Red Dot Award: Product Design

Red Dot: Personality Prize 2020

With passion and a spirit of innovation: Jean-Claude Biver, winner of the Red Dot: Personality Prize 2020, created a unique legacy

Jean-Claude Biver is one of the most successful managers in the watchmaking industry. Blancpain, Omega, Hublot, Zenith and TAG Heuer – he breathed new life into these brands and helped numerous watches to victory in the Red Dot Award: Product Design. As a businessman, he has created a unique legacy over the past 45 years. Born in Luxembourg and raised in Switzerland, the manager received the Red Dot: Personality Prize for his visionary skills, his entrepreneurial courage and his spirit of innovation. Jean-Claude Biver was able to accept the award back in January, and now one whole day of the Red Dot Design Week will be dedicated to the creative leader. 

The right instinct for change and constancy

Jean-Claude Biver’s success is attributable to his unique ability to recognise the significance of design in the watchmaking industry and to give shape to the ensuing change in the form of first-class products. Speaking with Prof. Dr. Peter Zec, founder and CEO of Red Dot, and Michael Thomson from Design Connect London, this is what Biver has to say about this transformation: “For many years, watch brands were making the difference through technology or accuracy. These were very rational elements. In the 80s, when more or less every brand was at the same stage of development, people started to say that maybe we should make the difference between brand A and brand B through the shape. And the shape is a combination of design and technology.” Jean-Claude Biver highlights the change in the meaning attached to a wristwatch as the reason for this change. He explains that watches are no longer worn in order just to tell the time. Instead, he says, watches have become a fashion statement and thus a means of expressing our personality. “The watch has become an instrument to show who we are,” is how Jean-Claude Biver describes this development. This is reflected in the “Big Bang All Black” model developed by Hublot in 2006: All of the elements are in different shades of black. As a result, the watch can still be used to tell the time, but this is not its primary purpose.

Another pillar of his success is Biver’s faith in the mechanical wristwatch, which has a decisive advantage over electronic watches: “Every mechanical watch is doomed to be eternal. So eternity has no competition,” says the expert. Peter Zec also emphasises Biver’s instinctive talent: “After the quartz crisis, Jean-Claude Biver was one of the few to still believe in the mechanical wristwatch and thus provide the impetus for its comeback.”

Teamwork is top priority

A leader like Jean-Claude Biver is always only as good as his team. He draws attention to this fact in the interview with Red Dot: “It’s enormously important to understand that success is only possible in a team with good people. Think of it like this: managing a company is like leading an orchestra. The better the musicians play, the better it sounds and the better it makes the conductor look.” For him, it’s important that he and the team can enter fully into the DNA of the brands. Consequently, Biver also names Karl Lagerfeld as one of his role models. He considers the fashion designer, who died in 2019, to be a genius: “Although he developed the collections and sketched the models, he remained behind the scenes. This made him invisible while rendering the unique nature of the brand even more distinctive.”

Successful in the Red Dot Award

The success of the manager’s approach is reflected not least in the fact that he has steered a total of five watch brands onto a path of international success. Numerous models from the companies have received awards in the Red Dot Award: Product Design. For example, the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 Luxury Kit was awarded the Red Dot: Best of the Best in 2018. It links the analogue and digital worlds together in an ideal way with a large variety of combinations. 2018 also saw great enthusiasm around the “Defy Lab” watch from Zenith, which won a Red Dot and was based on a whole new way of measuring time. Instead of a spring and a lever, the watch has a kind of oscillator that swings back and forth at high frequency, thus ensuring precise time measurement. In addition, the Big Bang Meca-10 Magic Gold from Hublot won a Red Dot: Best of the Best in 2017. In the same year, the Monaco Calibre 11 and Autavia Calibre Heuer 02 from TAG Heuer also won Red Dots.

It is now time for Jean-Claude Biver’s outstanding entrepreneurial achievement to be recognised with the Red Dot: Personality Prize. He has compared the award with France’s highest order of merit for civil merits. He was named “Chevalier de l’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur” in January 2020: “I think those are the two most important awards I ever got. Those two awards; for me, they mean achievement.”