Hublot's bold plans for the Middle East
Hublot has transformed into a big player in the Middle East over the past few years. A lot of the credit for this has to fall at the feet of Regional Director Marco Tedeschi, who has managed to connect with a young, hungry, local market to grow the brand's reputation. Esquire Middle East sat down with the young Swiss executive to learn more.
The brand has seen tremendous growth in the region. What are Hublot's grand plans for the Middle East?
It’s a very important market. It was one of the most successful markets in 2015 with double digit growth. The goals is to maintain our strength in the market and to do that tapping into Saudi Arabia, which is rather untapped. We have plans to open three boutiques in KSA, in Al-Khobar, and then Jeddah and Riyadh for the end of the year. Until now, we haven’t worked with them, so there is huge potential to expand.
We will also be looking at launching a dedicated edition for the Middle East - the first one will be dedicated to ladies, which we will release on March 8 - International Women’s Day.
You say double digit growth, where was that seen most? Was it a direct response to the opening of the boutique in Dubai Mall?
Yes, this is one of the reasons, but also because our marketing strategies based on the local clientele. That means we are not really affected if there's a drop in tourists to the UAE. We sell 80% of our watches to local customers and that is really a big strength when there is problem in the world with Russia, with Chinese, so we are less affected by the problems they are facing in their countries.
Are you worried about the effects of the slowdown of the Chinese economy?
Not at all. Chinese sales in the Middle East represent only one percent of the business.
But don’t you think that will change now just by having the boutique in Dubai Mall where large numbers of Chinese tourists do go to buy watches?
We have Chinese customers and have Chinese staff to serve them best, but they are not interested in buying our watches in Dubai. We have a huge sale for Chinese in Switzerland or Paris for instance.
How different is the Middle East operations to the other areas in the world?
What we are doing in the Middle East is taking the global strategy and applying it to the region. You have to do certain adjustments to sit in the local culture - adapting it to the market. I believe we need to be close to the people. We need to go and meet them, and we do that via the events and special editions we do.
In your experience, how much of local the business culture relies on strong personal relationships.
Business in the Middle East is mainly based on relationships. I am lucky because when I took over my father’s position a few years back, I received a 30-year relationship with our partners, all my retailers and partners are friends and they are all family business.
It’s like going into a meeting and everyone is your uncle.
Exactly. And you know, we don’t talk business. We talk about our personal lives, and then the business takes care of itself.
Looks like life has been set up ahead for you already! Why does Hublot put so much emphasis on partnerships and sporting teams. You seem to concentrate more on the teams.
We believe more in teams, than individuals. If you take football for instance, we don’t want to have active players as ambassadors, but you'll find that many of them are our clients anyway. We don't to attach ourselves to one player and risk alienating the others who buy Hublot.
How much of the PSG team own Hublot?
All of them. It’s part of the standard equipment.
Does it come with their boots?
Well, the Nike PSG trainers, not the boots - because the players have their own perferences for them.
You have sponsored the FIFA World Cup, the Champions League and you're doing the Euros. You have nailed football, but what other sports are you aiming at?
In the USA we are involved in basketball with our association with the Miami Heat and the L.A. Lakers. We also have a partnership with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. With regards to the NBA and NFL, the commerical rights for the team are actually owned by the league. So we created a watch for Lakers, the Heat, and the Cowboys, but we can only sell it watch in their own city. We are actually not allowed to sell those watches in Japan or Middle East or even other parts of the USA. The dedicated watch made for the teams has to be sold in the main city.
What is your favourite story that you have heard from the brand? That you are allowed to say. I am sure there are loads.
At Hublot, I've been able to do crazy things. The partnership with Ferrari was something that I loved because I've always loved cars. So when I had the opportunity to go to my first Grand Prix, it was an amazing moment. When I went to Maranello, I went to the design office and I was seeing the project. Especially when we worked on the Ferrari watch the car wasn’t released yet, so we saw the sketches of the car before everyone. That was something that was really amazing for me. I was even able to drive through the track in Maranello! Hublot allowed me to have such experiences, and it's really the kind of experience that I want to share with our customers, so we organise money-can’t-buy experiences. A couple of years ago at the World Cup in Brazil we were in Copacabana with our own hotel...
...hanging out with Pele?
Haha! Yes! Well, him and Rihanna both came for a drink. It was something out of this world. You cannot even imagine.
Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes?
What timepiece are you wearing now?
The new boutique edition of the Classic Fusion Chronograph King Gold with a brown strap. I love this piece because it goes with any outfit, and because it shows what the brand is doing. It is a 100 percent manufacture watch with a unique movement. We produce everything except for the strap, the sapphire glass, and the stone inside the movement. I actually worked in developing this movement, while I was in the product department.
You recently produced a bespoke piece for Sheikh Hamdan?
You are talking about the clock
Yeah, we saw one yesterday. Was this a positioning strategy or did they approach you? Or is another example of your growing local relationship?
Actually our retailer Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons are very close to the royal family. And this is a request we received from the royal family because most of them - especially Sheikh Hamdan - loves Hublot. It's one of his favourite brands. That’s how we had the chance to make the special edition. The three-part relationship between Hublot, Ahmed Seddiqi and royal family is pretty strong.
How big is the clock?
We have a two-metre clock and a ten-metre clock, which is the first in the world. That was a big challenge for us because we don’t manufacture the clock itself, this is another job. And it was big challenge, and we also added some information like temperature, it was a complete development that we made for them.