What happens in Vegas will hopefully transcend Vegas, at least for Jean-Claude Biver, who brought Swiss optimism to the desert to keynote the opening night of the Couture jewelry and watch show at the Wynn Resort here on Thursday night. The president of LVMH’s Watch Division and chief executive officer of Tag Heuer and Hublot, arrived just hours before the poolside party wearing his signature navy cotton jacket. After quoting The Beatles line, “There is nothing you can do that cannot be done,” as “the most optimistic words that influenced all of my life,” he told the crowd, “When the Swiss Watch industry is facing some headwinds, we must all remember that anything we can do can be done. We must turn so that the wind is pushing us.”
After entreating the retailers and vendors to “celebrate, eat, drink and love,” he chatted with WWD about seizing opportunity in tough economic times. “When the market is difficult, weak people, weak management, weaker brands have a harder time than when the market is friendly,” he said, ostensibly referring this his competitors. “For strong people, a weak market is always better than a strong market because when everybody buys, anybody can sell. When less people are around, the few who are there have more room, so you can take market share.”
Biver also noted that when businesses become cautious with spending in uncertain times, they will reduce investment in distribution, new product development, communications and marketing.
“Which means when you are not afraid, when you have your own visions, then you can invest more. And more will give you double because when everybody reduces by one and you put in plus one, the difference between plus one and minus one is two.” His comparison was more philosophical than literal, as even fashion types can calculate that plus one and minus one equals zero. He elaborated, “It’s the only moment in the life of a businessman where one can make two. Make the crisis your friend, don’t make it your enemy. If it’s your enemy it will beat you, if it’s your friend, it will help you.”
He also took an opportunity to plug one of his own brands, which was also the cosponsor of the event. “The brand that is in the best position is Tag Heuer. It’s today one of the most dynamic brands in the market, with a lot of creativity. It’s positioned in the affordable luxury, which today is a marketplace that is very strong. The upper-end like Hublot is still strong but not developing at the same speed as the accessible luxury.”
He assured that the higher-end watch market has always been safe. “I have been in the watch business since 1974 I have never seen the higher end suffering. It can slow down for two years, then grow, but going down sharply? Never. High-end art, classic cars, classic watches, real estate is protected. Because there are very few people there, there is very little on offer. Somehow there is always somebody who needs it.”
Biver will return to the West Coast in October, for an event in California about which he remained mum on details.