Chatting with Jean-Francois Sberro, Managing Director of Hublot America

Earlier this week, Hublot held an event in New York City with the street artists Tristan Eaton and Hush. During the event, two new watches were revealed — both vastly different from the other and made in collaboration with each artist. WatchTime readers and Hublot enthusiasts may remember this time last year when the brand released its first collaboration with Eaton — the Concrete Jungle — which was a pretty funky timepiece with a case made entirely from concrete. 

This year, Eaton’s collaboration takes the same approach of using unconventional materials by incorporating brushed bronze into the bezel. The Classic Fusion Bronze was directly inspired by the famous Charging Bull sculpture in New York’s Financial District that is also made of bronze. On the caseback, an Eaton-arranged medley of iconic New York motifs makes the watch a distinct extension of his artwork.

Hublot Tristan Eaton
The Hublot Classic Fusion Bronze

The British artist Hush, a recent addition to the Hublot stable of collaborators, is best known for his geisha-inspired art that is created with a mix of mediums including collage and graffiti. He helped design the Spirit of Big Bang West Coast Ceramic Black and White, which features a skeleton dial with a white ceramic bezel. The case of the watch is black ceramic, creating a juxtaposition of color that can be found in many of Hush’s most celebrated pieces. On the caseback there is a black-and-white portrait of a woman surrounded by a multi-colored collage of mixed media.

Spirit of Big Bang West Coast Ceramic Black and White
The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang West Coast Ceramic Black and White

During the past five years, Hublot has ramped up its support of the art community. While collaborations between artists like Hush and Eaton continue to add to the brand’s ever-growing catalogue, another aspect of the brand’s artistic outreach is its presence during the time of Art Basel in Miami. During the show, which runs from December 7th to the 10th, Eaton and Hush will be taking over the Hublot Bal Harbour boutique with their artwork.

Hublot Jean-Francois Sberro
2017 Getty Images
LEFT TO RIGHT: Tristan Eaton, Jean-Francois Sberro, and Hush

Before this week’s event got started, I had the opportunity to talk with the Managing Director of Hublot America, Jean-Francois Sberro. Read on for my discussion with Sberro about his favorite artists, what we can expect from Hublot in 2018, and a few highlights from 2017.

Someone once told me that the Concrete Jungle — last year’s watch released with Tristan Eaton —  is one of your favorite Hublot watches ever. Is that true?

Yes, absolutely. I like it because it was a perfect illustration of the Hublot concept of the “Art of Fusion.” In the Concrete Jungle we combine many things including high-end watchmaking, exotic materials, and street art with Tristan Eaton. All of this combined makes a perfect representation of the “Art of Fusion” concept. That’s what makes it one of my favorite watches from last year and one of my favorites of all time.

The case of the new watch made with Tristan Eaton is made from bronze, correct?

Yes, we connected all the dots with this project as well, including watchmaking, materials, his art, etc. So we asked: What can we do? This watch is a tribute to Wall Street. On the back, we have beautiful artwork that is inspired by the Wall Street Charging Bull. Because the Wall Street Bull is made from bronze, we had to make the watch bronze.

Has the new watch replaced the Concrete Jungle in your heart yet? Or is it hard to say?

We tend to say that the first one is the one that sticks in your heart and in your memory. I would say that the first one is always special. But the Classic Fusion Bronze is extremely striking. I would say it is like with kids, the first one changes your life and then with the second one you can’t have a favorite or least favorite. The designs are very different styles. The first one is a little more fashionable or stylish — I like to say the Concrete Jungle is for the urban warrior — and the Classic Fusion Bronze is a bit more Wall Street, a bit more dressed up.

2017 Getty Images
Managing Director of Hublot America Jean-Francois Sberro

Hublot has had a large presence during Art Basel in recent years. Can you tell me about some of the things that you have planned this year?

Hublot is one of the brands that is most active in the art world and since I’ve held my position we’ve been extremely active in the street art world; tonight is an example. This year we’re going to be extremely active as well. We’re going to announce a new artist as part of our portfolio of ambassadors and we’ll be releasing a new watch with him. The novelty of that artist — since he’s a sculptor — will provide an interesting dynamic between the art of sculpture and watchmaking. He will be working with three-dimensional volume so it won’t be a basic one-dimensional timepiece.

2017 is almost over. Can you tell me about some of the highlights for Hublot this year?

One of our main highlights was our continued work with Ferrari. This year, Ferrari celebrated its 70th birthday and we did a big celebration for that anniversary and the incredibly strong partnership between us. That happened back in October in New York. The second biggest highlight will be coming up in December when we celebrate the “Art of Fusion.” We introduced the concept in 2005 so it has been twelve years. This year we are celebrating this with an event in every big market in the world. This event will happen in the beginning of December and it will feature a retrospective of the past twelve years.

Are there any hints you can drop about Hublot’s plans for 2018?

In 2018, we’re continuing our connection with the art world and we’ll be introducing a new ambassador. I can give you a few hints. He’s American, he’s a street artist, and is one of the biggest artists alive today. He’s very iconic in that world. We will be announcing it in February of next year. Another highlight is the World Cup. Hublot sponsors the World Cup and we will have a big celebration around that time.

For my last question, I’m curious about your personal art taste. What do you have in you collection? What do you look for when you’re in museums?

I think it’s a generational thing, but I’m extremely fond of street art. I was originally attracted to pop art and that translates directly into street art. I was born in 1981 and that was really when street art culture began to take off. You know artists like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, KAWS, Swoon, even guys like Hush and Tristan [Eaton], I think those guys are phenomenal artists and are the Matisse and Gauguin of our generation. What I like about street art is that for the new generations, it’s a very easy way to enter the art world. You can take a kid today and he will be have a direct connection to street art because it’s easy to digest, easy to understand, and then it’s a door for them to go back to Basquiat or Warhol or Keith Haring and then into Impressionism and then into exploring Art History as a whole. Same with music, you will never go straight into classical music. Maybe you go into hip-hop and then a hip-hop artist will sample classical music and then the new generation will explore the sample and see where it comes from. That’s a lot more effective than if someone tries to force them directly into classical music. I think street art can have that role for the new generation.

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