AND JUST LIKE THAT, the FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) is over, with Spain emerging as victors, triumphantly defeating England’s Lionesses 1-0 in what has been a historic moment for women’s football globally.
While all eyes have been on the 32 nations competing for football’s most coveted silverware, there’s one name you would have observed tenfold over the last month, Hublot. As the Official Timekeeper of the WWC, the luxury Swiss watchmaker has been keeping Hublot time at every one of the tournament’s 64 international fixtures; subconsciously incentivising us to purchase a swish and innovative new timepiece.
From match officials to official scoreboards to star players in Alexia Putellas, Alex Morgan and Ada Hegerberg, the name “Hublot” is synonymous with football around the world… and that’s exactly the intention of the brand’s CEO and mastermind, Ricardo Guadalupe. Its time Down Under (no pun intended) is the third time the Swiss fine watchmaker has timed the WWC, having carried out such duties during the 2015 and 2019 tournaments in Canada and France, respectively.
Here in Australia to celebrate all things football and Hublot—and to cheer on Spain, as he is of Spanish origin—Guadalupe sat down with Esquire amid all the mayhem of the 2023 Women’s World Cup to discuss all things Hublot.
Esquire Australia: Welcome back to Australia, Ricardo! So, the reason that we’re all here is for the Women’s World Cup. You once said that ‘soccer conceals a perfect technical mastery, a constant desire to push your limits and possess tenacity’. I’d love to know what makes Hublot and football so intrinsically connected?
Ricardo Guadalupe: Football has been a sport that has brought a lot to Hublot, because I would say we were the first luxury watch brand to enter the footballing world, 15 years ago during the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship in Switzerland. Since then, football has brought the brand awareness that we know today thanks to things like the fourth referee board that is designed in the shape of a watch.
Brand awareness has been the biggest thing, and now, people know that Hublot is a watch brand thanks to football. I also think the values that this sport carries, and the emotion and the passion that it has, is something that we also want to transmit through our work.
Esq: Were you involved in the initial conversations to become the official timekeeper of FIFA tournaments? How did it all come together?
RG: It was gradual, step by step. First, we partnered with the Swiss national team for the World Cup in Germany in 2006. From there, we saw there was no other brand interested in partnering with football; there were big brands partnered with sports like tennis and golf, but with football, it was virgin territory. And then, after the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship in Switzerland where we were the official timekeeper, we decided to contact FIFA to become its official timekeeper, and the rest is history.
Esq: Hublot has partnered with some pretty impressive “friends of the brand” in the football world, like Ada Hegerberg, Alex Morgan and Alexia Putellas. I’d like to know how Hublot goes about choosing their footballing ambassadors – what are some of the factors that shaped your decision in partnering with them?
RG: We want to be represented by the best ambassadors that we can have in that particular sport. So in football, during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we thought of Pelé immediately and we signed a lifetime partnership with him, the same even with Diego Maradona—unfortunately, they are both no longer with us.
Today, we have partnered with the best players, such as Kylian Mbappé, Alex Morgan, Ada Hegerberg, and Alexia Putellas, because we needed somebody from Spain, of course. (laughs).
Esq: The Women’s World Cup received some of the best viewerships in sporting history for this country – what does being the timekeeper for the World Cup do for brand awareness and can you measure its success?
RG: If we’re being technical, we can calculate how many times we can see the Hublot board throughout the tournament. In general, it’s between 15 to 20 seconds per game. Substitutions is an important moment for Hublot too, where we see the board held up by the match officials. But from a traditional media investment, it’s impossible to calculate the data around how many times Hublot is seen throughout the tournament—we are talking about tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of times globally.
Esq: And when you see such historic moments unfold, like what is happening with women’s football here in Australia and around the world, what do you think is the next evolution of marketing for a brand like Hublot?
RG: While football attracts many different types of people all over the world, our partnerships in other areas are incredibly important. With art, for instance, we have partnered with Takashi Murakami and Richard Orlinski. In the culinary world, we have a partnership three Michelin star chef Clare Smith, so it has to be a balance and it’s about focusing on dedicated experiences that really talk to our consumer.
Esq: Notably, all the match officials throughout the World Cup were wearing the Hublot Big Bang E Connected watch, but it is also the watch that Gal Gadot wears in her upcoming film, Heart of Stone. Is the smartwatch category a big area of focus for the brand, especially in targeting a specific demographic?
RG: We’re specialists in mechanical watches, not in connected watches. But being very open, being a leader in innovation, I believe that having experience in the connected world is something interesting for us because it brings new ideas; it brings a new ways of thinking. When we work on a connected timepiece, we work with Google who are designing the chips, the electronics—we focus predominantly on the design of the watch. But yes, it’s more about using the connected watch to attract a consumer that doesn’t know about mechanical watches.
Esq: The Classic Fusion Titanium Limited Edition for Hodinkee – can you talk to us about the idea, the theme around this limited edition watch and we’re curious if a plastic quartz watch would ever be on the cards for Hublot, much in the same vein as the Omega x Swatch MoonSwatch?
RG: The Hodinkee watch is, of course, inspired by the Hublot Atelier Watch, but it’s made of titanium, not plastic. I was surprised in a way because I know that the Hodinkee network or fan base is more consumers than they are collectors that are looking more for traditional brands than Hublot, as we are quite disruptive and polarising. But I was happy that they wanted to do something with us and the watch sold out in a few hours.
You know, I did an edition in plastic for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil because I wanted people to wear a watch (because in Brazil, it can be dangerous to wear expensive timepieces). So I did 1000 pieces that were given out and today, the resell value of this particular watch is incredible. So we will see, but we must find a good way to do it, with maybe a partnership for instance, where we could do a more accessible watch, limited production, just as a talking piece.
Esq: There’s no doubt that Hublot are seen as the “risk takers” in the luxury watch industry. Can you talk about one risk that paid off for the brand and perhaps one that didn’t work as well?
RG: To use Sapphire has been a huge risk, because as you know, Sapphire is a very hard material and it’s expensive but at the same time, it’s fragile. So we took the risk but it has definitely paid off. One risk that didn’t really work was the use of brown ceramic. We did a brown ceramic watch but the brown colour was so awful that inevitably, the watch didn’t see much success. It was also not the right timing for a watch like that, so I can say that this was a mistake.
Esq: Hublot continues to push the boundaries in all facets of watchmaking savoir-faire, but as we near the end of 2023, but what can we expect to see from Hublot, and in particular, in the lead up to LVMH Watch Week in January, 2024?
RG: We have a quite a big partnership coming up for the second part of the year. We have a concept that centres around the sea, the earth and the air. That is all that I can reveal for now…