Sunday, September 18, 2016

Revisiting an Earlier Post - Jean-Claude Biver, The Last Emperor

Any good blogger/writer needs a steady topic, or for lack of a better way to put it, a sparring partner.  Jean-Claude Biver had been, for the most part, a steady topic provider and a willing partner in that enterprise, at least insofar as Tempus Fugit went.  Generally good for a quote, an interview or an insight.  And while in the ensuing year plus of silence on his end, and the avoidance of his handlers and those in the inner-circle, I do think he still stands as the last link to the rebirth of the Swiss watch industry.  He was a guy who grabbed onto the challenge of birthing Blancpain, reinvigorating Omega, and completely revamping Hublot with both hands.  And now fully entrenched at Tag Heuer, he is creating a stir and buzz that the previous incumbents weren't able to.  So credit where it is due.

This was originally put out there in 2011, but I think a lot of it still holds true, even now.

The Last Emperor

With a mother who was a fashion designer, I think that I can be forgiven for being more than a little interested in fashion.  I just finished watching "Valentino, the Last Emperor" and I was struck by some of the parallel lines that can be drawn between the worlds of watch making - as it is today - and fashion.

I think it is safe to say that up until the 80s or 90s was really the "before time".  Many people make (in my opinion anyway) the mistake of thinking that it was the quartz crisis/revolution which stood as the mark in time.  But it wasn't.  For years and years there were watch companies.  Omega, Rolex, Patek - and not just the mighty - there were many of them out there.  And they were all fairly similar.  They all ran by the old rules.  They advertised the same, they marketed the same. 

If we are honest with ourselves - there wasn't any real innovation - at least not at the same level that we see now.  But something happened in the 80s/90s that transcended this reality.  It is easy to say that it was a response to quartz watches.  But I think that there is more to this than quartz.  I think that the people who really helped make this happen were not really revolutionaries - rather evolutionaries. 

It has been a memorable few years.  The heads of Movado, Corum, Swatch Group, Girard Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin have left the party, in many ways they left it too soon.  And as it has been said, if you weren't in the industry back in the 70s/80s, you do not have the connection to that time, you might not have the same hunger, the same need - and in many ways I think that the hunger and need is what fueled the vision.

So now, if anyone is "keeping score", it would seem that Jean Claude Biver is really the last of the "evolutionaries" still there - there are younger newcomers, but in many ways he is the last connection to that time.  I say this in no way to disrespect some of the current personnel - the head of Zenith is someone who I think is cut from the same cloth.  But in many ways, Mr. Biver is the last string connected to that time.  And in many ways he is, like Valentino, the "last emperor". 

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