Pinnacle of luxury

Pinnacle of luxury

One is worn on the wrist to tell time, while the other is worn on other parts of the body as a decorative piece. But to Jean-Christophe Babin, there is little difference between a horological masterpiece and haute jewellery, save for the type of materials.

"Both are luxury goods," says Mr Babin, who was CEO at Tag Heuer for 12 years, before becoming CEO of Bulgari last year. The two brands are under luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. "Jewellery is made of natural gems and stones. Watches use gems and precious metals, but mostly crafted from metal components and alloys," says Mr Babin. "They cater to similar consumers."

He acknowledges that the expertise required to make a watch or a piece of jewellery is different but, "often you will see the same machines in the two factories".

While running the two brands is not very different, he made sure that when he became Bulgari's CEO, the first thing he did was to listen, understand, and learn about the company. "You need to do all that before you can change anything, because you cannot change something you don't understand." In fact, he put off giving media interviews in his first year as he was still learning about the company.

The French-born Mr Babin says: "I didn't think I would be CEO in another company, especially when you are happy, there is no reason to change company." So the invitation to be CEO came as a surprise. "But after 12 years at Tag Heuer, maybe it was good to have someone fresh to bring in new ideas to the company."

The father of five began his career in mass consumer goods with the French branch of Procter and Gamble, before joining the Boston Consulting Group. In 1994, he became the managing director of Henkel's Italian subsidiary, and became its senior vice-president four years later. In 2000, he became Tag Heuer's CEO.

For himself, he says "it is a good time for me to discover a new brand, a new business, because I didn't know anything about jewellery and fragrances". He adds that "staying on too long in a company will risk seeing things through one angle. With a new company, you have no option but to change yourself, to bring to the company a new view".

As head of the company, Mr Babin has his eyes set on "developing Bulgari into an even more compelling image, and making the name the most desired luxury brand in the world, driven by extraordinary jewellery and watches".

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