As far as luxury watch brands go Hublot has copped more than its fair share of criticism over the years. From being accused of not having original designs to being outright denounced as simply a marketing machine that happens to produce watches, the company has run the gauntlet of detractors on numerous occasions, somehow always emerging unscathed.
In part this heightened level of scrutiny is attributable to Hublot’s omnipresent approach to marketing. The brand and its distinctive timepieces can quite literally be found everywhere. This is not simply by coincidence of course, this is a well-planned, brilliantly executed strategy. As Hublot’s former CEO and industry legend Jean-Claude Biver once told me; “…wherever our customer goes, he must meet Hublot. It is our goal to make the customer feel that we belong to his world, to his life style, to his emotions and to his dreams.”
It is this sort of mentality that has allowed the brand to prosper unperturbed by those who doubt it. In fact sometimes I think they even enjoy it, after all, as Oscar Wilde once said; “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Whether this manner of thinking had any impact on Hublot’s decision to release its first-ever tonneau-shaped Big Bang earlier this year I’m sure we’ll never know. One thing is certain though, it definitely got people talking.
The Hublot Spirit of Big Bang
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t particularly like the new Hublot Spirit of Big Bang when I first saw the original press pictures. There was no one reason, I just didn’t really like the dial and case combination and thought the watch looked aesthetically over-engineered. That being said I thought it was an interesting direction for the brand to take, and one that at the very least deserved a closer look. So I made the necessary arrangements, waited patiently for the new models to make their way over to New York and then got down to the task of getting ‘hands-on.’
The first thing I noticed is that despite the obvious change in case shape, the new Hublot Spirit of Big Bang is every bit as chunky as the original round-case Big Bangs and makes just as much of a statement on the wrist. This is not necessarily a bad thing depending on your personal tastes but is something to be mindful of, especially if your wrists are of the more slender variety. That being said the slight arc of the case of the Spirit of Big Bang does mean that it sits a little more flush on the wrist, which I quite liked.
Additionally the new tonneau-shaped case also features many of the same touches as the original Big Bangs, such as the six H-shaped screws on the bezel and contrasting rubber flanks on the side of the case, as well as rubber on the crown and the pushers. Similarly the gold-plated, baton shaped hands and indices are also hallmarks of Hublot, ensuring the Spirit of Big Bang still offers a respectable level of legibility.
As you can see in the photos the dial is completely open, allowing for uninterrupted viewing of the movement below. This design decision has drawn what I think are unfair comparisons to Richard Mille timepieces, which also often feature a tonneau-shaped case paired with an open-worked dial. Whilst there are definitely some similarities, no one is going to mistake the Spirit of Big Bang on your wrist for a Richard Mille and nor do I think that was Hublot’s intention to begin with. Rather the idea was to highlight the skeletonized, automatic chronograph movement beneath, otherwise known as the HUB4700 caliber.
Based on an automatic El Primero from fellow LVMH stable member and modern day masters of the chronograph, Zenith, this new movement beats at a frequency of 36,000 vb/h and has been fully skeletonized to exacting standards. Its high visibility gives the watch a very technical, almost industrial feel and to be honest takes a little getting used to. Even the date wheel is visible in its entirety, although the clever use of contrasting colors makes it easy to identify what the current date is. Personally I felt the design was a little too raw for my tastes but I am sure plenty of others will find its rugged construction alluring.
The backside of the automatic movement, including the skeletonized rotor, is visible through the sapphire caseback and has also been nicely finished, although not extravagantly so. Depending on what model you choose the watch will come fitted on an alligator leather and rubber strap complete with a deployant buckle clasp matching the material of the case. The rubber is on the inside of the strap, making it very comfortable on the wrist and also ensuring that your leather strap doesn’t wear out too quickly, especially in the summer heat.
In total four combinations of the new Hublot Spirit of Big Bang will be available; King Gold, King Gold + ceramic, titanium and titanium+ceramic. According to Hublot the 18k gold case of the King Gold is comprised of 5% platinum, which supposedly gives it a deeper red color than would have otherwise have been achieved. The prices range from about US$24,000 for the entry level titanium piece up to about US$47,000 for the King Gold Ceramic.
Overall I have to admit that I liked the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang more than I thought I would. It’s well made and just different enough to make it stand out from its peers in the Big Bang collection. That being said, I’m not necessarily sure if that’s a good thing or if it’s just paving the way for a whole new wave of limited edition watches based on a tonneau-shaped case instead of a round one. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one.