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Blancpain and Omega, and now CEO of Hublot and TAG Heuer.
Encounter with the Haute Horlogerie
Jean-Claude Biver was born on 20 September 1949 in Luxembourg. “By jogging” he came to mechanical watches, he tells in an interview. He has run much marathon in the Vallée de Joux. His running partner and friend was Jacques Piguet, a manufacturer of high quality mechanical movements. On his wrist Biver discovered a skeletonized watch, which greatly impressed him. At the 60th birthday of Piquet's father, he met the CEO of Audemars Piguet. In the short term he was given a workplace. After he had been at Audemars Piguet from 1975 to 1979 and had been studying the methods of the Haute Horlogerie, he spent two years as a manager at Omega.
Swatch Group: Revitalization of Blancpain and Omega
In 1981 Biver together with Jacques Piguet bought the rights to the brand, Blancpain from the SSIH. This brand had fallen out of use in the 1970s, though it had a long history. Under Biver and Piguet, Blancpain re-launched in 1983 and presented an entirely new model range of luxury watches with mechanical movements. The bold motto read “Since 1735 there has never been a Blancpain quartz watch. And there never will.” With the success of this venture - then held to be futile by many - Biver contributed significantly to the renaissance of the mechanical wristwatch, presumed dead by nearly everyone at this time.
Blancpain was sold back to the successor of SSIH, SMH Group, in 1992. This brought substantial profit to Biver and Piguet, but he remained CEO of Blancpain until 2003 and joined the Board of Directors for the group, now renamed Swatch Group, as well. While at Swatch Group, Biver was given the task of revitalizing Omega as well. He focused on product placement (replacing Rolex and Seiko in the James Bond films) and celebrity endorsements. Biver left Swatch Group, including Blancpain and Omega, in 2003.
LVMH: Hublot and TAG Heuer
Biver briefly retired from watchmaking but returned in 2004 as CEO of Hublot. Under Biver, Hublot expanded dramatically, notably launching the Big Bang, which represents the concept of “fusion” between old and new in the industry. The company grew to fivefold increase in sales and was purchased by LVMH in 2008. In 2010, Jean-Claude Biver received the prestigious Prix Gaïa Esprit d'Entreprise award.
Biver took over fellow LVMH brand, TAG Heuer, in 2014. He quickly tackled the company's marketing and sponsorships, ending an association with the McLaren motorsport team in 2015 in favor of Red Bull Racing. Biver also rationalized TAG Heuer's manufacture movement development, putting the CH80 (now Heuer 02) on hold and slowing production of other pricey in-house chronograph movements like the Cal. 1887 (now Heuer 01). Biver also reduced TAG Heuer's high-end luxury watch aspirations to focus on less-expensive volume models.
In November, 2018, Biver was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève for a lifetime of achievement.
- Das ZEITGEFÜHL-Uhrenbuch; Author Gerd-Lothar Reschke; ISBN 3-938607-61-0