Interview: Jean-Claude Biver On The Past, Present, & Future Of The Swiss Watch Industry
Mr. Jean-Claude Biver recently invited aBlogtoWatch into his home for a candid interview about where the high-end Swiss watch industry is going, and where it has come from. Brimming with stories and explanations about the companies and people who make some of the world’s most iconic or interesting watches and leader of the LVMH Watch Division that puts TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith under his supervision, Jean-Claude Biver delights us with his personality, humor, wit, and rich collection of stories that make being a watch enthusiast all the more tangible for us.
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Jean-Claude’s opinions and insight are important because he is considered today’s most effective and talented watch brand manager when it comes to innovative marketing practices, synergistic “bridge-building” relationships, and helping to bring interesting products to market. A life-long veteran of the Swiss watch industry, Jean-Claude Biver is also a seasoned watch collector himself. Being personally interested in timepieces has arguably allowed this “product-focused” luxury watch brand executive to bring the most compelling products to market, while also satisfying his own expectations for product quality and design.
Jean-Claude Biver currently directly manages or oversees TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith, which are LVMH portfolio brands. He has a broad level of oversight and power to set actions in motion. Jean-Claude has earned a unique status in the watch industry because he is known for having an accelerated ability to “get stuff done,” which is usually a serious challenge as watchmakers are typically known for their conservative stance toward taking new actions and making “risky” decisions. One can easily attribute a lot of Jean-Claude Biver’s success to simply being able to get more things done than many of his colleagues.
In a nutshell, the pinion couples and decouples the chronograph, or stopwatch, mechanism along with the regular timekeeping gear train which forces it. The pinion substituted a more intricate system, simplifying fabricating, assembly, adjustment, and support, all while providing exceptional timekeeping and reliability. This development enabled more mechanical chronographs to be produced at a lower price, which sounds like a win all the way around.Another major technical achievement came in 1916, when Charles-Auguste Heuer launched the original Mikrograph. It was the very first mechanical stopwatch capable to measure 1/100th of a second. To achieve this, the movement’s speed was 360,000 vph — ten times quicker than the 36,000 vph chronographs we usually think of as “fast.” The first Mikrograph revolutionized sports timekeeping and functioned as the official stopwatch for the 1920 Olympics.When you believe of mechanical watches in distance, you think of, well, maybe not TAG Heuer. The first step toward this goal was to put a person into orbit. Glenn orbited the Earth three days sporting a Heuer 2915A stopwatch on his wrist, on top of his spacesuit, held in place by a custom-made elastic strap. The opinion served as the assignment back-up timer, and it was utilized in distance. Today, the watch is kept at the National Air & Space Museum at Washington, D.C.
At this point in his career, Jean-Claude Biver works out of choice much more so than out of necessity. To him, the ability to bring fun watches into existence seems to make it all worth it. Once keenly interested in all areas of the industry, more recently Jean-Claude Biver has had the fortune which allows him to narrow his focus on his brands and colleagues. With that said, we always relish in hearing stories about the people and occurrences that helped make the watch industry – both the beautiful and fractured parts – what it is today.