Depeche Mode and Hublot create a new timepiece collection 


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 2 2017)

A new tour, a new album: following the huge success of their Delta Machine Tour in 2013, Depeche Mode are back again – collaborating with Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot for the third time since 2010. The watchmaker and the post-punk pioneers have joined forces for a good cause. As in 2013, they are supporting the ‘charity: water’ organisation, which is committed to providing clean drinking water in developing countries. On this occasion, Hublot has launched a limited edition ‘Big Bang Unico Depeche Mode’ watch, the proceeds of which will partly go directly to the charity. The Depeche Mode Global Spirit Tour will take the band to 21 different countries, with 32 concerts planned for Europe alone. Further gigs in North America and South America will follow. 

When it comes to marketing, Hublot has long been about innovation and high-calibre partnerships. In addition to Depeche Mode, the luxury watchmaker is also working closely with brand ambassadors such as the Israeli top model Bar Refaeli, the Chinese star pianist Lang Lang, the fastest man on Earth Usain Bolt, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers players and many more, as well as working for the benefit of charitable organisations. “Our connections are all about sharing. Hublot is fortunate enough to pass on its success and has the duty to do so”, CEO Ricardo Guadalupe and Chairman of the Board Jean-Claude Biver commented. 

The ‘Big Bang’ – the totally innovative watchmaking design introduced by Jean-Claude Biver in 2004 – remains uniquely distinctive to this very day. The ‘Big Bang Unico Depeche Mode’ will be issued as a limited edition of just 250 pieces, each priced at 23,800 euros. The striking watch design comprises black ceramic and composite resin, with the skeleton dial displaying the chronograph’s movement. 

On the occasion of the kick-off of the Global Spirit Tour and the launch of the ‘Big Bang Unico Depeche Mode’, we speak to Ricardo Guadalupe about the collaboration, the marketing strategy and what is behind Hublot’s ‘The Art of Fusion’ brand message. 

Hublot has a whole range of collaborations with the most diverse sector leaders and personalities. What is your strategy?

We go wherever our customers are. We are constantly focusing on them. We choose our partnerships based on the interests of our customers – allowing us to better respond to their needs and expectations. Football, cars, art and music are all things they are interested in. We are a partner to FIFA and UEFA, for example, the two most important organisations within the world of football, and also Ferrari, without a doubt the world’s best known car maker. We do things differently to other traditional watchmakers, very much in line with our motto ‘First, Different and Unique’. Before entering into a new partnership, we always first research the venture thoroughly so as to subsequently fuse our world with that of the respective brand ambassador. ‘The Art of Fusion’!

You already worked with Depeche Mode back in 2010. Why have you reignited the partnership with this band again this year?

Music is a new communication platform and Depeche Mode are internationally acclaimed. Once again, we are using music to go where our customers are. Furthermore, being involved in charitable organisations is important to us. Our partnership with the band is also about supporting something good. The ‘charity: water’ organisation was an obvious choice – a clear starting point. Four years on, our commitment to this cause has produced visible, measurable and quantifiable results. The launch of this new watch in cooperation with Depeche Mode signals our continued, charitable commitment. The ‘charity: water’ mission is the gift of water and life for more people across the globe.

Your company is highly committed to charitable and humanitarian causes. Tell us about those projects that are particularly important to you.

We have supported ‘charity: water’ on three occasions since 2013. Everybody has the right to water; everybody has the right to live. The donations collected in cooperation with Depeche Mode went to 229 projects in Nepal and Ethiopia, with 220 stand pipes and 19 drilled or manually-dug wells now providing safe, clean water for more than 30,000 people. For the current campaign, we have – together with Depeche Mode – set ourselves the target of beating that achievement by now supplying 50,000 men, women and children throughout the world with clean water.

What does the ‘Big Bang Unico Depeche Mode’ look like and what special features does the watch have?

It comes in a 4-5 mm ceramic case, engraved with thousands of pyramids, stretching from the pushers to the crown and the hands. A fashionable feature is the fact that the watch comes with a smooth leather strap, to which a removable cuff with studs can be added – further amplifying the rock star look. The timepiece is limited to 250 and bears the name Depeche Mode Tour ‘Global Spirit’ and a water canister – the symbol of ‘charity: water’ – on the sapphire crystal. It’s totally Rock‘n’Roll!

How do you select your cooperation partners? What are the most important criteria?

Ambassadors are incredibly important, because they act as a kind of bridge between the product and the potential client by embodying the values of a company. They also make it easier for people to identify with a brand. It is good to be able to refer to a living person, as it is in the nature of people – particularly the young – to look up to their role models and to want to be like them.

