Jean-Claude And Pierre Biver: Biver Watches Is A Demonstration Of What We Can Do

Father-son watchmaker duo Jean-Claude and Pierre Biver on bringing new perspectives to watchmaking
Father-son watchmaker duo Jean-Claude and Pierre Biver on bringing new perspectives to watchmaking through their new brand, Biver Watches
Pierre Biver and Jean-Claude Biver at the international launch event of Biver Watches

After half a century in the watch industry, and many years spent at the helm of major brands such as Blancpain, TAG Heuer, Hublot and Omega, the legendary Jean-Claude Biver still itches to create something new. Now he has teamed up with his son Pierre to launch Biver Watches, which makes its debut with three minute repeater timepieces with tourbillon and hardstone dials. We caught up with the duo during their visit to Singapore hosted by The Hour Glass to learn about what makes them tick.

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How how would you say the reception has been so far to the pieces that you’ve shown to your clients?

Jean-Claude Biver (JCB): If I say the reception was excellent, people will say of course, he couldn’t tell you the reception was bad, so he just says it’s excellent because what can you say? Now, if I have to give a better answer, their reception was for me, unexpected. I was expecting some very good opinions, and some less good, as usual, I would say. This time, unexpectedly they was a strong majority of good reception. 

Pierre Biver (PB): We got very positive reaction, and then the few bad reactions were very bad, so I guess this is a very polarising release, a polarising product. But often when you’re polarizing, it’s that you’re doing somewhat something good. It’s better than to be just common; it’s better to be polarising than neutral. I remember my parents saying this when I was young, that there’s nothing worse than when you get ignored. So one thing is for sure: we are not being ignored (laughs).

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How would you each describe what a Biver watch is?

PB: I think it’s contemporary. The aim is to become a contemporary complicated watch and a modern classic.

JCB: Yes, I liked the classic style but I also understand the limit of classic. This is why modernity has taken root: thanks to modernity, classic pieces have become slowly waterproof, shockproof, which makes wearing the watch more comfortable and secure. And this is what I call neo-classic, or classic with different touches of modernity. When it’s a collector’s piece, from 1958 or whatever. And if it’s modern, I want the few touches of modernity, because I don’t want just classic-inspired pieces. I have those already in my collection; that’s not what I’m looking for. So I said for our brand, it should be modern classic.

In terms of the materials, the design and the complication, why do we choose to go with these features for the very first batch under the new brand? 

PB: One main consideration is the technical, so for instance, the use of titanium. Once again, we’re talking about being a modern classic, neoclassical, so it’s the use of the materials of today. We picked titanium because of its nonmagnetic properties and the fact that it’s super light, and that resonates very well. It makes a lot of sense in any modern watch. Then when you look at the complication, it was going to be a minute repeater, because the minute repeater has two essential features. The first is that it’s one of the very complicated movements even till today, and the second is that it’s one of the rare complications that is highly mechanical. So with the creation of sound, that mastery of the gong, the hammers and the way they hit, and the note, it’s something you cannot control mechanically. It’s something magical.

And because of all the these features and the way the movement was constructed, and we had a very boring dial, if I can say that. We had an hour hand and a minute hand, but not much more going on, and it looked very close to a time-only watch. It had no special feature. So that’s when when we decided to integrate the tourbillon.

Altogether if we had to sum it up, this watch for us is really a demonstration. It’s a piece that expresses not necessarily the essence, per se, of the brand, but more of this is where we start, and this is what we’re capable of.

Among the novelties of today, you can see a certain direction towards more stealth-wealth, understated pieces, something more subtle. And we’ve integrated that level of complexity—the work on the dials and lugs, the ergonomics of the case, the materials, the movement, the finishing, the bracelets—in all the elements of the watch. If we examine them one by one, they are intrinsically among the most complicated, high end and high quality, but when you put them together, you end up with a watch that on the wrist from afar looks and feels very understated and very if-you-know-you-know. That’s actually the art we perform: to make complicated elements come together in a watch that feels just traditional, understated, and calm.

Jean-Claude, you’ve spent over 50 years in the watchmaking industry. Were there certain things that you still felt were missing and therefore you want to attempt them through Biver Watches?

JCB: I miss my brand Blancpain. I’ve enjoy many brands since then, like Omega, TAG Heuer, and Hublot, but I’ve always nostalgia of, in those days, the little brand Blancpain, which I sold after 10 years. I never got over having sold it, and I’ve always felt the nostalgia.

How was the experience of working together as family, as collaborators, and also as representatives of different generations?

PB: I think we’ve worked already so intensively and so long together that we cannot actually recall the answer. It just feels now so natural. Sometimes I don’t even remember if some idea was his or mine.

JCB: We’re totally integrated because they’re son and father. We are like brothers.

PB: When you need to be so fast paced, at the beginning it was hard. Three or four months in, there were lots of conflict, lots of strong discussions and strong opinions, and so on. And at some point, we just realised that we have to advance, and suddenly it started becoming very symbiotic, where I don’t agree with certain things, while some are not to his taste, but altogether it kind of all merged into one, and then it became quite easy to work together.

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