RICARDO GUADULUPE, CEO of Hublot, is credited with transforming the Swiss luxury watchmaker from a 90% quartz brand in 2004 to a 90% mechanical watch brand. He talks to Fortune India about the brand’s appeal.
Given the slowdown across the industry, how was last year for Hublot?
It was actually a good year for us. It’s been a record year in terms of value every year since 2004, and we did single-digit growth which is not bad given that the luxury watch segment shrank by at least 10%. Of course, we are still worried about the industry because there’s been 20 continuous months of negative growth but I think the bottom has been reached.
How have demonetisation and cash-related laws in India hit you?
It’s a disaster and is really impacting sales. Immediately, it’s been between 15% and 30% across the industry. But it’s important how India changes because remember that Indians reside on the top 10 list of nationalities that buy watches. We see this in London and other major cities across the world.
When do you plan an exclusive boutique in India?
We do realise the need for that. As I said, there’s been a disruption over the past year or so with the changes in cash laws but we will definitely launch a boutique, not sure where it will be but most likely New Delhi and then perhaps Mumbai.
Your big bang series, mostly gold-infused chronographs, embody the Hublot brand. Any plans to include a dress watch or more entry-level models?
In India, a lot of people may not be able to afford a Hublot but in time they will, then eventually get one. We are aspirational and make in small numbers, maybe 50,000 pieces a year worldwide, almost the same as what Patek Philippe makes.
Perhaps, but Rolex makes some 700,000 units a year and retains its luxury association. So why can’t Hublot?
I’d say that Rolex, apart from a few models, is a bridge to luxury. It’s the first watch someone buys when successful, with probably 80% or 90% first-time buys for them. Even I have a Rolex. But a Hublot is not the first watch that someone would buy, in fact never, so that’s the difference.
Are you happy with Hublot’s resale value?
Well, on basic ones it may not be great but on limited editions it’s higher than even new ones. As you know, the real value kicks in when a watch becomes vintage, more than 40 years old.