PARIS — Eager to burnish its technological credentials, Hublot has jumped onto the cryptocurrency bandwagon with plans to top off a year of double-digit sales growth by launching a watch that can only be purchased using bitcoin.
A nod to blockchain technology, the Big Bang watch model will be launched on Nov. 6 in Hong Kong and comes as the company, which belongs to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, touts sales growth in the double-digits, percentage-wise, according to chief executive officer Ricardo Guadalupe.
“The year 2018 — it’s not finished — will be an exceptional year because already as of September, the growth of our sales is exceptional, in the two-digit range,” Guadalupe told a group of journalists at a lunch gathering at the Pavillon Ledoyen, Yannick Alléno’s Michelin-starred restaurant.
The new watch, which can only purchased by bitcoin and serves as a reference to blockchain technology — a type of decentralized, digital registry — will feature a “bit of a geeky design, in digital blue,” according to Guadalupe. The watchmaker will make 210 editions of the watch — meant to evoke the 10th anniversary of bitcoin as well as the limit of the currency to 21 million bitcoins — and engraved with the identification number of the transaction.
Octagon Strategy Limited, a digital asset brokerage based in Hong Kong, will process transactions to purchase the watch, which will be delivered in the beginning of next year.
For 2019, the high-end watchmaker, known for using unusual materials including a bright-red ceramic, will focus on Ferrari as the carmaker celebrates its 90th anniversary, likely revealing a Ferrari model at Baselworld. It will be different from the label’s Big Bang and Classic Fusion models, Guadalupe explained.
“It will be completely different, I think, in a vein of design that is interesting for the future — completely new,” he said.
The company plans to focus on increasing business with women, who account for around 20 percent of sales — the aim is to increase the proportion to around 30 percent — with an emphasis on materials, rather than creating a women’s design for the watch models, he explained. The company is also seeking a new face for the brand, but not necessarily an actress or top model, Guadalupe added.
As with many luxury labels seeking to tap into a market with enormous growth potential, Hublot considers China an important source of future business.
“We are seeing a new generation of Chinese people starting to come to us,” he said, referring to a new surge in interest from wealthy Chinese men and women between 20 and 30 years old, and looking for something different than their parents who sought out more traditional products. This new generation is fueling growth for the label in Greater China at around 70 percent, he added.
China has accounted for around 11 percent of the company’s sales this year, which, compared to a 30 percent share of the market of Swiss watch exports overall, signals the potential doubling or even tripling of Hublot sales in China, Guadalupe estimated.
Meanwhile, this year, the high-end watchmaker got a big boost in visibility from the FIFA World Cup, in the form of referee panels during the soccer matches in addition to buzz generated by its first connected watch, a soccer-themed model called the Big Bang Referee 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
“We’re talking about billions of people who saw the Hublot brand with the [referee] board in the form of a watch, so they had to make the correlation between the brand and product — of course, not everyone can buy a Hublot watch but the recognition of the brand is quite incredible and you have to say that if someone already recognizes Hublot as a watch brand, it’s already not bad for the brand,” he said.
Nearly a dozen coaches wore Hublot watches during the event, including Didier Deschamps of the winning French team, “so that was pretty fantastic,” he added.