It is true that Zenith’s new Defy case feels a bit like that of the Hublot Big Bang. It isn’t a bad thing or an accident. Biver has long since found out that most new or younger watch lovers prefer something more bold, more edgy, more masculine, and certainly more visible than most vintage timepieces. For that reason, Zenith is smart to combine exciting technology with a spirited design. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a watch brand debut a new movement or technical concept into a timepiece that looks like a boring dress watch. Are those conservative watch buyers the first ones to jump on something new? Heavens no. Another interesting conversation piece about the Defy Lab is how much of a showcase it is of Biver’s policy of “sharing” among the brands. The Zenith Defy Lab might be assembled at Zenith, but the case is made at (and developed by) Hublot, and the movement is produced (and developed) at TAG Heuer.The first 10 pieces of the Zenith Defy Lab watch will come in a 44mm wide case produced from something else which is exotic known as “Aeronith.” Hublot invented it at part of their materials science division that came up with things such as red ceramic and magic gold. Aeronith (or “the Swiss cheese of aluminum” as you might call it) is actually produced at Hublot’s facility in Nyon. Aeronith is apparently similar to aluminum alloys used in the naval world because it is both strong and corrosion-resistant. Aluminum is rarely used in watches because it is relatively fragile – but in special forms can prove to be a useful material. In person, Aeronith certainly feels impressively light, and in a lot of ways has the visual appearance of concrete (in a cool way).
Mr. Jean-Claude Biver recently invited aBlogtoWatch into his home for a candid interview about where the high-end Swiss watch industry is going, and where it has come from. Brimming with stories and explanations about the companies and people who make some of the world’s most iconic or interesting watches and leader of the LVMH Watch Division that puts TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith under his supervision, Jean-Claude Biver delights us with his personality, humor, wit, and rich collection of stories that make being a watch enthusiast all the more tangible for us.
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Jean-Claude’s opinions and insight are important because he is considered today’s most effective and talented watch brand manager when it comes to innovative marketing practices, synergistic “bridge-building” relationships, and helping to bring interesting products to market. A life-long veteran of the Swiss watch industry, Jean-Claude Biver is also a seasoned watch collector himself. Being personally interested in timepieces has arguably allowed this “product-focused” luxury watch brand executive to bring the most compelling products to market, while also satisfying his own expectations for product quality and design.
Jean-Claude Biver currently directly manages or oversees TAG Heuer, Hublot, and Zenith, which are LVMH portfolio brands. He has a broad level of oversight and power to set actions in motion. Jean-Claude has earned a unique status in the watch industry because he is known for having an accelerated ability to “get stuff done,” which is usually a serious challenge as watchmakers are typically known for their conservative stance toward taking new actions and making “risky” decisions. One can easily attribute a lot of Jean-Claude Biver’s success to simply being able to get more things done than many of his colleagues.
Jean-Claude Biver, President du Conseil d’administration de Hublot, CEO de Tag Heuer et Directeur du pole horloger LVMH. Nyon, Novembre 2015 © Fred Merz | lundi13
At this point in his career, Jean-Claude Biver works out of choice much more so than out of necessity. To him, the ability to bring fun watches into existence seems to make it all worth it. Once keenly interested in all areas of the industry, more recently Jean-Claude Biver has had the fortune which allows him to narrow his focus on his brands and colleagues. With that said, we always relish in hearing stories about the people and occurrences that helped make the watch industry – both the beautiful and fractured parts – what it is today.