Sunday, September 22, 2013

Ghost in the Machine

I'd like to start out by saying that this is meant to be a positive post, offering praise to an industry veteran.  I am also aware that it might not be received that way, so there you go.

When we really talk about modern legends in the industry we speak of Mr. Hayek, Rolf Schneider, Luigi Maculoso and Jean-Claude Biver.  Of those four, Mr. Biver is the last remaining connection to the "other time".  Meaning that he was around for the quartz crisis and he was one of the few to take advantage of it, bet on traditional watch making values, and emerge on the other side not merely successful, but revered - and rightly so!

Blancpain, OMEGA and Hublot - he has done amazing things, and he has moved mountains.  And I will be very, very honest with you in saying that when he announced his retirement - I actually felt happy and relieved.  Of the four, he would hopefully not punch life's time card prematurely while in the office.  I realize that sounds a bit coarse and I do apologize.  Leading a company is hard enough.  Doing it at an extraordinary level - that is something else again.

But then we get down to the company itself, what makes it special?  And when do we see situations where a company, no matter how well run, becomes almost inextricably intertwined with it's leader?  Particularly when that leader had the charisma that drove the company...

I say this with respect - but Hublot, and to some extent UN are not the same brands that they were.  Obviously there are new leaders in place, and it is not entirely fair to rush to judgement.  But suffice it to say, Mr. Biver and Mr. Schneider were in many ways NOT unlike Steve Jobs of Apple.  When you thought of the brand, you thought of them.  It is probably not fair to expect the same sort of presence and impact from those who will succeed them, but I would be speaking falsely if I did not admit that I miss that sort of leadership.  That sort of vision and clarity.  

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