Robb Reader: Bulgari’s CEO Jean-Christophe Babin

The French-born executive knows his way around a luxury brand.

As the leader of one of Italy’s oldest jewelry companies, one that touts 135 years of history, Jean-Christophe Babin is tasked with enhancing Bulgari’s reputation as a leader in jewelry, watches and hotels. The French-born executive is no stranger to luxury’s big brands: Before joining Bulgari more than six years ago, he spent nearly 13 years as the president and CEO of TAG Heuer. Now Babin has to move seamlessly among the firm’s areas of expertise, a role that requires decisiveness, creativity and a deep well of energy.

What keeps you motivated?

I’m driven by curiosity, and I get naturally excited about the day ahead and what I’m going to learn and discover. It’s not about spending hours at the gym or something. It’s really more of an attitude.

What adjustment can people make to be more successful?

The best way to be successful is to follow your gut instincts. At the end of the day, if you have a conviction, an ideal, a dream, then first and foremost you must do everything to follow that dream. You may fail, you may be disappointed, but it’s never too late to restart something and do it differently the next time.

How long should a meeting last?

I think there should be very few meetings. If the meeting has been properly organised with the right people, then surely, in 45 minutes, everything should be fixed.

What do you want to improve in your work life?

To be even more focused and to enjoy every single minute of life. I really feel very lucky. I have an extraordinary life, and I have to remind myself of that when I’m tired or jet-lagged.

What do you look for in an employee?

I look primarily for personalities with creativity—people who think outside the box. In a big company you need a lot of processes, but I like people who break the process, because it’s never too late to re-channel.

Lottie Moss and Jean-Christophe Babin Bulgari x Galeries Lafayette event, Fall Winter 2017, Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris, France

Lottie Moss and Jean-Christophe Babin at a Bulgari x Galeries Lafayette event Swan Gallet/WWD/Shutterstock

Do you prefer email, phone or text?

I don’t like the phone because you don’t have eye contact, but now with FaceTime and WhatsApp video, I like it much more. It’s very difficult to have a good conversation between two individuals without this contact.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

That you should refuse the idea that something is impossible. Many people will tell you, “Look, we tried before. It never works. It’s impossible.” This creates a deep rebellion inside of me.

What would you tell your younger self?

To listen more to the people you meet in everyday life—clients, colleagues or friends. I’m naturally curious, but I think that you never listen enough. And when I say listen, it’s really 360-degree listening with your mind wide open.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

When I’m working in Switzerland, I have a 30-mile drive home. It’s a nice break and a gradual release back into my private life. In Rome, I don’t have a car, so I just walk and rediscover the city. You realise that it’s actually sunny outside when you’ve been in meeting rooms the whole day.

Are there any apps you use daily?

Besides the apps I use for professional travelling, I love the ones that make me dream, like Google Earth. I love to just browse and discover landscapes or regions that I’ve never been to or places that I just flew over the day before. The last place I looked at was Tibet, to discover some nice mountains.

As a student at university, what did you dream of doing?

I wanted a global life. It’s been my obsession since I was a kid, because my parents loved travelling. At university, my only dream was to make money to get around the planet with my backpack. I wanted to find jobs that would enable me to keep discovering the world. Next week, I go to China, then I’m in Rome, and then I have to go back to China. Meanwhile, I have six vacation days with my kids in Egypt. And then, when I come back from Chengdu, we will go to Marrakech. I love travelling.

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