Jean-Claude Biver: Small Beginnings in the Watch Industry
Jean-Claude Biver is one of the most important names in the watch industry. For over forty years, he’s left a lasting impact on some of the biggest brands. His career includes work with powerhouse players like OMEGA, Blancpain, Hublot, and TAG Heuer. Last month, on his 69thbirthday, news broke that rocked the watch world. The legend’s impressive career might be ending as he prepares for retirement.
Biver hadn’t always set his sights on entering the watch industry. After graduating from the University of Lausanne Business School, he settled in Le Brassus, Switzerland. The village is in the Vallee de Joux, the heart of fine watchmaking. There, he began absorbing the culture of watchmaking and connecting with those in the industry. He eventually met Georges Golay, the chairman and CEO of Audemars Piguet. Golay offered him an apprenticeship with the brand in 1975, and Biver has dedicated his career to watches ever since.
Impacting Major Watch Brands
In 1980, he joined Omega. Two years later, he and his friend Jacques Piguet bought and revived the Blancpain name. The brand had been dormant for twenty years. Biver devoted the next decade of his career to growing Blancpain into one of the biggest names in watchmaking. In 1992, he sold the brand to the SMH Group, now known as the Swatch Group. Then, he joined their management team. Omega was under their umbrella, and he revisited his work with the brand.
In the new millennium, Biver made a move to Hublot, becoming the brand’s CEO in 2004. Within his first year, he spearheaded the development and launch of the now-iconic Big Bang. Four years later, in 2008, the LVMH Group purchased Hublot. With the backing of the large conglomerate, Biver was able to leverage key partnerships for Hublot. By 2010, the brand became the first “Official Watch” and “Official Timekeeper” for FIFA and the World Cup. In addition to this historic first, Hublot secured deals with names like Ferrari, Dwyane Wade, and Jay-Z among countless others.
Winding Down a Prestigious Career
In 2014, the LVMH Group appointed Biver as the President of the Watches Division. His new role included overseeing TAG Heuer and Zenith in addition to Hublot. For four years, he proudly served in this role, but at Baselworld in 2018, he began discussing his potential retirement. Last month, on his 69thbirthday, the news became official: Biver would be stepping down as the head of LVMH watches. The next day, the company announced Stephane Bianchi would be taking his place beginning November 1st.
Bianchi spent most of his career with the cosmetics firm, the Yves Rocher Group. He served as their CEO for an impressive seventeen years, from 1998 to 2015. For the past few years, he served on the board of the Maus Group, who owns luxury brands like Lacoste.
Biver’s Continuing Legacy
Though Biver is relinquishing his official title, his presence will certainly remain. He’ll continue to serve as an advisor and attend industry events. He’ll likely remain a key decision-maker, specifically in regards to the brand direction of TAG Heuer. It will take time to bring Bianchi up to speed. It took four decades for Biver to master the ins and outs. His role has been multifaceted. It’s required understanding of the market, products, customers, production process, branding, and marketing. There’s no program, school, or guidebook to impart this knowledge. Only first-hand experience can do so. This is precisely why Biver has been such a vital asset within the industry.