By  on December 6, 2010

PARIS — Hublot is lighting up Place Vendôme — literally.

To mark the opening of its store at 10 Place Vendôme — Hublot’s second in Paris — the Swiss watch brand on Friday gave something back to the City of Light, financing a new installation to illuminate the 200-year-old column erected by Napoléon Bonaparte in the center of the square.

Hublot chief executive officer Jean-Claude Biver threw the switch. “It is a crowning glory for a luxury brand to be admitted to the select club on this square,” he told WWD.

The 1,700-square-foot unit was designed by Peter Marino and sits alongside rival watchmakers Piaget, Patek Philippe, Rolex and Breguet, as well as jewelers such as Christian Dior, Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron.

Trying to soften the image of the brand, known for its Big Bang and King Power watches, Marino worked a warm palette with caramel suede on the walls and bronze accents. The back wall features an abstract mural panel by Swiss artist John Armleder.

Hublot called on metalworker Xavier Dietlin to design innovative features, including a central merchandising unit with metallic panels that slide up and down behind the timepieces on display.

The store will set the tone for upcoming flagship units on Madison Avenue in New York and in Tokyo’s Ginza district, among others, Biver said.

“We tried to feminize the space and to make everything a little softer,” he said, noting that women account for 40 percent of sales. “All the stores — which are already open and which have a very technical feel, with lots of black — will gradually be brought into line.”

Hublot recently opened its first stores on the mainland U.S. in Boca Raton and Bal Harbour in Florida, and plans units in Las Vegas and Beverly Hills.

“We want to be present in the 50 or 80 key places to be on the planet,” Biver said. “We had zero stores two years ago. Now we have 30.”

The brand — part of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — expects record sales in 2010.

“We are going to beat our historic record of 2008 by around 15 percent,” Biver said. He has previously stated that 2008 sales totaled roughly 250 million Swiss francs, or $231.6 million at the average exchange rate.

“The recovery in 2010 has been so strong that we have been forced to slightly increase production,” Biver said. “We have raised output by around 2,000 watches, so we will be between 22,000 and 23,000 units.”

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