Sapphire meets Hublot with Epic Results
Hublot pulls off another technological feat machining sapphire crystal. Our watch fanatic is impressed….
Article by John Galt
In the lead up to the world’s largest watch and jewellery show that is BaselWorld, my inbox is a flurry of press releases detailing the bold, the beautiful and (to put a kinder spin on it) some very avant-garde pieces. This year’s trend seem to be not many totally new pieces but more re-issues of forgotten pieces not seen in watchmaker’s catalogues for a few years or the tweaking of current line-ups with a case material or colour change. But – and this is a big but – in amongst the many press release emails there are always a few that stop you in your tracks and you have to stare and read. This is one such piece, the Hublot Big Bang Sapphire, and yes, you read that correctly, the case is made from sapphire and I couldn’t wait to get hands-on at BaselWorld to see it in the flesh.
Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot is quoted as saying:
“Through the Art of Fusion, Hublot reveals all. A transparent case that reveals the soul of the watch — the Unico movement – and an absolute transparency extending to the strap, which has become invisible. Beyond the symbolism and the play on words, the Big Bang is laying itself bare. It has nothing to hide and everything to show.”
Once again under the guidance of the famed Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot have added another first to their record of innovation and expertise with materials. By transforming the ‘savoir-faire,’ Hublot has developed a way of introducing during manufacture very hard and unique materials in to the watch cases such as Magic Gold – the world’s only scratch-resistant gold. Now Hublot has created the Big Bang Unico Sapphire model with a case made from sapphire crystal. Hublot has managed to take the same stuff used to make transparent case backs and molds it into the actual Big Bang cases. Which was not an easy feat (Hublot never go the easy route about anything). The case middle, bezel, and case back were all cut out of blocks of sapphire crystal but in the process not losing the sapphire’s unique and rare character.
First and foremost, the case is made from sapphire crystal which as a material is almost as hard and scratch resistance as diamond (9 on Mohs scale as opposed to 10 for diamond). I’m sure some of you reading are already shouting, “it looks plastic” or, “it looks like a Swatch watch” and yes, from a distance, some may mistake it for inexpensive plastic; but in truth this is very hard sapphire crystal which is extremely difficult to machine and defiantly not for the faint hearted. The three part case (case middle, bezel and back) apart from being sapphire and featuring some unique transparent elements has its DNA heavily set in the Big Bang UNICO collection which means a case size of 45mm in keeping with the rest.
Apart from the movement only a few pieces that form the spine of the watch are not made of sapphire crystal but instead made of titanium: the crown and chronograph pushers which are covered with moulded silicon for ease of setting time, case screws and the deployment clasp are all made from titanium.
Dial & Movement
The skeletonized movement and dial is a marvel to behold. The in-house made Hublot calibre HUB 1242 Unico movement has been skeletonized beautifully and lets the wearer peer into the beating heart which seems to sweep down into the abyss, exquisitely revealing its gears and the wonderful finishing. The hands are transparent apart from small parts on each hand that are coated with Superluminova to aid and preserve legibility at night but still keeping with the transparency theme so it does take some getting used to reading the time at a glance. The dial is made from transparent resin with applied numerals and gives the feeling that the movement is floating inside.
Hublot carry on the transparent theme with its strap made of rubber but highly translucent which lets you see your skin while wearing the watch. If this isn’t for you then you are in luck as Hublot have added their tool-less quick release system to the strap in keeping with the rest of the Big Bang collection which means you can easily fit whatever strap you wish. but it has to be bought from Hublot as no after-market straps will fit their strap connection system.
Price is a relevant bargain for an all sapphire case coming in at just over £40,000
Personally this was one of my top five from BaselWorld. I like this piece very much with its translucent looks with its movement that seems to float in its case BUT I do have one issue with it and that is the strap, yes I know you can change it, but in my opinion that the strap looks cheap – an afterthought – by Hublot. Personally I would have loved to have seen fitted as standard say a white or cream coloured crocodile strap with crisp white stitching to really set the case alive.