Hublot and tattoo artist Maxime Plescia-Buchi are back again for another entry in the Sang Bleu collection, a series of watches named for Plescia-Buchi’s tattoo studios located in Los Angeles, Zurich, and London. The Sang Bleu watches always incorporate complex geometry and the watch design equivalent of the intricate line work that is core to Plesia-Buchi’s design language. These design elements translate remarkably well to a watch, if you’re at all inclined toward the abstract, at least. Up until now, the Big Bang has been Plesia-Buchi’s preferred canvas, but that changes here with a selection of watches using the barrel shaped Spirit of Big Bang as a starting point.
As with previous Sang Bleu watches, the new editions seen here are marked by a series of facets throughout the case that create a compelling, sculpted look. The overlapping geometric shapes have a grid-like consistency and at some angles appear to take on the appearance of armor. Hublot has given Plescia-Buchi a great deal of freedom to work outside the normal constraints of the Spirit of Big Bang case shape. While that case is the clear inspiration for these watches and certainly falls under its larger umbrella, the lines of the case have been reworked to a certain extent, and the impression it gives from the front is quite a bit different in these Sang Bleu watches.
The dial is sapphire and provides a view to the skeletonized chronograph movement underneath it. Time is read by rotating disc “hands” that cross and overlap each other throughout the day, creating a seemingly endless array of geometric shapes and patterns. I have to be honest here, and admit that legibility on this and other Sang Bleu watches leaves something to be desired. Needless to say, these are not watches for collectors who prize pure functionality above all else. I’m reminded of the often told story of Andy Warhol’s Cartier Tank, which he frequently wore without even winding it. As a literal art piece, the Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu watches feel like they could be enjoyed in a similar fashion, although with a skeletonized dial the inherent motion of the caliber inside is part of the fun, so it’s probably worth winding even if you’re not going to bother setting it to time.gov.
Hublot has released a total of five variants of the Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu: an all black ceramic reference, two in titanium (one with a pavé diamond set case), and two in King Gold (again, one is diamond set). While normally with Hublot I tend to be drawn to ceramic (they do a better job with the material than almost anyone) I think in this instance the titanium does the best job of highlighting the intricate nature of the case construction. There’s just a little more contrast between each facet, which I think is the single most integral component of the watch’s design. Also, it’s hard to tell in these Hublot supplied images, but it appears that it might, might, be just a little more legible than the blacked out ceramic variant.
These watches have a very specific and, I imagine, narrow appeal, but I find them fascinating on an aesthetic level for a few reasons. First, the levels of symmetry that are created through the design of the facets on the case are striking, and while I certainly don’t require symmetry in watch design, here I think it’s aesthetically pleasing. Second, I think that unlike some watch/artist collaborations that don’t make a ton of sense, these watches (and other Sang Bleus) really show their tattoo roots. They are unmistakably creations of Maxime Plescia-Buchi, and feel like his work transposed to a watch in a way that some other watches made in partnership with artists don’t quite get exactly right. Furthermore, I think Hublot deserves credit for giving the artist free rein over the dial and case, and not limiting Plescia-Buchi to a novelty dial design. It reminds me of the approach Zenith has taken with Felipe Pantone to create a watch that represents an all encompassing artistic vision.
The titanium version of the Spirit of Big Bang Sang Bleu has a retail price of $28,300 (without diamonds) and the ceramic is $30,400. If you choose to go gold, you’re looking at $50,400. More information on Hublot’s website here.