Emmanuel Tresmontant - 2011-03-22
By creating a farm open to the public, between Montreux and Vevey, the CEO of Hublot watches didn’t simply aim to produce one of the best Swiss alpine gruyeres, he also wanted to rekindle the forgotten tradition of watchmaker-farmers from the Joux valley.
To be or not to be Swiss? That is the question. Jean-Claude Biver was born in Luxemburg in 1949, but has lived in Switzerland since he was ten years old. Despite still not having a Swiss passport he has complete adoration for this country and sees its identity and lifestyle as being major assets: “Faced with today’s globalisation, you have to be yourself and cultivate your differences… or you end up disappearing! I take the plane every week to China, Japan and the USA. But do you know what the best ambassador for Hublot is? My gruyere cheese! I always take a round of it on my travels. When the people I talk to taste it they understand our philosophy straight away. Technology and luxury in Switzerland have always been deeply connected to the land and its produce.”
This is why Biver created la Poneyre Farm in La Tour-de-Peilz on the shores of Lake Geneva. Every day the milk from the cows grazing on the alpine pastures of La Neuvaz is stirred and slowly cooked over a wood fire in copper cauldrons. The resulting gruyere is exceptional with a creamy, floral taste that goes well with a Chasselas wine from the nearby Lavaux vineyard
“I founded this Farm to remind people of the rural roots of Swiss watchmaking. It was originally the peasants of the Joux Valley in the canton of Vaud, who assembled the mechanisms that were then brought to the watchmakers of Geneva. These women and men renowned for their patience and manual dexterity spent the winter in front of their workbenches filing, polishing, drilling and fitting... until the day came when their descendants had the idea to start their own manufacturing with Audemars Piguet in 1875, which still has its headquarters based in the village of Le Brassus. This tradition of farmer-watchmakers was vital to Switzerland, I want Hublot to continue to find an inspiration in this.”
So where does Jean-Claude Biver get his inspiration from? The answer is Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, the first man to plug a solid wooden guitar into an amplifier.
“Les Paul made the connection between the music of the past and the music of the future, between jazz and rock. Hublot watches are exactly the same. We start off with traditional know-how and we innovate using new materials such as ceramics, titanium and carbon ... Our workshops are filled with the best scientists so that we’re always making progress. Yet we refuse to forget the past. When the quartz battery arrived on the market, virtually every major Swiss company decided to abandon the traditional mechanisms and get rid of the machines that had been making them. This was nothing short of a cultural disaster! These days we’ve got our soul back.”
La Poneyre Farm at La Tour-de-Peilz.
Visits by appointment only.
As the man who brought fortune back to Blancpain and Omega in the 1980s and 90s, Jean-Claude Biver has been running Hublot since 2002. In this time he’s managed a ten-fold multiplication of the brand’s turnover whilst becoming one of the official sponsors of the FIFA World Cup, the Alpine Ski World Championships and the America's Cup.