Quentin Hébert, Piaget’s Head of Watch Marketing, may be credited with helping the Geneva-based watchmaker-jeweller – known as the king of ultra-thin timepieces – step into the light. Last January, at the Salon de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, one of the world’s leading watch fairs, the Piaget booth was transformed into an elegant beach club. Filled with light, water, sand, lounge chairs and bartenders serving up fruit nectars, it lived up to the brand’s “Sunny Side of Life” campaign. Globally launched a year ago, the vision is in line with the Piaget aesthetic which combines gold, vibrant colours, new shapes, precious gems and hard stone dials, a look that it introduced in the 1960s.
This booth’s transformative, tropical sun-filled paradise was a far cry from Piaget’s dark and shadowy showings of old, says Hébert.
“Four years ago, everything was in black and blue, then we moved to something very sunny. In 2019, to express the sun, we took advantage of meteorites, in which you can see the creation of the galaxies, the universe and the suns,” he adds. The inspiration, he tells me as he shows me a watch, is the new 28-piece, limited-edition Altiplano Tourbillon. It has off-centred hours and minutes opposite a flying tourbillon on a blue meteorite dial. It is powered by the super skinny 4.6-mm thick, hand-wound 670P calibre. Hébert goes on to explain Piaget’s unrivalled in-house expertise in bracelet construction and decoration. Hébert wraps the all-gold Extremely Lady watch, with its exquisitely hand-engraved snake scale motif stretching from dial to bracelet, around my wrist. The suppleness of its gold bracelets fit like a second skin, I note.
Prior to joining Piaget in 2015, the Picardy-born mechanical engineering and industrial design graduate had served as Innovation Project Manager at Peugeot Citroën. He then moved to Louis Vuitton’s La Fabrique du Temps, where he was Product Development Manager, and where he boosted the links between the brand’s Parisian headquarters and its watchmaking division in Switzerland. At Fendi, as Watch Marketing & Development Manager, he realigned the product portfolio to match the brand’s repositioning. We sit down with 38-year-old Hébert to discuss his move from cars to timepieces, as well as his mentors and the lessons he has learnt on the job.
Why did you make the switch from the automotive industry to watchmaking?
When I was in the automotive industry, it was the beginning of the bad times. I was a product guy and being in that field made me very excited about products. I became super frustrated when my managers began to ask me to create innovations and reduce costs, which meant that I was moving away from my source of motivation. I started to look for another job, and moved naturally to watchmaking because you’ve got an engine and beautiful shapes in a watch, so it was to me an object directly linked to the automotive industry. I worked at Louis Vuitton’s watch division as a development manager. I took advantage of all the technical skills I had learnt in the automotive industry. Progressively, I understood that because I’m an engineer but with an industrial design background, my sensibility was in creation, strategy, the earliest stages of business, and I moved to do marketing and product development. What I like about my profile is the fact that although I’m a marketing person, I know very well how a watch is made, the technical constraints and validation needs, so it’s a good way also in my job to save time because I know by experience what is more or less feasible.
What lessons did you learn at Louis Vuitton that you have applied to your job today?
I realised the power of having a vision. I understood the power that vision can have on all your teams, all the people you are working with — because it’s totally human-related. Sharing a clear and simple vision from the top management to the workers in an atelier is amazingly powerful, and that creates synergy that helps everyone reach amazing goals. It was a surprise to experience that at Louis Vuitton, as I wasn’t expecting that. It’s something I try to also live by now at Piaget.
Who are your mentors?
Two persons I met at Louis Vuitton and Fendi: Yves Carcelle and Pietro Beccari. They share the same human characteristics: they are good human beings and interested in people from workers to top managers that they can call by name. They are able to share a vision, explain this vision either with basic words or complicated theories. They make the people working in their company proud of their jobs, which makes everyone support them. It’s an amazing skill. I wish I could do the same one day.
What have been your greatest accomplishments at Piaget?
When I arrived at Piaget, it was the end of a golden age. We had been selling any watch at any price. There was also that craziness with the Chinese, who were our No. 1 customers. We really had to make drastic decisions on what is our strategy, who we are, what we want to do, what we want to say to customers.
Concerning my accomplishments, the first is that we have clearly restructured our offerings. We used to have 12 collections; now we have four: Altiplano, Gala, Possession and Piaget Polo. It’s not only about reducing the number of collections, it’s also about verticalising, having these watches available from the high jewellery models, to the most affordable.
Secondly, vision is very important. We say that at Piaget, we want beautiful watches to enhance the style and distinction of our customers. This is really our promise. From the designer to the end customer, this is what we claim, and having this said and explained is another of my accomplishments. The new Piaget booth is testament to communicating vision. When I signed my contract at Piaget four years ago, the booth was black and blue. I almost couldn’t even see you as it was so dark. Now we have such a radiant booth – last year a pool, and this year a beach. We express relaxed luxury. We make exclusive pieces that are expensive, but we are relaxed. We enjoy making these beautiful products and we enjoy that our customers wear them in a relaxed way. Being strict doesn’t always lead to happiness. Being relaxed for me is the right way to happiness. This is really a new era for us.
What are some of the hard-earned lessons you’ve learnt throughout your career?
Two major points. Firstly, the biggest concern is to be always connected with people. Eighty per cent of success is related to human beings, so be careful about the way you work with people and manage them. And also take care of customers because we don’t do products just for fun, but products to serve them, so we need to be aware of what they’re looking for and how they behave. Put the customer at the centre of your preoccupations. Listen to them, convince them, let them dream. Get rid of beliefs and prejudices – this is never how you can make a breakthrough. Secondly, have a vision. It has to be simple, authentic and concrete. Then share it. It is the first step to bring your target customer with you on your journey.
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