I’ve known Mr. Jean-Christophe Babin since he was the iconic leader of TAG Heuer watches. What I recall most about his time during the dynamic days of TAG Heuer in the 2000s was how well he represented the brand by wearing the brand’s then-popular line of glasses with the red-colored arms splashing warm color across the side of his face. Mr. Babin was responsible for the most advanced and interesting high-end TAG Heuer watches of modern times.
Mr. Babin’s successful tenure at TAG Heuer was transformed into an opportunity to run Italian luxury house Bulgari when LVMH acquired the company around 2011. After this time, LVMH’s watch product division was split between “the two JCBs,” as Jean-Christophe Babin led Bulgari and Jean-Claude Biver headed TAG Heuer, while operationally overseeing Hublot and Zenith, as well. With Mr. Biver’s recent retirement, now Jean-Christophe Babin is the most experienced and successful watch product manager at the group, while the more junior but energetic Stephane Bianchi runs the LVMH watch division and sits as the CEO of TAG Heuer.
Bulgari’s reputation when it comes to high-end watchmaking has been transformed over the last few years due to a number of important developments and initiatives. First came the acquisition of brands Daniel Roth and Gerald Genta, which according to Mr. Babin really propelled Bulgari’s fine watch making department in a number of key ways, allowing the brand to supplement its more mainstream luxury timepiece offerings with more prestigious enthusiast-grade products, as well as extremely original exotic models with accordingly highly complex mechanisms. In 2016-2017, Bulgari called upon aBlogtoWatch to help tell the story of how it was making prestige mechanical timepieces, and I was personally very impressed to see the level of in-house capabilities at Bulgari when it comes to important tasks such as making movements, making cases, and making dials. I considered the campaign a success, given that a lot of people who considered Bulgari a “fashion brand” realized that it was also a very serious watchmaker.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I spoke to Mr. Babin, who was nice enough to come into the office for our interview. While spending time in social isolation, he has been able to think about the future of the brand, ways to improve the company, and the particular personality he wants Bulgari to have in the eyes of enthusiasts and luxury fans around the world. Bulgari is uncommonly dynamic in the watch space, as its personality as a company is very well split between the global headquarters of the brand in Rome, Italy and the watchmaking division which based in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
In August Mr. Babin will debut some important news in Geneva that will no doubt be interesting for watch collectors. The news was supposed to be released by now, but was necessarily delayed by the cancellation of Baselworld, as well as Geneva Watch Days. We will have to wait until August to hear the news, but until then I invite the aBlogtoWatch audience to enjoy this interesting and fun interview with one of the most important and interesting managers in the luxury watch industry. Thank you again to Jean-Christophe Babin for your time! I always find our conversations rewarding and your stories to be enlightening.