And now, readers, we’ve come to that portion of our Watches & Wonders coverage that I know at least two of you have been anxiously anticipating, Yes, it’s now an annual tradition I guess, where I will wax rhapsodically about a mind bending Hublot novelty fit for a modern version of an 18th century French king. I can’t really think of a better way to describe the Big Bang Integrated Tourbillon Full Blue Sapphire than to contextualize it with something commonly understood to be shorthand for over-the-top indulgence, but that’s what this watch is all about, in the best possible way. It’s a huge swing, which is exactly what I like to see from brands at Watches & Wonders. If I’m going to fly across an ocean and deal with travel delays at every step, I’d like to see things that I can only see in a presentation in the back of one of those enormous booths.
Last year I wrote about the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Purple Sapphire and characterized it as one of the best watches of last year’s Watches & Wonders because it succeeded at being compelling from a watchmaking perspective while also being completely outlandish in a way that Hublot is uniquely great at. It marked a point in my own appreciation for the brand where they rose above the level of a mere curiosity and reached a point where, in my opinion, they are deserving of the respect given to any other serious innovator in contemporary watchmaking.
This year they’re back with a sequel of sorts to last year’s purple sapphire Big Bang, a blue version with a matching sapphire bracelet (you might recall they made another full sapphire bracelet Big Bang tourb from clear sapphire back in 2021, which is the true precursor to this reference). As enthusiastic as I was about last year’s watch, I’m even more impressed with this blue example, and I hope it continues to swing the pendulum for Hublot toward serious consideration from those who might have brushed them off previously. Blue, after all, is just a more serious purple.
Color aside, this one is all about the bracelet. It’s a remarkable technical achievement, each individual sapphire link perfectly sized and finished, all with stunning and uniform translucency that requires an insane level of precision in milling. It’s a time intensive process (all Hublot sapphire is grown in a lab over the course of months) that involves individually diamond polishing each piece and chemically altering the synthetic sapphire to achieve the blue color in such a way as to not degrade the structural integrity of the bracelet links or case. It’s a crazy thing to hold in your hand because it’s so lightweight and airy that it almost feels like a toy, but the complexity of the case construction and tiny facets on the bracelet links reveal something far more substantial.
The case, it should be noted, is just slightly different from the purple version, which is a bit more muscular at the sides with larger protruding “ears” at 3 and 9. The listed size is 43mm as opposed to the 44mm case of the purple watch. Another difference is in the structure of the lugs: last year’s purple watch had small recesses milled out of the lug walls on the side of the case, and on the blue watch the case wall is uniform and smooth. The impression I had was that the new watch has case lines that are very similar but perhaps just a bit cleaner and less architectural, and flow seamlessly into the bracelet for a look that could border on “classic” if it weren’t so overtly contemporary in color and materials.
While the cases are similar, wearing the blue watch on a bracelet is an altogether different experience. It kind of alters your own reality – you can’t really be you when you’re wearing a giant blue sapphire tourbillon on a blue sapphire bracelet. Unless the “you” in question is, I don’t know, Drake? What I’m saying is that this watch is not my normal everyday style, but when I strap it on at Watches & Wonders, it feels, for a minute, like it could be, in some alternate universe where I have a cool $527,000 to spend on a watch. Unfortunately for me, but perhaps fortunately for the rest of you, I do not have that kind of coin. Because let me tell you, if I did, and I was able to acquire one of these (there are only ten being made) I’d never let anyone forget it. I’d be like the Lamborghini owner who is always wearing a Lambo shirt, a matching hat, and probably a jacket too. Obnoxious, yes. But I understand this particular phenomenon.
It would be hard to overstate just how much the bracelet improves the wearing experience over the version we saw last year on a rubber strap. While the strap plants the watch on your wrist in a solid and confident way, the bracelet introduces a level of drape to the experience that changes it considerably. It makes the watch feel almost chic, and somehow less purely sporty. Could it be worn with a suit? A tux? I’d like to see it. The naturally reflective sapphire has a lot of flash, and it makes the watch feel like a relative of the traditional high jewelry watches we saw from the likes of Cartier and Hermes last week, but in a completely different context.
I’ve noticed on social media and in press coverage on new Hublot watches that a lot of the vitriol aimed at the brand when I first discovered them has dissipated somewhat. That’s a testament to a level of creativity that is unmatched by any other big luxury watch brand. They are doing things with color, materials, and design that feel daring and distinct from the competition, and the Integrated Tourbillon Full Blue Sapphire is just the latest example. As we seem to finally be coming out of a period where the entire community was laser focused on heritage inspired steel sports watches, a brand like Hublot that offers something radical in comparison has a great opportunity, and they are taking advantage. Hublot