This article is the part (3) of our series “Know your watch conglomerates” :
Conglomerate no. 3: LVMH Group
Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, to give the conglomerate its full name, is a French owned luxury goods conglomerate which spans the full gamut of what can be considered luxury products, with one of the world’s most desired luxury brands, French luggage and accessories specialists Louis Vuitton, forming part of the name.
At the moment, LVMH’s watch portfolio is comparatively small compared to the collections amassed by the mighty House of Swatch and Richemont, but nonetheless the brands they do hold are heavy hitters in the Swiss watch world including TAG Heuer, Zenith, Hublot and Bulgari.
The other important point to note is that LVMH has recently installed a secret weapon in the irrepressible shape of Jean-Claude Biver. Within the past year Biver has been appointed Head of the Watches and Jewellery division. Now in his early 60s, Biver has said he wants to focus purely on Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith, but who knows what other brands may wish to become a part of the group, now that the most seasoned Swiss watch marketing maverick has jumped on board.
The brands under his care may well undergo the same transformation that took Hublot from a bit player selling 9000 watches a year for an average price of $2000, to a powerful and often controversial world presence in the Swiss watch market for which LVMH paid half a billion Swiss francs. You only have to tune in to the World Cup to see that Hublot is the official timekeeper of the tournament, and their brand name is to be seen every time a player is substituted. These days 40,000 Hublot watches are sold each year at an average cost of around $12,000 per watch.
Also, other major initiatives are starting to happen for other brands under his ultimate control. The new Zenith El Primero 1969 Rolling Stones Limited Edition for example, has received generally high praise and is certain to sell out fast. It’s a collaboration that would have been hard to pull off without Biver’s charismatic presence. Biver also installed former Breitling International Sales Director Aldo Magada as Zeniith CEO following the departure of Jean-Frederic Dufour to Rolex.
Meanwhile, not to be left merely warming up on on the sidelines, TAG Heuer has signed up what will likely be one of the stars of the World Cup 2014 tournament, Real Madrid midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s TAG Heuer’s first foray into the world of football, and it’s hard to imagine a more prestigious one.
CEO of LVMH, Bernard Arnault, had been trying to tempt Biver to take up the reins of the Watch and Jewellery division for over a year, first mooting the idea in the summer of 2013, but at the time, Biver was not sure. He was scaling back his involvement in Hublot and Ricardo Gauadeloupe was appointed CEO and taking on more of the front line public relations work.
It looked very much as if Biver was going to retire but in the hot seat at LVMH and under his own terms, literally anything can happen, and probably will. (lvmh.com)
Next week: Conglomerate no 4: Kering