If you needed just one ally in the watch industry, one voice on matters, or one really good opinion from the inside... then Jean-Claude Biver would be an excellent choice. Current CEO of TAG Heuer, mastermind of Hublot, and champion of both Omega and Blancpain, as well as "head of watches" at LVMH, Jean-Claude Biver shares with aBlogtoWatch a few 2015 end-of-the-year thoughts and predictions for the year 2016.
aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): 2015 was mostly about re-positioning TAG Heuer in terms of the majority of your time and efforts. What are some of the things you did which you are particularly proud of or feel that yielded the most positive results?
Jean-Claude Biver: Re-positioning the TAG Heuer collection was just one aspect of our time and efforts. It was eventually the easiest to do. What has been done is a real cultural change of the brand. We have tried to re-connect the brand to the values Jack Heuer had developed. "Connect TAG Heuer to Heuer" was the name given to my program, and we have brought to the brand a new cultural behavior where the customer is the King and the product is the Queen.
We have restructured the integrated industry, dial factory, case factory, and the movement factory. We have restructured the product by trying to bring not only a better competitive price, but a much higher perceived value and much more innovation and technology. We have also completely re-organized the Quality Department as well as the After Sales Department. We have changed the Distribution Policy and have focused only on the primary channels as well as on the sell-out rather than on the sell-in.
We have restructured the entire communication strategy and took back the old slogan from the '90s, “Don’t crack under pressure.” We have developed the “event marketing” concept and have totally revised and changed our ambassador and sponsoring concept. As the claim that TAG Heuer is “Swiss Avant-Garde since 1860” we had to rejuvenate our customer base and focus more on the young generation in order to be “Avant-Garde in 2015," so we have changed nearly 30 top managers around the world and have replaced 28 of them with young managers that were already in our organization.
That’s what I am the most proud of! To see all these young managers reaching a new level of responsibility and being successful in their new mission and new challenge. The success of my people have made me particularly proud! And it's the people that have given TAG Heuer, in such a short period of time, so much success.
ABTW: Watch prices are on pretty much everyone's minds these days, which is interesting because one of the major efforts at TAG Heuer (explained here) has been the overall reduction in price points. What are some of the interesting side effects of reducing prices? Are some margins just too bloated, or are there distribution changes which help remove unwanted costs? Or, will consumers be asked to make various types of sacrifices in exchange for lower price points?
Jean-Claude Biver: The biggest side effect of “better” prices and higher perceived value is the increased traffic in the distribution channels and the increase of volume. That was the name of the game: increase perceived value, have more competitive prices, and create higher traffic and more volume. The King is our customer and we would always treat him as such. The Queen is our product, and here, again, all the efforts have to be made in order that she is the most beautiful and desirable. All efforts like design, quality, cost, and retail price have to be achieved by internal restructuring and have never been passed onto the customer or caused any sacrifices in exchange for lower price points.
ABTW: More than ever, consumers want "value" in exchange for the money they are being asked to spend on a particular product, and you have a great talent at giving people a reason to want a product. What is your tactic when it comes to conveying a sense of a value - especially across the broad spectrum of product price points that you are regularly involved with?
Jean-Claude Biver: TAG Heuer has built its success on quality and on the perceived value, the "best money can buy." We have given again to the brand its unique perceived value, and I can assure you from my 40 years of experience, that we have certainly now the best real value for price on the market.
The restructuring of our case maker, dial maker, and movement maker has enabled us to give substance and a real value to the product. For instance, I consider it impossible today in the market to find a better value for the price than the Heuer 01 (reviewed here) or Heuer 02 (debuted here).
ABTW: In my opinion, your efforts at Hublot have, to a large degree, been greatly misunderstood – especially by the watch community itself. From my perspective, your tactic there has been to make Hublot as culturally relevant as possible, while at the same time offering products that watch lovers themselves really like.
You seem to have approached product development from the perspective that not all watches you make need to appeal to all members of the brand's audience. So taking that tactic to TAG Heuer for a new audience, are there new things you've had to learn, or does this brilliant tactic that worked so well (and probably pleased you with occasional controversy) at Hublot apply to a different demographic at TAG Heuer?
Jean-Claude Biver: We have learned to listen to the new generation. To understand their culture, their fashion, their attitude, and their needs. Which is one of the reasons why we came out with the Carrera Connected (hands-on here) watch.
Never would I have imagined before that I would enter the connected watch market. But learning the behavior and the needs of the new generation has convinced us that the connected TAG Heuer watch was an absolute and urgent must!
ABTW: More generally, are watch tastes or buying habits changing in ways that you need to adapt to? How do you personally keep up with what consumers are doing?
Jean-Claude Biver: The consumer (or customer) is our King! Which means we have to know him, have to respect and serve him! Knowing the needs and habits of your customer is the first thing you have to do and to understand. Yes, customers are buying more and more on the Internet; yes, young customers are hardly wearing watches anymore, etc... All these elements had to be taken into consideration and have helped us to redesign our collection and come out with the Carrera Connected.