When watch-industry legend Jean-Claude Biver and his team bought Hublot in 1996, his brand vision was characteristically radical. Hublot, he insisted in a bold statement, would become a luxury equivalent to Swatch. While it may have existed in a different price stratosphere, this cheap and cheerful counterpart made liberal use of colour, plastic and transparent elements, yoked together with an irreverent sense of fun. Hublot’s goal was to translate similarly maverick elements into a high-end form. Suffice to say, this was a wild move in the ultra-traditional world of Swiss watchmaking, and it found expression in Hublot’s slogan: “The Art of Fusion”.
The most conspicuous ways this manifesto expressed itself was by sticking precious metal watches on rubber straps – a move that, again, initially seemed heretical for a luxury brand. But this flourish quickly became Hublot’s calling card. That’s why, when last year they came out with an integrated bracelet watch – the Hublot Big Bang Integral – it seemed to run contrary to the brand’s raison d’etre. Not that Hublot ever cared about following rules.
An integrated bracelet is essentially one that’s made from the same material as the case of the watch and literally integrates into the design, eschewing the standard lugs and bar arrangement by which a bracelet or strap is usually attached. While this creates a more seamless profile, it denied Hublot the chance to use their trademark rubber straps. Except that no one really minded, because the Big Bang Integral was a triumph – the multi-faceted bracelet suiting the watch’s blocky case architecture. Plus, while most integrated bracelet watches came in steel, Hublot in characteristically obtuse form came out with theirs in three different materials: gold, ceramic and titanium. Those watches were released last year and now it’s time for the next evolution.
The Hublot Big Bang Integral now comes in three new colours of ceramic: blue, grey and white. Coloured ceramic is a technically demanding business at which Hublot excel like no other. This blue version lurks in a soothing hinterland between navy and cobalt to offer a pleasantly inky hue. This serves to calm the multi-layered complexity of the Big Bang case – a riot of angles with wide chamfered and bevelled edges colliding with brushed flat surfaces and boxy pushers that catch the light with every roll of the wrist.
Adding to the visual stimulus is the dial (or lack thereof). This offers a peek at Hublot’s in-house automatic flyback chronograph movement that packs an impressive 72 hours of power reserve. Open-worked dials can make legibility a struggle, but here you can still easily tell the time against the mass of blue-covered components and brushed metal parts thanks to the thick white hands and hour indices. Accents of red on the seconds hand, chapter ring and the minutes subdial inject a touch of extra life without allowing things to get too overwhelming.
Fastened with a titanium buckle, the ceramic bracelet drapes comfortably over the wrist. Integrated bracelets naturally draw the eye due to the way their succession of flat links glitter in the light. Again, Hublot shows judicious restraint with the top surfaces brushed to tone things down slightly while the chiselled edges are given full license to gleam. Frankly, they don’t need to overdo things – the blue sheen of the ceramic bracelet does all the talking here.
Hublot have created a thoroughly modern watch that once again showcases the brand’s special knack with coloured ceramic. Lightweight, hypoallergenic and tough, the use of ceramic feels particularly well suited for a sporty chronograph and it would be no surprise if more brands began to follow suit. The head-turning looks won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s not really the point with Hublot. Besides, as a brand that’s forever disruptive and forward-thinking, they’re having way too much fun to even notice. hublot.com, Price: $32,200