The New Luxury: Jean-Claude Biver, Head of LVMH
CEO, TAG Heuer, and President, LVMH Group’s Watches Division
To Jean-Claude Biver’s well-documented list of talents, which includes his deft skills as a marketer and evangelical front man, one must also add his keen sense of timing. He rebuilt the Blancpain brand at the dawn of the modern watchmaking era and revitalized Hublot, bringing that house to its commercial peak. Now, as a new generation begins to acquaint itself with smart-watch technology, Biver has positioned TAG Heuer and its new Connected line as the leading Swiss contender in this quickly emerging category. —JAMES D. MALCOLMSON
Globally I share the point of view that the luxury market is facing a crossroads, both generationally and politically. The concept of luxury has changed. Many of the people who buy our Connected watch, which retails in the low thousands (a much different price than you would pay for a Hublot), write to tell me, “Mr. Biver, ever since I bought a Connected watch, I no longer wear my tourbillons.” This development is something I never expected. We see people wearing a Connected watch because it is fun and has a lot of information. They might wear a tourbillon or an elegant watch at night, but during the day, we see so many people wearing a Connected watch. A split has emerged between technology, which will inevitably become obsolete, and tradition. A mechanical movement in a nice case is eternity: In a hundred years, it will work; in a thousand years, it will still be repairable. And then you have technology, which is obsolete every three, five, or 10 years. The two are not competing; the two are complementing each other. They have different uses, different prices, and different emotions. You wear one for work, when you need information such as stock prices, and another when you go out. You can have both.
Millennials are very keen and very interested in eternity. They have a very different perception than we do about the climate, about pollution, about the sea. They are very sensitive to sustainability—to things that aren’t going to be destroyed. So they feel a certain attraction to the eternity in a box. We have picked up many things from this young generation. They are sensitive to colors, to new materials. They like superlight timepieces. When they see a gold watch of 120 grams, for example, and an ultralight watch for the same price, they buy the light model, because it is cooler. Ten or 15 years ago, you could judge the quality of a watch—whether it was platinum or gold—by its weight. Today it’s reversed. Preferences have shifted from super heavy to super light—from gold to carbon!