3 explosive quotes from emerging industry leader and Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin about Rolex, Baselworld and the future 3 explosive quotes from emerging industry leader and Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin about Rolex, Baselworld and the future

3 explosive quotes from emerging industry leader and Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin about Rolex, Baselworld and the future

Andrew McUtchen

Cometh the crisis, cometh the man. Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari, has grown in stature yet again over the last six months as Bulgari has taken a militant stance against COVID-19. Whether it’s delivering Bulgari hand sanitiser to hospitals to assist in their fight against this deadly virus, or delivering a fair with 16 of his friends in Geneva in the absence of Basel and SIHH (Geneva Watch Days, or GWD from here), the permanently tanned and uncannily youthful Babin has been even more active than usual.

Which is why, when it was decided that we would attend GWD with a little help from our friends Mike Christensen and Marcus (the European-based videographer guru behind practically all of our best videos) we requested a sit down. But in the age of COVID-19, a sit down is a stand up. So Mike Christensen, our man in Europe (who you might know from his time as Editor of GQ Australia), stood up and put some tough questions to the man in charge.

On the brands that didn’t join Geneva Watch Days, including Rolex

“A lot of brands that decided not to participate saw we had 17 brands here, and strangely and conservatively they then started to organise – during the same period, 26th – 29th, their own kind of showrooms and displays in the boutiques. And the world leader [Rolex] organised the release of their novelties on Monday at their manufacture. Eventually, I’m a bit unhappy because the vision was right and unfortunately they didn’t join the … fair that we created with Geneva state.”

Bulgari Aluminium collection
Babin’s weapon of choice at Geneva Watch Days was the Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph

On the future of watch fairs

“The future of watch fairs … can no longer be the format we have followed for a century. It has to be reinvented. It will be very much the way we designed Geneva Watch Days. It has to be ‘phy-gital’ [meaning both physical and digital], this is mandatory. It has to be open to the public, and not just one day, it has to be open every day without a fee. This is mandatory. It has to be decentralised. The times are gone when people want to group in the same location. Especially post-COVID, people will be cautious about the big gathering. I think it will be directly managed by the brands. It is much cheaper and more agile. And at the end of the day, much more cost effective. Because one of the main critics of the fair was the cost.”

On what happens next

“It’s time now for revenge, it’s time for coming back, it’s time for reassuring clients, for reassuring watch lovers that the watch industry is back, that the watch industry will excite them, that the watch industry has never been so creative and so relevant. COVID is not behind us, strictly speaking. But the COVID shock is behind us. Even if we have to cope with COVID for the next three years, we will master it and we will win over it.  So let’s resume our activities, let’s be positive, let’s be proactive, let’s fight back.”