Jean-Christophe Babin has had a long history in the watch industry. After enjoying a successful stint as the head of TAG Heuer, Babin now serves as CEO of the entire Bulgari Group, leading a multifaceted company that purveys watches, jewelry, fragrances and hotel stays. Yet he still loves watches; merely talking about them brings a smile to his face.
“Bulgari watches are very Swiss on the one hand as we manufacture and assemble most of our mechanical movements, dials, cases and bracelets internally in Le Sentier, Saignelégier, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Neuchatel,” he says. And the company’s broad range of timepieces span “from the daily luxury Lucea ladies watch to the exceptional Grandes Sonneries Carillon Westminster.”
“But at the same time Bulgari is very Italian when it comes to the obsession with stylish and sophisticated design,” says Babin, asserting that its inspiration stems “directly from bold Roman arts and architecture, which have driven the designs of Octo, Serpenti, Bulgari-Bulgari and Lucea.”
Indeed Babin maintains that his company mirrors Leonardo da Vinci’s dual persona as a visionary engineer and artist. “Octo Finissimo Ultranero epitomizes this duality with the thinnest tourbillon in the world coming elegantly dressed in a powerful though flat DLC ‘black diamond’ case with 110 angles,” he says.
“People would be surprised to learn that we are far more integrated in terms of expertise than most of the self-proclaimed ‘manufactures’ who
often add only some design on an externally sourced movement,” he says.
Babin admires the watchmakers inside his company “for their unrivaled capacity to concentrate and evolve skillfully in the fascinating world of micro mechanics, machining and assembling micro components, which a normal eye can hardly see,” he maintains.
“Just imagine assembling an Octo Finissimo tourbillon movement, meaning 138 micro components in a volume less than a five franc coin” has, he says. “And whn assembled, it will work perfectly for decades or centuries if properly maintained!
“I have a personal attraction for extraordinary machines, the watch being one of the ultimate expressions of human mechanical and engineering genius,” Babin adds, noting that he is also fascinated by sports cars and aircraft.His favorite Bulgari is the Tourbillon Sapphire.
“This timepiece really embodies Leonardo da Vinci’s duality and genius,” Babin says. “It’s an amazing piece of engineering and creativity, combining high mechanical skills with state-of-the art materials, making it light and unique,” and the design encompasses a “very architectural case contrasting the black DLC with the striking SuperLumiNova.”
Always quick to greet clients, partners or journalists warmly with a strong handshake, Babin aims to keep his ego in check. His secret? “Never consider myself successful. That way he remains “humble and hungry to accomplish more,” he says.
Babin strives to use a management style that’s open, enthusiastic and energetic. “I try to focus more on solutions and initiatives than issues and constraints,” he says.
“I’m always very positive, trying to align and motivate the organization around ambitious goals”—and someone who “never hesitates to roll up my sleeves to redo a display or reposition a visual in a boutique.”—Keith W. Strandberg