-coupled barrels and a 50-day power reserve – is another. But these are just two examples; it is close to impossible to imagine a more accomplished and comprehensive collaboration between a Swiss watchmaker and a sportscar maker and racing team.
The End of an Era
A wrap-up internal memo formatted as a press release was surreptitiously circulated to those inside LVMH and Ferrari, informing both houses that the partnership was no more. While the memo-cum-release was also sent to select media outlets, the watch press didn’t pick up the story at the time, as the release was cryptic at best. It was, quite possibly, the subtlest sudden stop ever.
In part, the document read: “During the nine years that have since passed, a 360º relationship has developed between the two houses, leaving no possibility unexplored. [T]his period set the stage for an unprecedented technological exchange between the watchmakers, engineers and designers at Hublot and Ferrari…[that] proved to be an endless source of commercial, technical and sporting successes.”
“The success of our partnership remains unequalled by other players in the watchmaking or automotive sectors,” Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe said in the release. He went on to thank Jean-Claude Biver and Piero Ferrari as well as John and Lapo Elkann; curiously, he omitted Flavio Manzoni from his acknowledgments.
Biver, Hublot’s former CEO – two years removed from the day-to-day melee but still chairman of the brand – reflected privately upon the Ferrari partnership: “I don’t know what could have been done better,” he said. “For me, it was certainly one of the best partnerships of my 45-year career. Highlights were everywhere… But what was eventually the [greatest] highlight was the exceptional relationship I had with Luca di Montezemolo and Flavio Manzoni, who designed several extremely successful Hublot products.”
Hublot’s Next Steps
Rumors are Hublot – which had previously partnered with Formula 1 – will not seek another such pact, focusing instead on its own core brand equity. During LVMH Watch Week, Guadalupe reiterated this strategic shift when queried. “We have a maturity as a brand, and we wanted to show that Hublot itself is an integrated manufacture,” he said. “We wanted to work on the brand and show the art of fusion, and we wanted to invest in our brand.”
“We have been with Ferrari for nine years; it has been an incredible success,” Guadalupe added. “We weren’t the first brand, and they’re sure to have other brands after us.” An understatement, to be sure.
Who Will Ferrari Choose?
Ferrari and Scuderia Ferrari’s track record of partnerships with major watch brands is indeed impressive. In the early 1970s (for Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1) it paired with Heuer; later in the ’70s (for the overall Ferrari brand) with Longines. The go-go ’80s ushered forth the Formula Ferrari, a joint-venture capsule collection of timepieces and accessories from Cartier; the ’90s saw a horological upgrade with the Pour Ferrari chronographs by Girard-Perregaux. The Aughts brought us an all-Italian collaboration – “Ferrari Engineered by Officine Panerai” – and in 2011 came Hublot, which brings us to today.
So, who will Ferrari partner with next?
At this juncture, it's anyone’s guess as to which watch brand is in the pole position. Richard Mille whispers abound, and that’s a logical strategic fit. Though when asked, RM representatives had no comment.
(Photography by Watchonista)