The most important aspect of selecting an ambassador is to ensure that they are right for the brand. Our ambassadors are always people who have purchased and worn Hublot before we approach them. It is important that the company has already made an impact on them and that they understand the company. If somebody is not into the brand or watches, how are they supposed to represent us? How would they be able to communicate our values through their personality if they don’t understand them?

There simply has to be good chemistry – complementary values, a complementary spirit and they must truly love the product. Simply selecting a person and paying them to use their image does not work. Our ambassadors must firstly be hugely passionate about what they do in their own lives and secondly, they must be successful, as that enables us to believe in the person. They also require family spirit and must be hard-working. These are the values that our brand wishes to communicate. At Hublot, we get to know somebody, we talk, interact and experience things together. Only at this point do we start to believe that this person might be a good ambassador.

Some companies shy away from collaborating with ambassadors out of fear that they could become involved in issues or negative developments that might have an impact on the reputation of the company. What are your thoughts here?

I don’t believe that. Everybody experiences highs and lows in their life. It is for this reason that we stand behind our ambassadors both in good and not so good times.

Please tell us more about the idea behind the ‘Art of Fusion’?

Jean-Claude Biver and I wanted to find a way of uniting the past and the future in a timepiece. But the question was how? We then decided to look into the materials. Materials that cannot be found in nature. By combining prehistoric materials such as gold with modern substances such as rubber, carbon, denim and even linen. We can always combine the past and the future.

Your company is a place where tradition and innovation coexist in harmony. However, that is something many other watchmakers also claim. What makes you stand out?

For us, creativity and innovation are the decisive factors at every level. But the most important thing is that we are very close to our clientele. Thanks to our Hublotista platform, we offer customers the possibility to interact directly with us here in Nyon, Switzerland. You have access to dedicated events hosted by us – be it a Champions League match, a New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys game, or a polo match in beautiful Gstaad in the Swiss Alps, etc. Furthermore, we create bespoke watches, a service available at all Hublot boutiques across the globe.

You are very committed to technologically innovative manufacturing. What is your take on digitalisation? How does your brand reflect the digital age?

I think there will always be a place for watches such as ours, because we create our timepieces for all eternity. The Apple watch, it’s more an electronic device that you wear on your wrist. It’s not a watch. A watch is something different. We occupy a different world: the world of emotion – one in which we make watches that are forever. It is eternity in a case, one that will last for the next 50, 100, 200 years. Smart watches, especially the very first ones to be launched, are already obsolete. You have to buy the new ones. Our philosophy is different – although I do believe there is space for both.

What is the future of watchmaking in your opinion?

We continue to be leaders in the new way of creating watches and our dynamic lies in marketing and events, allowing the brand to grow within this difficult environment and enabling us to acquire market shares. The challenge for the overall market is that the watch industry must continue to expand its boundaries and remain innovative.

What is your vision for the company and the brand moving forward?

The challenges this year will be very similar to those in the past. Of course we are always trying to be better than our competitors in the global, geopolitical and economic situation that the world is in. We will continue to try to acquire more market shares and will achieve this thanks to the innovative, dynamic and creative character of our products, but also through our marketing. This of course includes activities focusing on celebrating the 70th anniversary of Ferrari and on Hublot’s ‘Art of Fusion’.

In 2017, we will continue to invest in our manufacturing facilities, with the aim of consolidating our watchmaking competence – as the substance of our watches is the very core of what we do. Naturally, this year will be the year of Ferrari, and we will also be once again investing in the world of music thanks to our partnership with Depeche Mode and ‘charity: water’.

What is the key to your success?

Our secret? The key is a strong product – because you need one such as the ‘Big Bang’ to gain recognition and be successful. A powerful message: the ‘Art of Fusion’ in watchmaking, a truly incredible message that did not previously exist within the watch industry and that was the vision of Jean-Claude Biver. Blending tradition and innovation and creating watches that you associate with the future. Powerful marketing that accompanies the first two points. Being the first luxury brand to be involved in football, being a partner to Ferrari and in everything we do in terms of music, art and lifestyle.

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Ricardo Guadalupe is a native of Switzerland with Spanish heritage. He has been the CEO of Hublot since 2012, following in the footsteps of Jean-Claude Biver, who is still actively involved as the Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors. Guadalupe and Biver have been working together for over 20 years now and look back on some remarkable successes, including the renaissance of the Blancpain marque and the breathtaking development of Hublot – two of the greatest brands within the watch industry.

Picture credits © Anton Corbijn

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